Written by Clayton Alexander
Last May, BBB released a study entitled “Fakes Are Not Fashionable: A BBB Study of the Epidemic of Counterfeit Goods Sold Online.” Rather surprisingly, the study notes that these days, one in four goods purchased online turn out to be counterfeit. Most of the time, the company ends up stonewalling the consumer, or sometimes just disappear. So what then? This week, your local BBB wants to let consumers know exactly what they can do if they’ve been fooled into purchasing counterfeit goods.
Counterfeit? How can you tell?
Often enough, counterfeit goods can indeed look like the genuine article, however, there can be some tell-tale signs:
- Price: As always, if it’s too good to be true — it probably is. A common sign for counterfeit products has always been that they’re listed at remarkably lower prices than what the real products would be sold for. However, in recent years these imitations are often sold at much more believable prices as well.
- Consider the source: Are you using a site you trust? Are you purchasing from the original vendor, or from a third-party?
- Inspect the product: does the product match how it was advertised online? What about the quality? Is the logo correct? Is there anything missing?
- Check the reviews: are there reviews for the product from the vendor or seller? Are they negative or positive? You can find tons of business profiles and reviews about online retailers at org.
Finally, look for the website’s contact info: when ordering from a site you’ve never used before, check and see if the website has any contact info. If they only have an email address, or maybe no information at all, that can often raise red flags. These days, many folks who receive their counterfeit products, or nothing at all, go to the page that they’d ordered from, only to find the website gone, or that there is no way for them to contact the company to ask for a refund.
Report it – ASAP!
Due to the sheer volume of fakes and counterfeits sold online these days, it is easier than ever to file reports and claims. We recommend you contact any of the following entities:
- Better Business Bureau: File a report with BBB against a company at org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started or bbb.org/scamtracker.
- The Federal Trade Commission: You can file a report with the FTC online at gov or by calling their help line at 877-FTC-Help.
- The Internet Fraud Complaint Center: file a report with the IC3 at gov.
We asked Greg Mahnken, a Credit Industry Analyst at Credit Card Insider, how to dispute the charges for goods you purchased that turn out to be counterfeit or in poor quality. He recommends that consumers the following:
After being charged for a good or service, you can file a dispute if it’s not as described, is defective or damaged, or is never delivered, you will want to handle those charges immediately. Contact your card issuer to dispute the charge and get more information. Your issuer should cancel your current card and reissue you a new card with a new number. Don’t worry. The Fair Credit Billing Act states that credit card users are only liable for up to $50 worth of fraudulent charges, but all of the major credit card networks have taken it a step further with zero liability policies. File a police report for your records and to help prevent others from being a victim. More details can be found at creditcardinsider.com/blog/dispute-fraudulent-credit-card-charge/
Many of the major online retailers offer certain degrees of refunds or reimbursement to victims who purchased counterfeits from third-party sellers on their site. Many of the larger internet shopping companies, such as Amazon, offer full refunds to consumers who report receiving counterfeit products. In these cases, to receive a full refund you need to provide proof of purchase, and proof that what you ordered online does not match what you received – if you ended up receiving anything at all.
When being tricked into purchasing counterfeit goods, it’s important to report it as soon as possible. Though, it’s better to avoid it from happening altogether. Always play it safe, and beware of suspicious sites – and “too good to be true” offers.
Clayton Alexander is the Storyteller/Communications Specialist at Better Business Bureau serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties.