Consumer watchdogs have warned festive shoppers to be on the lookout for fake mobile phones and electrical items patched together by sophisticated criminal gangs.
Campaigners said the dodgy goods could cause electrical shocks or even fires – and insisted the number of dangerous counterfeit phones was a “growing problem”.
The caution comes after a mum-of-one shelled out £360 for a second-hand Samsung Galaxy S5 at a high street store – only to discover it was a cleverly disguised sham that had managed to fool the shop’s testers.
Donna Gourlay, from Winchburgh, was given the mobile by her mum, who picked it up at Game at The Centre in Livingston’s two weeks ago.
And the 25-year-old – who has since received a full refund – only became aware the phone was a fake after taking it home and switching it on.
“It was just running really slowly, and I thought that wasn’t right,” she said. “As soon as I switched it on it took one-and-a-half minutes to register that there was a Sim card in it.”
She added: “Cosmetically, it was identical to the real thing. It’s obviously just the software inside that’s different.
“But when I found out it was fake I started looking at the box and things and you could see it was flimsy card with a sticker on it.
“Because it was fake I don’t know if it met the EU safety standards with plugs and fire hazards, which is obviously quite worrying – especially with my daughter in the house.”
Emma Apter, from campaign group Electrical Safety First, insisted unsafe lookalikes were on the rise.
She said: “In the last year alone, the percentage of potentially dangerous counterfeit mobile phones seized by authorities has increased by over 50 per cent.
“At best these items simply break, at worst they can cause electric shocks or even fires.”
Councillor Cammy Day, the Capital’s community safety leader, warned shoppers to be aware of fake goods that were “increasingly difficult” to tell apart from the real thing.
He added: “As well as being illegal, fake items can have safety risks, as they have not been subject to the rigorous quality control checks of genuine products.”
A spokesman for Game said: “This was an isolated and very rare incident.
“Our customers trade in hundreds of thousands of products with us every week and we take our responsibilities to both the seller and re-purchaser of goods extremely seriously.”