By Michelle Roberts, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – With Valentine’s Day coming up, there is going to be a lot of shopping for romantic gifts this week. But when it comes to buying perfume, experts say to be careful where you buy it.

A sweet smell turned sour for Carol Goldich. She got sick from counterfeit perfume. “I just put a little on my ear lobe and I just noticed this terrible itchiness.”

Some industry experts now estimate that as many as 10% of all perfumes sold are actually fake. And it’s a booming business.

Dr. Jeannette Graf, a dermatologist, says these products can be harmful, “resulting in sinus problems, asthma, and itchiness.”

These imposters are often made with unthinkable ingredients, like antifreeze, improper chemicals, and even urine, according to Valerie Salembier of the Authentics Foundation, a group committed to fighting counterfeit products.

“It is big business,” added Salembier. She said there are warning signs that a product is not what it purports to be. “If it is too pale, it’s heavy alcohol. If it’s too dark, it is most likely using faux chemicals.”

These fake products are most often sold online, by street vendors, or even at some discount retailers. To avoid buying a counterfeit, shop only at a reputable retailer, or buy directly from the manufacturer.

Unfortunately, Carol Goldich received her perfume as a gift. “When I opened it, I thought ‘What did my friends do, they shouldn’t have’ and they shouldn’t have!”

It’s not just perfume. Seizures of imported counterfeit products are way up, having jumped 142% from 2011 to 2012 according to the Authentics Foundation.


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