Online shoppers who come across a surprising deal don’t always get what they think they paid for.
A new Better Business Bureau study, “Fakes Are Not Fashionable,” found one-in-four people who shop online have at some point received counterfeit goods.
Steve Bernas, president and CEO of BBB for Chicago and Northern Illinois, said most counterfeit products are sold by organized crime groups and are coming in from China and Hong Kong.
“These criminals are taking advantage of the situation and of the technology today, unfortunately,” Bernas said at a press conference announcing the release of the study Tuesday.
Online shoppers who come across websites selling counterfeit products can file a report with the bureau online, Bernas said.
“Please don’t buy fake counterfeit products — everybody knows they’re fake,” Bernas said. “Sometimes you get these half-off or really reduced deals. You’re hurting the economy, you’re hurting all of us and you may be hurting yourself.”
Angelique Morris thought she was a smart shopper, until she ordered a pair of fake Nikes from a website she had not used before.
“For many years I thought I was savvy about online sites, websites and counterfeit,” Morris said. “But this particular time I ordered through a website who presented itself as being a footwear site.”
Morris said she was sent the wrong pair of shoes, and when she attempted to file a complaint, she was never able to reach the company she ordered from. After a series of emails, Morris’ point of contact refused to refund the money and instead urged her to keep the shoes. Later, she discovered $86 was taken from her bank account instead of the $75 she bought them for.
After not hearing back, Morris contacted her bank’s fraud department and filed a complaint with the BBB.
The BBB reports it has received more than 2,000 complaints in the past three years from people who received fake goods. The most commonly counterfeited products include cosmetics, sports jerseys, prom dresses and medicine, Bernas said.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service tracks down counterfeits with help from BBB.
Postal inspector Silvia Carrier said consumers who receive fake goods can be exposed to products that contain harmful bacteria, mold and dangerous chemicals.
“Not only do these products pose a health and safety risk but they also pose an economic risk to the holder of the intellectual property rights due to the loss of revenue and possible damage to a brand’s reputation,” Carrier said Tuesday.