If you buy jewelry, purses, luggage or even your prescription drugs online, you may want to double-check the product you’ve received.
A sweeping study by an international team at the Better Business Bureau found that such items are more likely to be counterfeit when sold online, a problem authorities now call an “epidemic.”
The BBB’s “Fakes Are Not Fashionable” report states that social media ads are often leading buyers to counterfeit sites, with 24 percent of Facebook ads for luxury clothing and accessories driving consumers to sites linked to fake goods. Facebook and Instagram did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.
“BBB’s report finds that any shippable item with a reputation for quality and sizable markup is a candidate for counterfeiting,” according to the BBB serving Chicago and northern Illinois. “While counterfeit goods often are reputed to be deeply discounted, in reality, counterfeit sellers regularly use selling prices that are close to the price of the real product, so the prices offered are no longer a signal that the product is counterfeit.”
The study found that 88 percent of counterfeit goods are coming from China and Hong Kong via websites thought to be coordinated by international organized crime groups.
"Highly organized crime groups are truly behind these types of counterfeit products,” said Steve Bernas with the BBB.
In the last three years, the report shows more than 2,000 complaints and more than 500 scam tracker reports to the BBB regarding counterfeit products. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center processed 2,249 complaints about conterfeit goods in 2018 alone and the Federal Trade Commission processed 552 complaints.
People under the age of 39 are most likely to get scammed, the report shows.
“That being said, many victims do not file complaints, making it difficult to get a firm grasp on how often people pay for goods that are counterfeit or not as advertised,” the BBB stated.
If you think you’ve purchased counterfeit goods, the report recommends asking for a refund by calling the customer service number on the back of credit cards. It also suggests reporting such incidents to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, the Better Business Bureau, the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, the Federal Trade Commission, or online markets like eBay, Amazon, Facebook and Instagram.