Police officials in London, U.K., warned people against using fake beauty products as they found traces of rat droppings, urine and arsenic in some of the seized goods. According to estimates by the City of London Police, consumers spend at least 90 million pounds ($140 million) annually on fake products as they are easily available on the Internet.
Officials said that make-up, perfume and sun cream were among the products seized and lab tests showed that some of them had toxic chemicals like mercury and cyanide. The counterfeit products may cause allergic reactions including swelling, rashes and burns, and in some instances, even leave the user with long-term health issues, BBC reported, citing officials.
"Beauty products are meant to enhance your features. However, the fakes can in fact do quite the opposite," Maria Woodall, who oversees the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police, said, according to BBC, adding: "Our general rule is - if it seems too good to be true then it probably is."
Officials also said that criminals who make the fake products use generic stock images to deceive the customers. Fake perfumes have been found to have traces of cyanide and human urine. Cosmetic products like eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss and foundation have been found to have arsenic, mercury and lead, the Independent reported, citing police officials.
“Criminals are exploiting every opportunity to fool customers into buying counterfeits in order for them to make some quick cash – putting peoples’ health, homes and lives at risk,” Woodall said, according to the Independent, adding: “We have had victims who have bought fake items online only to discover later that the criminals behind the site have used their payment details to make further purchases or even use their personal details to set up hundreds of illegal sites selling counterfeit goods.”
Over 5,500 websites selling counterfeit products have been suspended and more than 3.5 million pounds worth of fake products have been seized by PIPCU in the last 18 months. In 2014, officials had seized a shipping container carrying over 4,700 counterfeit products, including foundation, bronzer and lip gloss, the Telegraph reported.