Real Or Fake? Have You Bought Counterfeit Items Online?

Chris Sommer
May 14, 2019 - 5:39 pm
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DALLAS (KRLD) - From travel tumblers to fake phone chargers, counterfeit consumer goods seem to be everywhere these days.  And, it's getting more difficult to tell what's real and what's fake.

A new in-depth investigative study by Better Business Bureau (BBB) shows 1-in-4 people have bought something online that turned out to be counterfeit.  The annual impact on the U.S. economy is estimated at $200-$250 billion per year.

The BBB has looked into thousands of complaints regarding counterfeit goods in recent years, and the BBB's Amy Rasor said North Texas is a hotbed for the fraudulent activity.  She added many consumers don't realize the item they bought is actually a knock-off.  "It can be very, very difficult to tell.  They're doing a very good job of creating lookalikes, and so sometimes, they don't know until the product arrives.  And sometimes, they might not even know when it arrives, until they start to really question what they have, and the quality of the product," Rasor said.

Just about any product category can be counterfeited, but the BBB said the items most likely to be copied include shoes, jewelry, handbags, golf clubs and sunglasses.

According to the BBB report, 88% of counterfeit goods come from China and Hong Kong.  Authorities believe their smuggling and online sale through fraudulent websites are coordinated by international organized crime groups.

While counterfeit goods have a reputation for being deeply discounted, the BBB said today's counterfeit sellers use prices close to those of the actual product, making it even more difficult to make the distinction between real and fake.

Rasor said when a consumer doubts the authenticity of a product, they should look closely for spelling errors and watch for unusual syntax in the packaging materials.  "That is a good indicator that English may not be the first language of where the information is coming from, and so the context may not feel just right," she said.

If you believe you have unknowingly bought counterfeit items online, you are first urged to contact your credit card company to request a refund.  The BBB said it's also important you contact the seller to notify them of the suspicious activity through their site.  And, the BBB recommends you contact their organization, in addition to agencies like the Internet Fraud Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission.  Rasor said that will give authorities a greater ability to investigate fraudulent online sellers in an attempt to shut them down.