A “fake” purse or watch may make you angry, but they don’t carry the risk of injury or death. On the other hand, counterfeit electrical products can be dangerous. Counterfeit circuit breakers, power strips, extension cords, batteries, and holiday lights can cause fires, explosions, shocks, and electrocutions.

In recent years, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled more than millions of counterfeit electrical products, including circuit breakers that did not trip when overloaded, cell phone batteries without a safety device in the circuitry to prevent overcharging, and extension cords with mislabeled, undersized wiring that overheated.

Counterfeits can be extremely difficult to spot. They could be a knock-off of a name brand product, or bear an unauthorized certification marking. Below are tips to protect yourself from the dangers of counterfeit electrical products.

  • Scrutinize the product, packaging, and labeling. Look for certification marks from the manufacturer and an independent testing laboratory—such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Trademarked logos that look different than usual may signal a counterfeit.
  • If the price is “too good to be true,” it could be because the product is inferior and unsafe.
  • Be careful when buying from an unknown source, such as a street vendor. Use established stores who purchase their goods from legitimate distributors and genuine manufacturers.
  • Check the warning label. It should be free of grammatical errors and not conflict with information elsewhere on the package.
  • Avoid no-name products.
  • Look for the name and contact information of the manufacturer. If you find the information missing, consider purchasing electrical products elsewhere.