As the federal government struggles to combat counterfeit cigarette panels, some consumers are getting a little creative to figure out if the panel they’re looking at is fake.
Fox News is offering a $10 reward for the identification of a counterfeit panel.
The panel is typically made of plastic or aluminum and often has holes for air to circulate through.
But the fake panel often has a sticker that says “Made in USA.”
The stickers have a blue and white image.
To identify a counterfeit, a consumer needs to know the color of the panel, the size, shape and color of its logo and the style of the product, according to the FTC.
In some cases, counterfeiters are simply printing the panels in a different font or color, according the FTC’s website.
That can mean a panel may have the same size, but different lettering or the lettering can vary.
In addition to the fake panels, consumers can also try to identify the panel by its manufacturer.
But it’s a much more difficult task, especially if the counterfeit panel is made in China, according Steve Miller, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin.
“I think counterfeiters can make a very good case, based on the information they have, that the panel is not a real cigarette,” he said.
Miller, who has researched counterfeit cigarette sales for 20 years, says that the counterfeit panels found on the internet have a high percentage of holes.
They are also more expensive than real cigarettes.
“It’s a lot of money to counterfeit, and I think that makes it a very attractive product to a counterfeiter,” he explained.
Miller said counterfeit panels could also be sold in the United States on a shelf or at a discount store.
But counterfeiters often hide the panel behind an innocuous sticker.
“If the manufacturer of the cigarette has a product that’s not made in the U.S., the counterfeit cigarette is going to look a lot like that,” he added.
While the counterfeits can be very expensive, they’re not very common.
In 2015, there were just a handful of counterfeit cigarette packs sold in stores, according data from the Federal Trade Commission.
Miller said counterfeit cigarettes often are sold for around $3.
Miller also said counterfeiters sometimes use cheap stickers and cheap graphics to mask their products.
“There’s a very real risk that if someone knows how to spot counterfeit cigarette packaging, they can also be able to spot fake cigarette packaging,” he wrote.
The Federal Trade Commision does not track counterfeit cigarette packages.
In 2016, the FTC released data showing that cigarette brands like Pac Sun, Newport and the American Spirit were among the brands that had the highest counterfeiting rates in 2016.
Miller recommends consumers not buy counterfeit cigarette boxes.
“The real threat here is that counterfeit cigarettes can be used for a lot more than simply counterfeit cigarette products,” he advised.