cocktailJim Prisching/AP/Press Association Images

Engineering & Technology magazine has revealed that discoveries of fake alcohol on sale in Britain have increased 500% in the last two years, while the quantity of dodgy cigarettes being seized by Trading Standards has increased 300%.

Experts are warning that this booze, while often sold at a big discount, could well be highly dangerous... and could be opening us up to a hidden risk too.

The rise

The magazine approached Trading Standards authorities across the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) requesting details of fakes that had been seized. Some 87 of the 110 authorities responded, and revealed that in the 12 months between June 2010 and June 2011 there was a massive increase in the quantity of fake booze being uncovered.

The risk

Often this is sold on the street or into independent retailers who believe they are getting the real thing. The knock-offs are priced far below the cost of the originals, but not only are you aiding and abetting criminals by buying this alcohol - there's every chance you are putting your health at risk too.

Last year the Local Government Association drew attention to the dangers by testing bottles of fake vodka seized across Britain. They found high levels of methanol - which is used in anti-freeze and if drunk in large enough quantities will cause blindness. The bottles also contained other dangerous industrial solvents.

Hidden risk

But this isn't the only risk unveiled by these figures. Because while booze and cigarettes were seized in far greater quantities, the number of fake electronics being discovered by Trading Standards more than halved.

This isn't due to some outbreak of honesty in the market, it's far more likely to be because Trading Standards has shifted its focus. The spending cuts mean they don't have extra resources to tackle the threat of rip off booze and cigarettes, so they are paying less attention to other sorts of fakes.

These knock-offs could be every bit as dangerous, wasting even more money for the average consumer, and putting them at risk from malfunctioning electronics which could be responsible for everything from hearing loss to electric shocks.

It remains vital, therefore, for us to protect ourselves. As ever, if someone offers you an unbelievable bargain, by far the safest approach is not to believe it. You may think you're getting a great deal on vodka or a new smart phone, but in reality you're far more likely to be exposing yourself to a dangerous fake.