When you are at a car show or swap meet seeking the next biggest deal on car parts, we’re often drawn in to the booths where we see familiar products. An old trick from years ago at big swap meets was when a vendor would place a counterfeit stereo on top of a genuine box.

People would recognize the design of the radio (at that time, green cubes identified one manufacturer’s stereo) and when the potential buyer saw the brand’s box beneath it, they were duped into thinking they bought the real deal – at a steal of a price. But a closer inspection of the stereo and the manufacturer’s name was nowhere to be found.

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You’re drawn in by the red and blue anodized fittings, and the Aeromotive logo on the pressure regulator. But did you know that the styrofoam packing is a dead giveaway that this is a counterfeit product?

These days, counterfeiters are getting brazen and they’re not only copying a product down to the last detail, but they’re event putting the genuine manufacturer’s name on their phony product. Just this past November at the annual SEMA Show, several vendors were shut down by U.S. Marshals, and products were seized.

Showing up with counterfeit parts at the biggest industry trade show seems pretty ballsy, but these counterfeiters where hoping the show was too big for anyone to notice. People noticed, and it’s raised a lot of eyebrows. This is a big business, and it’s not only hurting the genuine companies who spend thousands of dollars in developing real performance products, but it’s hurting us, the automotive enthusiasts, too.

Summit Racing‘s On All Cylinders blog shared an interview with Steve Matusek, Founder and President of Aeromotive, about counterfeit parts and how they’re hurting the industry. Matusek stated that these fake products are not just illegal, at times they can be very dangerous. “You can have problems, not just with the product not functioning properly,” Matusek said, “but you can have a fire. We deal with fuel.”

So how can you tell if a product is fake? It’s getting harder to tell these days, but your first clue is when the price is too good to be true. If you think you’re getting a smoking deal on a product, ask yourself if it’s a genuine product, ask for paperwork, and look at the packaging. Check the logo and see if it’s accurate, see if the installation instructions are clear and accurate.

It's difficult to tell which is real and which is fake. Sometimes the way a product is put together gives away the counterfeit part, but in the case of this MSD 6AL ignition module, the location of the tach output and mag input are reversed. The real product is on the left.

Some of the products that were discussed were MSD ignition boxes and Aeromotive fittings and fuel pump kits. Aeromotive products, as mentioned, don’t come packaged in styrofoam, so that’s one way to tell the genuine from a counterfeit part.

If you’re not sure, find another vendor who is selling the same product – a legitimate one if possible – and see if the packaging differs. Most companies won’t have two designs on their boxes, so if the boxes are different between the two vendors, it’s a red flag.

Whenever you feel you’re being duped, do some research if you can, and if you’re sure the part is counterfeit, report it to the local authorities. It’s a big business, but it doesn’t mean we can’t all look out for each other, and shut these counterfeiters down.