submitted by Edward Johnson, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the eastern and northeastern Pennsylvania region
Although it aired many decades ago, some people remember the television show called “To Tell the Truth.” The show dealt with one of life’s eternal questions: how can you tell what is true as opposed to a lie.
In it, three people sat before a panel. Two of the three were imposters. It was the panel’s job to ask questions to determine the identity of the real person. At the end of the show the show’s host would say, “Will the real John Doe please stand up.” At this command, the real John Doe stood and the imposters were left sitting in their seat.
When it comes to consumer purchases, it would be nice if we could command that the truth be made known. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.
The market for counterfeit luxury items is a perfect example. Everything from jewelry and handbags to clothing and sunglasses are ripe with the availability of fake, shoddy products.
For bargain-hunters looking for name-brand items at discount prices online, the Better Business Bureau warns consumers to be on the look out for web-based rip-offs. According to a report by the Department of Homeland Security, the total domestic value of counterfeit merchandise seized during 2011 was $78.3 million, an amount that would have had a value of $1.11 billion had it been legitimate.
The category of seized consumer safety and critical technology goods rose in value by 41% compared to 2010, the report says. Online classified sites like Craigslist or eBay are hot spots for counterfeit luxury item fraud online, and both sites offer “buyer beware” warnings. Some illicit vendors are now setting up their own web sites to fool frugal fashionistas.
The BBB offers the following advice for shopping safely online when looking for deals on designer goods, as well as tips on how to spot a fraud: