Outsmarting criminals is getting tougher as internet fraud continues to rise. It’s important to not rely only on the government or retailers to protect you from counterfeit products. With the sheer amount of fake products readily available both online and offline, such reliance could be futile. When in doubt follow the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is a fake.”
To that end, it is important to familiarize yourself with common scam tactics so you can prevent these actions from happening to you and your family, especially at this time of year.
It may seem like old news, but it’s still going strong and getting worse. U.S. Customs and Border Protection made 14,841 seizures of fake and pirated goods in 2010 that were worth upwards of $261 million, according to Consumer Reports. The items seized included apparel, footwear, handbags and electronics. While a handbag may not prove to be a safety hazard to consumers, electronics certainly can be.
Counterfeit items can have faulty fuses, substandard wiring, or harmful chemicals such as lead. These items are also often sold without necessary and important items such as warranty information, instructions and the proper cords. Check the packaging and contents carefully before making a purchase.
All types of electronics have been duplicated from phones to gaming devices to computers. These types of faulty items are often seen on auction sites and discount stores. Try to shop at a reputable store whenever possible.
Prevention: Check the labeling and look for “Certified by CSA International” or “Underwriters Laboratory.” Once you have located the labeling you can visit both sites to verify “Certification Marks.” Also, pay attention for misspellings on the packaging. And check to see if the manufacturer’s contact information is displayed.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a joint effort of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, is tracking these types of issues, if you have fallen victim to one of these types of scams, please file a complaint so that they can investigate. Check their site regularly for scam alerts.
Another scam to look for is known as “phishing.” This refers to receiving an email that appears to be a ‘trustworthy’ source such as eBay or PayPal claiming you have issues with your account and it asks for the user to confirm the name and password. When these types of emails are answered, the information is stolen and the account is depleted. To take it a step further, “Smishing” is a text message rather than an email. The text tells you to call the toll-free number, which is answered by a bogus interactive voice-response system that tries to get you to provide your account number and password because your account has a “bogus” issue.
Prevention: Never respond to an email – if you have a problem with your PayPal or eBay account you will be notified within your account. And never give out your information over the phone or in a text message when you don’t know who you are really talking too.