According to the International Chamber of Commerce, the global trade in counterfeited consumer goods is estimated to range as high as seven percent and one of the fastest growing segments is the sale of counterfeit products sold through legitimate online portals where lax monitoring and enforcement can snare unsuspecting consumers
On Cyber Monday alone, the biggest online shopping day of the year, sales were estimated to be over $1.25 billion according to comScore, Inc. Overall online sales in the U.S. are on pace to outpace brick and mortar sales.
But with cyber criminals growing more sophisticated, how can you spot a counterfeit? Sometimes, you can’t until after you’ve received the product, but here are a few tips we recommend:
- Beware the discount: Consumers need to be on guard if they find deals with discounts that seem too good to be true. Discounts steeper than 20 percent than what a large discount retailer such as Wal-Mart or Costco offers should be an indicator to the consumer they need to exercise caution;
- Check the product: If after buying a product a consumer has concerns, check for a serial number and ask the manufacturer. Counterfeiters often will not go the trouble of generating unique serial numbers for every product;
- Compare reviews and customer feedback: Check to see if a product’s reviews include terms such as “knock off,” “fake” or “counterfeit.” It can be a tip-off the site is selling counterfeit versions or if a product’s ratings are substantially lower on a reseller’s storefront compared to ratings on a verified merchandise site. Check consumer reviews and posted comments since on fake websites, those comments are often erased, but on legitimate sites, consumers can easily warn each other of fakes;
- Spread the word: Submit counterfeit purchases to the Consumer Fraud Center and other consumer protection websites such as the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov), a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center, and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (www.iprcenter.gov/referral) so consumers can be warned;
- Who is emailing you: Online sales confirmations should come directly from the website where you make your purchase. If you receive your sales confirmation from someone using a free email service such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or AOL, be aware that a counterfeiter may be at work;
- Spelling bee fails: Grammar and spelling mistakes dot the product descriptions, which is evidence of improper translations from English for overseas cybercriminals, especially from Chinese manufacturers; and
- Where is your stuff coming from: Manufacturers almost never allow their products to be shipped directly from China to consumers. Shipments from China account for nearly 90 percent of counterfeit goods entering the country, so if your order is advertised as coming from China, or if it arrives from China, contact the manufacturer to see if the product is authentic. Pay particular attention on sites like Amazon, which now permits “fulfillment” of orders directly from China.
Be vigilant and report any counterfeits so we can spread the word!