Gifting your beloved a bottle of urine and arsenic is not exactly the best way to say "I love you", which is why police are advising Londoners to steer clear of counterfeit beauty products in the lead-up to Valentine's Day.
This comes a month after a raid discovered more than 500 bottles of what is thought to be fake perfume at a "factory" in the British capital. Staff at the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at the City of London Police confiscated products worth more than £40,000 ($51,500), according to a statement on the department's webpage.
"We strongly advise shoppers to keep Valentine’s Day safe as well as special this year – counterfeit fashion goods, makeup and electrical items are not only the result of criminal activity, but many can harm as well," Dr Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright and Enforcement at the Intellectual Property Office, said in a statement.
Fake electricals – for instance, phone battery chargers and hair straighteners – have been known to cause fires and electric shocks, while fake "must-have" toys reportedly contain toxic chemicals. Those tempted by bottles of discounted perfume may find their purchase contains unexpected ingredients, including cyanide and human urine. Meanwhile, laboratory testing reveals fake cosmetic products (mascara, eyeliner, lip gloss, foundation, etcetera) often contain levels of chemicals such as mercury and lead that are deemed unsafe.
Due to the often unsanitized and unhygienic environment of these so-called factories, products may also include traces of rat droppings and, in some cases, even rat poison.
The result being the beneficiary of your gift receives more than just a sweet scent. Counterfeit products can trigger allergic reactions and skin irritation, including swelling, rashes, burns, and sometimes even long-term health problems.
PIPCU's advice? "Treat your Valentine to something legitimate from a reputable seller," Detective Chief Inspector Teresa Russell said. "Avoid heartbreak, don’t buy fake."
The team also warns against offering up your personal details to non-reputable companies online, which may be used and abused by criminals looking to commit fraud. Experts say dodgy sites often leave tell-tale clues to their less-than-honest intentions – poor grammar and spelling, low-quality images, and inconsistent font styles.
If you're stuck on gift ideas this year, zoos both sides of the Atlantic will name a roach after your SO (or ex) for a small donation. Alternatively, those into arts and crafts might want to attempt a pickle bouquet, 2019's take on the bunch of roses cliché.