Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Shopping online? Know Your Knock-offs Cautions the Better Business Bureau

The online market for counterfeit luxury items is vast, bargain hunters can find everything from jewelry and perfume to handbags and sunglasses. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois (BBB) offers advice on avoiding web-based rip-offs.


Online classified sites are hot spots for counterfeit luxury item fraud. Now unscrupulous vendors are setting up their own websites to fool frugal fashionistas, making it more difficult than ever to spot a scam.

“In a tight economy, consumers are always looking to save money,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. “Too often, what looks to be a ‘great deal’ is really a knock-off in disguise.”

The BBB recommends the following advice for safe shopping online, as well as tips on how to spot fake merchandise:

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 vendors are authorized sellers. Consumers should also check out the business with the BBB at www.bbb.org before making a purchase 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.

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 phrases like “inspired by.”

Check the merchandise. Considering 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. Some luxury goods carry an “authenticity label” with a hologram or other security measure.

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.

Consumers who have purchased counterfeit luxury goods should contact the BBB and can easily file complaints online at http://www.bbb.org/

For more consumer tips you can trust before making that purchase, visit www.bbb.org

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