Whether it’s a Rolex watch, a pair of Manolo shoes or an Apple iPad, certain brands are status symbols.
Brand obsession fuels the market for counterfeit products that range from luxury items — purses to perfume, technology — computer games to tablets — and other fakes that range from jewelry to sports memorabilia.
While busts like the January seizure of more than $1 million in knock-off fashion accessories in New York City make headlines, counterfeit luxury items are sold on streets all across the U.S. Now, though, counterfeiters are well established online, too. For bargain-hunters looking for name-brand items at discount prices online, the BBB offers advice on avoiding web-based rip-off schemes.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, counterfeit products cost the U.S. economy between $200 billion and $250 billion each year. Online classified sites like Craigslist or eBay are hot spots for counterfeit luxury-item fraud. Both offer “buyer beware” warnings. But savvy venders are now setting up their own websites to fool frugal fashionistas.
A recent Forrester Research Inc. report notes that only a third of luxury brands actually sell their products online. If not careful, consumers can easily be fooled by scam sites bearing fakes of some of the best-known luxury labels.
To help you spot a fake, consider that 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, and in some cases, authenticity cards with holograms.
Some luxury brands, such as purses, have specific hardware consumers can rely on to identify a genuine piece. Zippers, screws, clasps and stitching are usually specific to the brand. Manufacturers often will have details on their websites explaining what to look for and how to spot knock-offs of their products.
Also, look at the craftsmanship. If the sunglasses snap in two in the first week or if the stitching and seams are ragged and don’t match up on a purse, the items are probably counterfeit.
If you are scanning the Internet for last-minute deals, or planning to hit the after-Christmas sales, the BBB has some advice for how to avoid buying fake products.
Æ Shop in established stores and on reputable websites.
Æ Beware of “great” deals that seem too good to be true.
Æ Buy directly from the brand’s store or website.
Æ Be careful buying brand-name merchandise and big-ticket items from online marketplaces like eBay and Craigslist where you cannot inspect the products before you buy them.
Æ Ask for a certificate of authenticity on autographed memorabilia.
Æ Have an independent appraisal done to verify the value of jewelry or artwork.
Æ Buy sports merchandise that is officially licensed by the NFL, NBA or other sports organizations.
If you find out that the merchandise you bought or received is counterfeit, you are probably stuck with it. It’s hard to return pirated software or fake tickets.
The BBB lists the top 10 most common counterfeit gifts:
1. Purses, shoes and leather goods.
2. Smartphones, computer tablets and other electronics.
3. DVDs and CDs.
4. Software and computer games.
5. Sports memorabilia and apparel.
6. Watches and jewelry.
9. Blue jeans.
10. Sporting event and concert tickets.
Robb Hicken: 947-2115