A few weeks ago, we were approached by a company that was interested in us reviewing their product. On first glance it seemed completely legit, and it was even a name we had heard of.

But after further research, we realized that the company — despite having a name and product that was nearly identical to the company we were familiar with — was, in fact, not the same company.

This story is one of the many I’ve experienced and heard over the years about knockoffs. It usually happens with Chinese manufacturers, who wish to take advantage of their American counterparts by either creating a product that is almost identical in nature, or one that is named very similarly to confuse potential customers.

And the knockoffs aren’t limited to software. In fact, it’s more common with gear you’d buy off, say, Amazon. Many people think that just because something is sold on Amazon, that it’s automatically legit. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Nearly anyone can sell on Amazon without much of a background check. It’s why, as consumers, we have to be wary.

Beware of sponsored products that compete

By all means, companies pay to get their products at the top of search results. I did a search for “Platypod” on Amazon, which is a maker of small tripod bases that allow you to take photos from a very low angle, or where tripods aren’t otherwise allowed.

But you also see a different company.

A search for this presents Decade, a knockoff of Platypod, and something that’s sold exclusively on Amazon. The price is significantly cheaper, and it seems to be good quality upon first glance. It has several reviews that are highly-rated.

But a closer look at the product from Decade gives a pretty obvious warning. If you click on the company name right under the product name, you’ll see that it takes you to a page about a men’s and women’s accessory company called Decade. With absolutely no reference to the tripod base and a different logo.

Decade makes watches and fashion accessories. Apparently small tripod bases fit in that line, too?!?

If that doesn’t raise a red flag, I don’t know what will.

What’s wrong with a knockoff?

Think of knockoffs like cheap copies of luxury handbags or Oakley sunglasses (yes, I once had a pair). They typically don’t come with any type of warranty or customer support options. They make promises that can’t be fulfilled, and almost always have you regretting your decision afterward. They break easily. And they almost always infringe on patents and/or trademarks in some way or another.

What else to look for

While sponsored products are one way to find knockoffs, there are several other things you should look out for, too:

  • Overwhelmingly positive reviews: If you see a bunch of reviews that are overwhelmingly positive, and talk about being “so much better than the alternative,” chances are those reviews were paid for by the company, or worse yet, were written by people associated with the company.
  • Don’t appear on other sites: Sure, there are legit, exclusive products sold on Amazon. But — especially with camera gear — they’re far and in-between. Do a search on B&H to see if the product is carried there, and don’t be afraid to reach out to experts in the field to get their opinion, either.
  • Save, save, save: Seeing a product at a significant discount over the brand name is a dead giveaway.
  • Do a Google search: Try to find the product listed anywhere else — let alone the company. What legit company have you seen not have a website, even if they’re exclusive to Amazon?
  • Look at the negative reviews: This is where you’ll see any additional red flags. For the Decade listing, for instance, I saw that it was way heavier than the Platypod, meaning it wasn’t made from the same material.

In today’s day and age, it’s becoming more and more easier for products to get knocked off, especially overseas. It’s important to know how to spot these products, and make sure that you stay away — or at least proceed with caution.