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How To Spot Fake Cologne While Buying Online

If you’re willing to lay down a hefty sum of cash on a new fragrance, you should also know how to spot fake cologne. It’s true: There are plenty of sheisty sellers out there looking to make a quick dime on fake cologne sales (both spray cologne and solid cologne) — but educating yourself about how to spot fake colognes will prevent you from being taken advantage of.

We’ve been buying colognes in person and online for over a decade, and have had our fair share of close calls with fake colognes. With that in mind, we decided to share our experience in this guide. It’s a comprehensive look at how to spot fake colognes when you’re buying online, and will prepare you to find the best prices on the finest colognes available.

Table of Contents

How Do You Know If A Fragrance Is Real?

To really know whether a fragrance that you’re buying online is the genuine article — rather than a cunning imitator — you’ll need to get savvy on a number of different indicators of quality. Pay careful attention to each of the following:

The Seller (and Their Reputation)

This is item number one, the first thing that you should always look at before even thinking about buying a cologne online. What is the seller like? Do they have an established reputation? Are they a verified Amazon seller, or a third party? If a seller has no reviews (or lots of negative reviews), you should almost always take a pass.

Product Batch Numbers

Did you know that cosmetic products (a category that includes colognes and perfumes) are assigned batch codes? It’s true — each bottle or box will be labeled with a batch number that indicates when the product was made, and gives you further details about the production. You can check batch codes on CheckFresh to see if they’re the real deal.

The Condition of the Packaging

Both the bottle and the box that your fragrance is packaged in should be in great condition. This means no obvious rips or tears in the box, and no sloppy misprinting, chipped edges, or tarnished caps on the bottles. Damaged perfumes and colognes are rarely authentic, so stay away from them.


The scent of a fragrance will be the biggest giveaway to whether it’s real or fake, but you can only use this as a criteria if you already know what the fragrance smells like. Generally, fake colognes will smell more “synthetic” than natural, and often have an off putting chemical aroma.


There’s an old saying that gives wise advice on luxury goods: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. When you find a $100 cologne being sold online for $20, you should ask yourself: Why is it that cheap? A small discount is reasonable, but don’t be fooled by steep discounts on products that aren’t usually sold for less. This includes free cologne samples. If it’s not from the official store or a reputable partner, chances are it’s fake.


Depending on where you’re buying your fragrance, the seller will post either stock photos of the product or photos of the individual bottle and packaging. On Amazon, stock photos aren’t necessarily an indicator of authenticity or fakeness; but on Ebay, you’ll want to watch out for sellers that don’t have pictures of the bottle which were obviously taken recently.

So What If The Cologne Has The Same Look, Feel, And Smell As The Real Cologne?

Now here’s a tricky one: What if you can’t tell the difference between a fake and the genuine article? Should it matter, so long as you can get a fragrance for a better price?

Here’s our take on the matter: There’s no substitute for real colognes. Even if, right now, you might think that a fake is an identical duplicate of the original, that doesn’t mean that everyone else will, too — especially people who are more keen on fine fragrances, who will be able to pick out minute details that you may not be aware of at this time. With more experience, you’ll come to appreciate the nuances of fine fragrances that fakes fail to capture.

What To Do If You Spot A Fake Cologne

So, you’re pretty sure you’ve spotted a fake cologne being sold online. In the best case scenario, you’ve used our tips and tricks to spot it before buying a bottle. But whether you’ve bought a bottle or not, what should you do about someone selling fake colognes online?

If you’re buying through Amazon — the most common way to find a broad range of colognes at great prices — there’s a clear path outline for you. Amazon takes fake products very seriously, and their page on how to report a violation of selling policies contains explicit directions for how to report fake products. Even though you wouldn’t ever buy from a seller of fake cologne again, reporting unethical sellers will help prevent anyone else from being taken advantage of.

How To Spot Fake Cologne: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How Do You Know Your Cologne Tester Is Original?

Originating in department stores, cologne testers are made with the intention of sharing a small portion of a cologne with a prospective buyer — without giving them access to the fully packaged bottle, with its distinctive branding and styling. But if it doesn’t look like the cologne that’s inside, how can you know it’s real?

The easiest way to tell whether a cologne tester is authentic is to observe the UPC or other tracking codes on the plain box. If they’ve been altered, removed, or otherwise modified, you can be almost certain that it happened after leaving the factory. This usually means that the tester has been tampered with, and may not contain the original cologne.

Why Do Testers Come In A Brown/White Box Or Unboxed?

A big part of the price of brand name colognes has more to do with their decorative bottlings and branding than with the expense of creating the cologne inside. Since testers are intended as affordable ways to try out a new fragrance, they’re packaged in inexpensive, minimal boxes, usually without an expensive metal cap. This keeps the cost down, allowing you to try more colognes at a lower price.

Does Fake Cologne Smell The Same As Real Cologne?

Can a fake cologne really smell as good as the original? In a word: No. In two words: Definitely not.

That’s the problem of fake colognes — just like reproductions of famous paintings, even the best of them will lack the attention to detail of the original. You may be able to find a fake cologne that smells very similar to the real thing, but it will always be just a little bit off. And the more authentic colognes you smell, the more you’ll recognize when a bottle just isn’t up to snuff. So if you know your scents, then apply that spray or solid cologne and see if it passes your sniff test.

Does Amazon Sell Fake Cologne?

Check through almost any Amazon product’s set of reviews, and you’ll find allegations of fake, shoddy, or fraudulent workmanship. This is especially true of colognes and perfumes, where inexperienced wearers fail to account for the different strengths that fragrances can come in and proclaim an eau de toilette to be a “fake” of an extrait (not true).

So are there fake colognes sold on Amazon? Quite possibly, if you’re looking in the wrong place. That’s why we go to such extensive lengths to source colognes only from verified, official Amazon listings rather than third party sellers: So you know that you’re getting the real thing, and not a shoddy imitation. Stick with our recommended products, and you can rest assured that you’re getting the original product and not a poorly made knock off.

Is Walmart Cologne Real?

Walmart, America’s biggest brick and mortar retailer, has a reputation for selling things at rock bottom prices. But how could they do this with authentic colognes, which are usually a pricey item? Believe it or not, Walmart colognes are the real deal.

It’s tempting to think that Walmart must be selling inferior versions of the original colognes, but this isn’t true. They’re able to sell many of their colognes at low prices due to their incredible selling power, which nets them better deals with cologne manufacturers. And voila — those savings are passed on to you.

Are FragranceX Colognes Authentic?

In case you haven’t heard much about it, FragranceX is a fragrance company that uses their industry connections to secure samples of brand name colognes, reselling them to consumers at steeply discounted prices. While this may sound too good to be true, it turns out that FragranceX is the real deal — as evidenced by their overwhelmingly positive reviews on Trustpilot.

How To Spot Fake Cologne On Ebay?

The steps for spotting fake cologne on Ebay are exactly as we’ve outlined above, in the section “How Do You Know If A Fragrance Is Real?”: Check out the reputation of the seller, make sure the batch numbers are legit, inspect the condition of the packaging, make sure they have photos of the individual product, and don’t fall for any deal that seems too good to be true. Follow that advice, and you’ll have an easy time staying away from fake cologne on Ebay.

Brian has been fascinated with fragrances since his 8th birthday, when his Dad gifted him a bottle of Acqua di Gio. Since then, he has become a men's grooming & style aficionado who teaches men how to look sharp. Backed by personal experience, Brian's articles are known for his no-holds-barred style where he holds nothing back. You will get his real opinions on the latest men's grooming products and best practices where he reveals the best (and worst) style advice every man should know.