Protect yourself from counterfeit products and fraud when shopping online
9 tips when you’re making online purchases
When online shopping it’s important to take steps to protect yourself from fraud. A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found a high prevalence of counterfeit items on popular online marketplaces and auction sites. Investigators purchased items listed as Urban Decay cosmetics, Yeti travel mugs, Apple phone chargers and Nike Air Jordan shoes – all advertised as new, brand-name items sold by third-party sellers with customer ratings above 90 percent. Twenty of 47 items purchased were counterfeit.
products not only cost consumers money, but these products can also pose health
risks if they use lead or other unsafe components. Counterfeit electronics also
risk fires and “lethal electrocution,” according to the report.
“The selling of counterfeit products in on
the rise and it can be hard to tell when products are fake. Counterfeiters will
use stock photos of real products,” said Mike Hill, online investigation manager at UL.
Hill offered these tips:
1. On well-known online marketplaces or auction sites, buy directly from the brand itself, if you can. On these sites, you know who the seller is, so try to buy directly from the brand.
2. Compare prices with other reputable sites. Do a product search to see what other sites are charging. It should be similar in price.
at the quantity a buyer has in stock.
“If the quantity is unlimited or there’s a huge quantity, that’s something to pay attention to,” Hill said. “Most legitimate sellers will have limited stock.”
Research the buyer, including looking at their ratings and feedback.
“Use common sense,” Hill said. “A lot
of times, you can tell fake feedback. For instance, something generic like, ‘It’s
the best product on the planet,’ is not a legitimate review. Take a look at how
long ago feedback was left. Watch for someone who buys several items from sellers
that give instant automatic feedback. They use this type of feedback to appear
legitimate, sell some counterfeit products and then shut down their account.”
When researching the buyer, also look at
where the product is located, the refund and warranty policy and shipping
prices, because sometimes dishonest sellers make a product look like a good deal
by inflating shipping charges.
you’re unfamiliar with a “deals” website, examine it carefully. Things to watch for:
- Is the primary email address on the website a Gmail or other free email account? That might show that the website owner isn’t committed to the domain, Hill said.
- Watch for fraud sites that try to copy the legitimate site and purposely misspell the domain.
- Do a site search with “site:nameofdomain” to see what the search engines indexed.
- Check when the website was created. If it’s less than 30 days, it might be best to pass up the site, Hill said.
- Be wary of unsolicited offers and avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails, which can go to sites that look like the real brand site but are fraudulent.
- Look for “https” in the website’s address, which transmits your data in an encrypted form. Don’t give personal information or credit card data on a site without it.
6. If a
listing claims to be “legitimate” and “genuine,” it’s probably not, Hill said.
“Counterfeiters use ‘authentic’ and
‘genuine’ over and over again in listings. If they feel the need to defend
their authenticity, it’s probably fake,” Hill said.
7. Don’t make online
purchases with your debit card, check, cash or wire transfer, which can be hard
to recover. Also,
consider using the one-time-use credit card numbers that many credit cards
offer customers for online purchases.
8. If something seems
off, don’t make the purchase.
“If something looks risky, stay away from it,”
Hill said. “Once your information is out there, it’s out there. A lot of times
these fraudsters will use your information to make other fraudulent purchases.”
the product you purchased arrives, examine it. Look for misspellings
on the packaging.
If it’s counterfeit or not what you
ordered, a lot of legitimate online auction sites and online marketplaces will
take it back, which is a good reason to shop from established sites.
“Report it as a suspect product not
only to get your money back but also so the online marketplace/auction site can
investigate and shut down the seller,” Hill said.
you purchased from a site that doesn’t offer buyer protection, contact your
credit card company and tell them that you believe the product is counterfeit,
as most credit cards offer buyer protection.
Online shopping can save a lot of time
and money, just be sure to use these steps to protect yourself.