High Fashion at Low Prices?

July 20, 2008

 The market for counterfeit luxury items is wide and deep, with everything from jewelry and perfume to handbags and sunglasses being sold. Counterfeit luxury items are sold on streets all across the United States and are well-established online, too.
 According to the Department of Homeland Security, counterfeit products cost the U.S. economy between $200 and $250 billion annually. Online classified sites such as Craigslist or eBay are hot spots for counterfeit luxury item fraud, and both offer “buyer beware” warnings.
  The BBB offers the following advice for shopping safely online when looking for deals on designer goods, as well as tips on how to spot a fake:

Shopping Safely
 Deal with reputable companies when buying luxury goods. When in doubt, shoppers can contact the manufacturer and verify which venders are authorized sellers. Consumers should also check out the business with BBB at www.bbb.org before making a purchasing decision.
 One of the biggest red flags for knockoff merchandise is an unrealistic price. Paying $500 for a $1,000 purse could result in a poorly constructed — and worthless — fake.
 And some Web sites or online classified ads go overboard in their descriptions of items in order to win the buyer’s trust. Overuse of “genuine,” “real” or “authentic” is a bad sign. Buyers also need to keep an eye out for sneaky phrases such as “inspired by.”

How to Spot a Fake: It’s in the Details
 Many manufacturers spend considerable time and energy on crafting their labels. Counterfeiters, however, usually aren’t as meticulous. Look for misspelled words and brand names, poorly sewn logos and labels, and in some cases authenticity cards with holograms.
 Different luxury items, such as purses, have specific hardware consumers can rely on to identify a genuine piece. Zippers, screws, clasps and stitching are usually very specific for the brand and the manufacturer often has details on its Web site explaining what to look for and how to spot a knockoff.

Report a fake
 Consumers who inadvertently purchase counterfeit luxury goods, or those looking for advice on reliable places to shop, should contact the BBB.