(WFSB) – Between the pandemic and the holidays, people are shopping online more right now.
That creates a big opportunity for criminals who are trying to rip people off by selling counterfeit goods.
Officials say counterfeit products cost the global economy more than $500 billion a year, and between the pandemic and the holidays, it’s the season for them.
“We are seeing products like counterfeit hand sanitizer, counterfeit toothpaste, and counterfeit soap, but in addition, there are the counterfeit toys and apparel and other luxury goods that we see every holiday season,” said Kasie Brill, US Chamber of Commerce.
Kasie Brill, with the US Chamber of Commerce, says with more people shopping online, it’s created a unique crime of opportunity for scammers to sell more fake goods.
“From a very scary perspective, we’ve actually seen a counterfeit ring peddling counterfeit masks and respirators that were destined for first responders and we are really grateful that law enforcement was able to stop all of those nefarious purchases that would have been delivered directly to our health care workers,” Brill said.
Officials work all year to spot and stop counterfeit goods, but they also rely on people to be aware.
Brill says rip offs often have broken safety seals, unusual packaging or are missing warrant information.
“I think it’s just important that we are careful where we click this holiday season and we can never be too vigilant when we shop online,” Brill said.
So, how can people be vigilant?
First, look for missing sales tax charges. That’s a red flag because counterfeiters often don’t report their sales.
Second, make sure you’re shopping on a secure site. You can figure that out by looking for the “S” in the search bar.
Third, be extra careful when buying from abroad.
“A proactive consumer is also a protected consumer. It is really important that you report it is part of our duty if you receive a fake, substandard or shoddy product,” Brill said.
If you do end up with a fake item, experts say there are a few ways you can report it.
You can contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Better Business Bureau, or the retailer directly.
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