It’s hard to resist a great deal, especially on a high-priced
handbag, deeply discounted sporting equipment or sale on the hottest sunnies.
The internet makes it easy and fast for you to spend money on that must-have
product or service. The problem: many of those screaming deals aren’t real.
When it comes to counterfeit merchandise, consumers get scammed
in a myriad of ways, according to a latest BBB report “Fakes Are Not Fashionable: A
BBB Study of the Epidemic of Counterfeit Goods Sold Online.” Counterfeit
products may look real enough, but they are rarely the same quality as the
original. Counterfeiters steal from designers and innovators who create
original work, take business away from honest retailers, and reduce tax
revenue. In the most insidious cases, counterfeit goods finance illegal
activities and even exploit child labor.
Unlike “Knock offs” or “copycat” products, counterfeit items are
made to fool you into thinking you are buying the original – often high-end –
item. They are sold online, by street merchants, at flea markets, and sometimes
in traditional retail stores. Commonly counterfeited items include logo merchandise
(team jerseys, designer leather goods), smart phones and other electronics,
DVDs and CDs, watches, jewelry, sunglasses, auto parts, perfume, and blue
jeans… you name it, scammers can counterfeit it.
Here in Montana, several victims have come forward to report
being scammed online. One woman lost more than $1,500 on a Yorkie puppy that
never materialized. The victim said she found her way to a real looking website
with adorable purebred puppies available for cheaper than other breeders she
found. After the woman paid for the pup she picked online, the seller added
exorbitant fees for shipping the puppy, a special crate and medication.
Finally, the woman said she realized she was being duped and stopped paying the
puppy con artist.
Another Montana consumer said she purchased what she believed
were popular tennis shoes from Kanye West’s Yeezy line. The woman attempted to
contact the company listed on a fraudulent website after placing her order and
never receiving any product tracking information. After Christmas came and went
with no sign of the shoes, the woman reported the scam to the Better Business
Bureau via our Scam Tracker software.
Cases like these are sadly all too common and unfold daily
across the globe. In the last three years, the BBB has collected more than
2,000 reports from consumers who unwittingly bought counterfeit merchandise.
And that figure is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg - many people do not
file reports after being duped. Every year, nearly $1 billion worth of
counterfeit products are seized by Customs and Border Protection.
While a “designer” handbag falling apart quickly can certainly
be an annoyance, there are more serious repercussions of counterfeiting,
especially when it comes to medicine or auto parts.
Before making a purchase online, be sure to research the
company. Check their website for misspellings, blurry photos or missing
customer service or return policy information.
Here are a few tips to spot a counterfeit scam:
- The big red flag is an
unreasonably low price. Consumers have become
addicted to “low, low prices,” but it’s not possible to manufacturer high-end
merchandise and sell it dirt cheap. It can be challenging for a buyer to detect
counterfeit products but, in addition to price, some other warning signs are:
shoddy workmanship, flimsy or nonexistent packaging, cash-only sales, and a
vendor who does not collect sales tax.
- Avoid sketchy sellers. The best way to
avoid purchasing counterfeit goods is to know the seller. Buy directly from the
source (brand owner, manufacturer, team, etc.), through authorized resellers
and dealers, or at reputable retailers. Check out businesses at bbb.org. Avoid
clicking on phishing emails with too-good-to-be-true offers on “name brands”
and “designer” goods. Use a credit card so you dispute the charges if there is
To report a scam, go to BBB Scam