The issue of counterfeiting is ever-present: the current target of counterfeiters is specifically medical face masks, which are essential in the fight against COVID-19.
Medical face masks are increasingly being counterfeited in large quantities, and as a result the distress that exists within the population as a whole in the wake of the shortage of supplies is being exploited ruthlessly.
Consequences for the end user
The consequences for the individual are e.g. a lack of protective mechanism of the masks if purchased through retail or even financial loss, as the masks do not even reach the consumer, as they were supposedly purchased through a ‘cloned’ official online shop.
The buyers sent the wire transfer and the masks never arrived. For example, it turned out that companies existed, but their website was also cloned. There was no official record of the order. (Source)
Damage for companies
The official certified manufacturers, on the other hand, suffer a long-term image and sales damage as well as lose consumer trust massively, which will be an aggravating additional challenge in the "reconstruction process" after the crisis.
Effectively prevent counterfeiting
One proposal to prevent these fakes would be to consistently mark the risky products with an Unique Identifier (UI) and store it in a central repository. This would give both the commercial enterprises and the end consumer the possibility of verifying authenticity of products e.g. via a Scanner or an App and thus preventing the aforementioned consequences of counterfeiting. In this way the stakeholders strengthen the legal supply chain and make another important contribution to consumer protection.
By the way, this method has already been working in the European pharmaceutical supply chain since February 9, 2019, as part of the implementation of the Falsified Medicines Directive (EU 2016/161).