BBB buyer beware: Counterfeit product scams


DAYTON – For most people, it’s hard to resist a good bargain, especially on luxury goods and other high-priced items.

Unfortunately, sometimes those good deals aren’t what they seem. They are counterfeit.

In fact, counterfeit product scams were one of Better Business Bureau’s Top Scams of 2020. BBB’s Scam Tracker received more than 300 reports in the last year about counterfeit scams.

A counterfeit product scam is when someone “knocks off” or “copies” popular products to make money. Most of the time, these scammers sell the items at low, low prices and the quality of the products are poor.

These products are sold on fake websites or ecommerce websites such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Amazon. Consumers also may find them being sold by street merchants and flea markets.

Common items sold by counterfeiters include sports goods, cosmetics, personal care items, pharmaceuticals, toys, games, handbags, luggage, jewelry, watches, as well as clothing, accessories and footwear.

The problem with counterfeit products is these scammers steal from designers and innovators who create original work, take business away from honest retailers and reduce tax revenue. In some cases, counterfeit goods finance illegal activities and exploit child labor. They can be an annoyance when a “designer” handbag falls apart, but it could also be a life-threatening health or safety hazard when the counterfeit item is medicine or an auto part.

BBB offers these tips to help you avoid a counterfeit product:

• Do your research. Find out who’s selling the product and check the company out at BBB.org. Also, check product reviews online.

• Look for spelling and grammar errors on websites.

• Beware of unreasonably low prices, as well as cash-only sales or a vendor who doesn’t collect sales tax.

• Inspect the item for quality issues. Some red flags would be it’s sold without packaging or images of products seem blurry.

• Avoid clicking on phishing emails with too-good-to-be-true offers on “name brands” and “designer” goods.

• Buy directly from the source (brand owner, manufacturer, team, etc.) through an authorized reseller, dealers or reputable retailers.

• Use a credit card so you can dispute the charges if there are problems.

Consumers who come across a counterfeit item should report it immediately. Individuals can file a complaint with the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, the online marketplace where it’s being sold (eBay, Amazon, Facebook, etc.), Internet Fraud Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers also can report it to BBB Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker.