Has your business ever needed to check Chinese certificates for fakes or forgeries? If so, you are not alone.
Regrettably, it is quite common for some unscrupulous Chinese companies to use fake or altered certificates, unfairly tarnishing the reputation of the majority of companies that do the right thing.
In this article we introduce 5 techniques you can use to check Chinese certificates are legitimate, so you can steer clear of the companies that hand out fakes.
Why Do I Need to Check Chinese Certificates?
Through operating our verification service we unfortunately find that many of the Chinese certificates provided to our clients are not legitimate.
In fact more than 20% of the certificates we have verified over the years have been found to be fake.
The unfortunate fact is that some Chinese companies are giving their clients certificates that are not legitimate, and they are getting away with it.
One reason for this is that foreign companies often make the mistake of taking Chinese certificates on face value.
Another is that they can find it difficult to know how to verify whether or not a certificates is genuine - this article aims to help address this issue by introducing some techniques.
Identifying Chinese Certificates
Before you can check Chinese certificates are legitimate you first need to accurately identify which certificates you have been given (whether you requested them or not).
Many Chinese certificates, such as the China business license, contain only Chinese characters so that might not be as straightforward as you would imagine.
Fortunately we have previously prepared the article "How to Identify a China Certificate Without Knowing Chinese" which can help you with this task.
Five Ways to Check Chinese Certificates
If you are looking to check Chinese certificates, here are the 5 methods that we recommend:
1. Database Lookup
In the majority of cases, which tend to be for the most useful certificates, the first step we take is to lookup the Chinese certificate's details using an online database.
Happily, many Chinese registration and certification organizations have setup and maintain up-to-date online databases where you can confidently verify information from their certificates.
The problem is that most of these resources require Chinese language skills to navigate, and some even block access to overseas IP addresses!
Here are some of the online databases we regularly use to check Chinese certificates:
Even if a certificate can be found using database lookup, it still might be fake though. You need to carefully compare the data on the certificate with that from the database to make sure.
We have seen cases where a company has simply changed the name on a genuine business license or even changed their own certificate to make it appear they were registered 10 years earlier - for example 2008 rather than 2018!
2. Contact Issuer
Despite the availability of the above databases there are still many occasions when checks can't be made online and the best approach is to directly contact the organization that issued the certificate.
This is is particularly true of shipping clearance documents - which usually can't be verified via databases, ISO certifications issued outside of China's accreditation system, and Chinese test reports.
Your first step will be to identify who the issuer is - looking at the certificate's logos and certification marks can help - and to find their contact details. This is usually possible with a Google search but you might need assistance if details are only in Chinese.
After that you will need to contact the organization and seek assistance to check the certificate is genuine. Finding the right number to call or email address to write to can be a big challenge, especially if the organization has limited English support.
3. Check for Contradictions
One of the challenges we face is that it can actually be a lot harder to prove that a certificate is fake, than it is to verify that it is genuine.
When a Chinese certificate's details don't appear on a database or the supposed issuer can't be found or contacted, it is a strong indicator of a falsified certificate but it isn't necessarily conclusive.
One thing we have found though is that the people creating fake certificates often make mistakes.
Here are a few examples:
- ISO certificates should include a scope of certification but sometimes we find that the scope is missing or is seemingly unrelated to the service the company offers
- On a Bill of Lading the Vessel name, Port of Lading, Port of Discharge and Dates are specified, so websites such as VesselFinder.com can be used to check if the container ship is really travelling on that route on those days
- Test reports claiming that testing has been done to a standard that isn't included in the laboratory's scope of accreditation
4. Error Level Analysis
This is a more advanced technique that we sometimes use to identify certificates that have been altered using software such as Photoshop.
Every time a certificate is saved in JPEG form the compression process results in a little bit of information being lost - this is the error level.
So the way error level analysis works is to identify the parts of the certificate that have been altered multiple times, giving a strong indication that the certificate is a forgery.
Here is an example of a certificate which has undergone error level analysis:
5. Get Expert Assistance
The process to check Chinese certificates can be quite challenging due to the obvious language issues and variety of techniques applicable to different certificates.
Sometimes performing a certificate check can also be quite time consuming and it can be difficult to be certain of the results that you obtain.
Many Chinese lawyers or consultants should be able to assist you to check the legitimacy of a Chinese certificate.