Buyer beware as fake products appear online

The market for counterfeit luxury items is wide and deep, selling everything from jewelry and perfume to handbags and sunglasses.

According to a report by the Department of Homeland Security, the total domestic value of merchandise seized during fiscal 2011 was $78.3 million, an amount that would have had a value of $1.11 billion had it been legitimate. Online classified sites like Craigslist or eBay are hot spots for counterfeit luxury item fraud online, but vendors are now setting up their own Web sites to fool frugal fashionistas.

In a tight economy, consumers are always looking to save money; too often, what looks to be a great deal is really a shoddy knock-off in disguise.

Always deal with reputable businesses. When in doubt, shoppers can contact the manufacturer and verify which vendors are authorized sellers.

If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Paying $100 for a $1,000 purse could result in receiving a poorly constructed – and worthless – fake.

Read between the lines. Some Web sites 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.

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 brand names, poorly sewn logos and labels, etc.

Consumers who have purchased counterfeit luxury goods can easily file complaints online at www.bbb.org/complain. Consumers can also contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.cpsc.gov.

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