Expensive or rare bottles of alcohol are generally a nice gift when you’re unsure what to get someone. But you may want to do some research before shelling out big money, because you might be paying for cheap liquor in a used luxury bottle. Scammers are targeting the American whiskey market, reports The New York Times.
Counterfeit alcohol in general is not a new problem within luxury industries like wine. Full-on true crime documentaries have been produced following huge wine bottle fraud scandals. New York Times editor Clay Risen reports that in 2021 both the pandemic and increased demand have created the perfect conditions for whiskey scammers to profit. To put it plainly, people with disposable income are stuck at home bored and wanting to show off their latest buys on social media.
“Part of the problem is the culture I see around bourbon, where it is about bragging rights and being able to Instagram a bottle you just bought,” said Adam Herz, whiskey collector and expert in counterfeit bottles. When stuck at home, the urge to online shop is strong and when you combine that with the desire to interact with people or produce content you get the millions of “haul” videos you see on TikTok and YouTube.
In addition to the clout chasing, scammers can feel confident they won’t be reported to the authorities because people are too embarrassed to admit they’ve been bamboozled. The hesitation to go to authorities also carries over to the distilleries whose product is being used in these illegal transactions. The whiskey producers would rather not announce to the world that some of the bottles out there displaying their label may be filled with cheap stuff— just not a good look, I suppose.
Unfortunately, the only way to avoid getting scammed for the time being is to do your own research and be wary of anyone online selling a typically expensive or rare bottle for an unbelievable price. Or give Dry January a shot.