Many product makers---especially artists, electronics and software manufacturers and producers of collectable items---provide consumers with a document or label called a Certificate of Authenticity (C.O.A.) as proof that the product is original and authentic. Consumers can then use these certificates for various purposes, such as validating a product's origin, age and/or value, or to acquire product support or replacement under warranty. Checking a C.O.A. requires that you consult the product maker and/or an authorised representative (dealer, officially recognised expert or associated organisation).
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Call the product maker and ask for a description of the product's Certificate of Authenticity. Most genuine certificates contain at least the product maker's name, contact information, a statement of authenticity and specific details about the product and/or the product maker (for example, a product number or barcode). The product maker may have also designed the C.O.A. in a particular shape or with security features such as watermarks, holograms, special inks or micro-printed information or metallic security threads.
Ask the product maker for the address of a nearby authorised representative or expert trained to recognise the official C.O.A. associated with your product. As many criminals forge Certificates of Authenticity, an in-person authentication is required to guarantee that your Certificate of Authenticity is genuine---especially if you find initially that your C.O.A. doesn't match the product maker's description completely (has missing information, incorrect ink colours and/or additional text or marks).
Take your C.O.A. and product to the authorised representative for evaluation. If it turns out that you own a copy of an original product or a stolen original that resold with a forged certificate, report the crime as instructed by the representative
Tips and warnings
- Always have an authorised representative look at both the C.O.A. and the product. Some criminals (for example, art thieves or forgers), acquire official certificates and then attach the certificates to copies or forgeries of the original product.
- Always confirm through the artist or a recognised expert that a Certificate of Authenticity is genuine before buying artwork of value.
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