If you are in search of popular computer software, be careful when purchasing from Web sites that offer deals at unbelievably low prices. E-mail advertisements for popular software are flooding e-mail inboxes nationwide. And, according to Business Software Alliance, many of these offers are for counterfeit software. Counterfeiters, using sophisticated methods, are creating software that looks nearly identical to the real thing.
Here’s how it works: Counterfeiters buy or steal legitimate software and copy the package design, plastic wrapping and certificate of authenticity. Using expensive copiers, thousands of CDs are created. Web sites are set up, offering incredible deals. According to industry experts, most sites are established overseas, far from U.S. law. To direct potential customers to the Web site, millions of e-mail inboxes are spammed. The counterfeiters design the e-mails to make them look legitimate, down to the return addresses.
A customer who purchases a program could get working software. But industry experts say customers are more likely to receive non-working products, or oftentimes nothing at all. And, there is little recourse for consumers who are cheated.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to consumers to help them avoid purchasing pirated software.
- Consumers who willingly purchase pirated software should recognize that they do not know what they will be getting. The programs will sometimes have viruses or Trojan Horse "back door" programs that later allow entry into your computer system. Such programs can be used to automatically harvest information from any computer system running the Trojan Horse. This is a classic way to take over machines to steal credit card information or someone’s identity or to use the machine to perpetrate credit card theft or to generate spam.
- Be wary of compilations of software titles from different publishers on a single disk or CD. Investigate the company selling the software with the BBB and consumer protection agencies.
- Be suspicious of software products that do not include proof of authenticity, including original disks, manuals, licensing, policies, warranties, etc.
- Keep in mind that too-good-to-be-true prices are usually just that! If you see a $300 software package selling for $20, it is a safe bet that the software is not legitimate.