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BBB Blog: Insider News & Tips You Can Trust
Looks Can Be Deceiving
Looks Can Be Deceiving
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With the holidays fast approaching, the market for counterfeit luxury items is wide and deep, selling everything from jewelry and perfume to handbags and sunglasses. Only a decade ago, most counterfeit goods were shipped from overseas via large containers and then sold in the US - most often at street festivals and corners and in the backs of neighborhood trucks! Global technology now enables counterfeiters to sell items through websites, shipping them directly to the consumer, making it harder to track and seize - and leaving dissatisfied customers with no recourse to deal with defective and inferior products. For bargain-hunters looking for name-brand items at discount prices online,
Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland
offers advice on avoiding web-based rip-off schemes.
Conterfeit is Big Business
According to a report by the Department of Homeland Security, approximately $1.26 billion worth of counterfeit goods originating overseas were seized by US Customs in 2012 - growing from $78.3 million in 2011. The US Chamber reports counterfeiting costs US businesses as much as $250 billion every year and results in the loss of over one million jobs annually. Some consumers may unwittingly purchase counterfeit products, but others may intentionally purchase them without recognizing the consequences.
The consequences can be serious and even fatal. Knock off perfumes perfumes have been found to contain urine; counterfeit children's clothing typically lacks flame retardants; counterfeit auto party have led to serious injuries; and counterfeit pharmaceuticals have caused illness and even death.
Online classified sites like Craigslist or eBay are hot spots for counterfeit luxury item fraud online, and both offer “buyer beware” warnings. But vendors are now setting up their own websites to fool frugal fashionistas.
BBB offers the following advice for shopping safely online when looking for deals on designer goods, as well as tips on how to spot a fake:
Look for Secure Websites.
Shop from online sites that display https:// rather than http:// in the address bar (URL). Also look for a padlock image at the bottom of the browser. These indicate the website is secure and has a safe encrypted connection.
Always deal with reputable businesses.
The number one way to avoid getting ripped off when buying luxury goods is to deal with reputable businesses. When in doubt, shoppers can contact the manufacturer and verify which venders are authorized sellers. Consumers should also check out the business with BBB at
before making a purchasing decision.
If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
One of the biggest red flags for knock-off merchandise is an unrealistic price. Extremely low prices are tempting but not to be believed. Paying $100 for a $1000 purse could result in the consumer receiving a poorly constructed – and worthless – fake.
Read between the lines.
Some websites or online classified ads will go overboard in their description of the item in order to coax the buyer’s trust. Overuse of “genuine,” “real” or “authentic” is a bad sign. Buyers also need to keep an eye out for sneaky phrases like “inspired by.” Look out for sites that have poor qquality or an abundance of stock photos.
Check the merchandise.
Considering that the name is a large part of the motivation for buying a luxury brand, many manufacturers spend considerable time and energy on crafting the physical label. Counterfeiters aren’t usually as meticulous. Shoppers should look for misspelled words and altered product names, poorly sewn logos and labels, etc. Some luxury goods carry an “authenticity label” with a hologram or other security measure. Counterfeit products often lack the usual guarantees and/or licensing agreements.
Know the brand.
Different luxury brands, such as purses, have specific hardware consumers can rely on to identify a genuine piece. Zippers, screws, clasps and stitching are usually very specific for the brand and the manufacturer often has details on their website explaining what to look for and how to spot a knock-off. Craftsmanship is king for most luxury brands. If the sunglasses snap in two in the first week, or if the stitching and seams are ragged and don’t match up on a purse, the items are probably counterfeit.
Consumers who have purchased counterfeit luxury goods should contact BBB and can easily file complaints online at
. Consumers can also contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at
and file a complaint online there as well.
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