Photo (cc) by UK Home Office
You’ve searched for the perfect designer purse or electronic gadget. But when it arrives, you’re disappointed by the quality.
The item is a fake, the retailer is nowhere to be found, and you’re out hundreds of dollars. What’s a consumer to do?
One way to protect yourself is to shop with a credit card. It won’t prevent you from buying a counterfeit item, but you can ask to get your money back.
Still, it’s better to avoid counterfeits before you buy them. Here are eight ways to spot a fake:
1. Know what counterfeiters like
Luxury items are at the top of the list of the most counterfeited objects, but crooks also counterfeit many more mundane items. In addition, manufacturers of counterfeits are improving their skills to make the fakes more difficult to detect.
According to the International Trademark Association, commonly counterfeited products include:
- Personal care products
- Home care products
- Electronic equipment and parts
- Airplane and car parts
- CDs and DVDs
2. Compare the price
Is that price too good to be true? Then listen to that little voice in your head.
Confirm the manufacturer’s suggested retail price online and compare it with the asking price of the item you’re considering. If the variance is significant, it could very well be a fake.
While you’re at it, check the manufacturer’s website for information on how to confirm the authenticity of the product. Sites such as Gucci, Tiffany, Ugg and Louis Vuitton offer this.
3. Inspect the goods
It’s sometimes easy to spot counterfeit designer purses when they’re sold at flea markets or on city streets. For instance, the logo may not be identical to the real thing, or may be in the wrong place.
Another thing to look for is making sure that the logos match up on either side of the seams. Many fake bags are poorly made and thus the logos don’t match up on either side of the seams.
4. Check the retailer’s website
If you’re purchasing online, analyze the website first. A few things to look for:
- Search for contact information, such as a physical address and phone number, and the return policy. If this information isn’t present, it should be a red flag.
- Is the site secured with an “https” in the Web address at the point of sale?
- Is the brand name of the item spelled correctly? Does it match exactly? Is it “Ray-Ban” or “RayBan”?
5. Find out what others say
If you’re dealing with a major retailer, such as Amazon, you can feel pretty confident you’re getting a legitimate item. (Still, it can’t hurt to double-check the goods.)
Otherwise, search online for reviews and complaints about the website, plus its Better Business Bureau status and ratings.
6. Confirm affiliations and certifications
Confirm affiliations with manufacturers. Many manufacturers identify on their website which retailers sell their goods.
Be particularly careful when you’re buying prescription medication online. Buy from the wrong source, and you could get medication that has bad ingredients or too low a dosage to be effective. That’s potentially dangerous to your health.
The Mayo Clinic gives pointers on how to safely buy medication online.
7. Get verification
If you plan to buy an antique, memorabilia or any other high-end collectible, find an expert near the seller to appraise the item. A generic “certificate of authenticity” isn’t enough.
8. Pay attention to the packaging
The packaging can also scream counterfeit. If the packaging is bare, has no contact information for the manufacturer, or is full of bad grammar and misspellings, there’s a good chance the product is a fake.
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