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WITH HOLIDAY SHOPPING in full swing, counterfeit merchandise is everywhere. Students should
especially be on the lookout for online merchandise
schemes during the holiday and back-to-school
seasons. Fraudulent online merchants target young
people with so-called “deals” on name-brand
electronics, game consoles, sneakers, sports jerseys
There is no doubt that any of us would jump at
the chance to buy our favorite goods at an extreme
discount. But when what you think is a bargain
turns out to be a fake, it is not worth the headache.
Students, always beware! Keep these tips in
mind to avoid falling victim to a fraudulent online
If you only shop at reputable online stores,
retailers and authorized sellers, it is unlikely that
counterfeiters will burn you. If you choose to trust
an unknown seller, here’s what you should do before
; Check the seller’s reputation by doing a Web
search with the company’s or individual’s name
and terms like “rip-off” or “complaint.”
; Research the price of an item. If the price for
a popular item is significantly less than what well-known retailers are charging, the so-called “deal”
could be a scam.
; Use a credit card. Using a credit card can provide the best protection because you can dispute a
charge if necessary.
scams target students
; Check buyer protection policies on a website
before you purchase.
Know how to spot a fake site
A website may look legitimate at first glance.
It may have a product name, logo and layout similar
to the real thing. But upon closer inspection, several
things will stand out. Look for the following signs of
a fake site:
; Spelling, punctuation and grammar errors.
; A complicated URL—for example, Gucci-gear-for-less.com.
; A customer service email address that uses
a Gmail account or other popular Web-based
; A site that sells several popular brand names
that don’t seem to be a match (Burberry, Abercrombie
& Fitch and Billabong, for example).
; Sale prices on sought-after items that are too
good to be true (e.g., a $500 handbag for $75).
If you are concerned that a website might be
fake, check whois.net, a database for domain name
registration information. You can search information associated with a domain account, such as
email, and find out where a site is purportedly
located. If you type in a domain name and the site is
registered in an obscure part of the world, it is
highly likely that the site is a fake.
Know how to spot a fake product
Do some research online before buying an item
so you know how the real thing tends to differ from
a fake. Keep in mind that having a serial number
does not mean a product is authentic. Fraudsters
often copy serial numbers off legitimate goods to
make their fake goods appear real. However, upon
close inspection, a fake product will have elements
that are a tip-off that you have been ripped off.
Look for shoddy workmanship: erratic stitching, messy glue jobs or missing logos and nameplates. These are all signs of a counterfeit. C
HERE IS WHAT to do if you
purchase a fake item:
• File a complaint with
your state consumer officials and contact local law
enforcement. You can find
a list of state consumer
officials at usa.gov. Selling
fake items might violate
state statutes on unfair
trade practices and federal
• Request a charge-back
from a credit card issuer if
you used a credit card to
make the purchase.
• Exercise your refund
rights. You are entitled to
a refund if you have been
• Consult an attorney. At
a minimum, you are entitled to a full refund if your
attorney advises you to
file a lawsuit.
• Never resell a counterfeit
item. Even if you disclose
that it is counterfeit, you
could expose yourself to
criminal prosecution. C
What to do in
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case of a scam
On Costco.com, enter
“Connection”; at Online Edition,
search “Consumer Connection.”