Wherever you shop for your vintage whiskies and spirits, there are plenty of the ways to fall victim to fraudsters, buying a fake bottle is just one of them. Caveat emptor is the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of bottles before buying, but in practice you are not alone.
Fortunately we have a strict anti-fraud policies in place as well as a highly trained team of spirits experts inspecting each and every bottle to identify fakes. We ensure that we are able to remove any suspicious bottles that have the potential to fool a lot of people well before they get into our auction.
When we discovered a large-scale counterfeit operation ourselves in 2017 we prevented the accused from selling potentially thousands of fake bottles at auction.
Spirits producers might publicly deny they have fallen victim to counterfeiting, however we know they are working hard on technology to solve the problem. There are new developments in the bottling industry and the constantly evolving technology could eventually stamp out counterfeits altogether.
So what can you do to protect yourself? What’s the best advice we can give to help you avoid getting scammed?
Below are the six key points to remember.
Buy your spirits from a regulated source
The first thing is always to take care when buying whiskies and spirits online. This is the most important rule. Only ever buy whisky and spirits from reputable companies that are authorised to sell alcohol and have strict anti-fraud measures in place. Our anti-forgery policy can be found on our website.
Avoid a bottle if it looks questionable
Thankfully, as an industry full of experts with keen eyes, and armed with a lot of knowledge, it is rare that counterfeit old or rare bottles make their way onto the market. However, it does happen, and it’s not a new occurrence.
We are committed to doing all we can to stamp out counterfeit production.
Our team follows stringent procedures to authenticate every bottle before it goes to auction and therefore we are confident that all bottles we sell are genuine.
Before an auction goes live, sellers must send us each bottle for inspection. If there is any doubt on the authenticity of an item and the seller can’t prove its provenance then the item will not be listed.
When buying more generally we recommend you do your own research. The simple, quick and low tech test that you can do yourself is just comparing a bottle you are suspicious of with one that you know to be genuine.
Ten minutes on a search engine should help you to find images of genuine examples to compare to.
Watch out though, smaller brands do change the presentation more often than you might think and bottles will also vary according to the original market they were intended for. Bottles that look different might just be from two different batches. OK so maybe it’s not so simple.
We’re always happy to help, have a look at our advice on how to date a bottle.
No website should be selling empty bottles.
Avoid a website that looks questionable
What does this mean in practice? There are a few checks you can do that only take a few minutes.
Look for the padlock icon in the address field to know that you are visiting a verified secure website.
Next look at the language used, you should not expect to find spelling mistakes on the website.
Be wary of promises such as ‘no risk’, ‘perfectly safe’, ‘totally legal’, ‘short term returns’ and ‘can’t be faked’.
You should also make sure the website you are buying from has a physical address.
Avoid an item or website if the price is suspiciously low
While it’s certainly true that bidders pick up great bargains at specialist whisky auctions (one reason that auctions have become so popular), but away from auctions beware any seller offering bottles for an unusually low price for a quick sale.
Always remember the old adage: ‘if it looks too good to be true, it probably is’.
Look for online merchants that accept secure payments
Credit cards are probably the safest way to buy online as they have strong fraud protection features. There are others ways to make secure payments but avoid an item or website if the payment can be made only in cryptocurrencies. This is a sure sign of illegal activities!
Do not buy whiskies and spirits on social network pages
There are some excellent specialist whisky and spirits groups on social platforms. We recommend Malt Maniacs & Friends for instance. The spirits community you meet on social platforms can prove helpful in identifying fake bottles, scams and fraudsters. However, beware the advice of unverified experts that exist only online, some of the ‘facts’ that circulate amongst enthusiasts can be ill informed, even if well meaning.
Never buy spirits from sellers on social networking pages. You have more guarantees buying from a bloke in a pub.