Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Buyer Beware: How to Protect Yourself from Buying Counterfeit Goods Online

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Buyer Beware: How to Protect Yourself from Buying Counterfeit Goods Online

Article excerpt

How to protect yourself from buying fake goods

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TORONTO - Consumers who purchase knock-off merchandise online have a lot more to be wary about than receiving an inferior product.

Knowing how to spot a fake website can protect your wallet, your identify and even your life, say experts.

Toronto lawyer Lorne Lipkus, who specializes in anti-counterfeiting, says the production and sale of imitation goods is a global, multibillion-dollar problem affecting everything from what we eat to what we wear. The OECD put the value of imported fake goods worldwide at US$461 billion in 2013.

"Anything that's being produced in the market is being counterfeited," says Lipkus. "We've had deaths in Canada from someone who ingested counterfeit pharmaceuticals."

The illegal activity is also a significant source of funding for organized crime activities, he adds, something often overlooked when people fork over their credit card details in the pursuit of bargain-basement priced goods.

"You give them the information and they're going to use that information to steal your identity and perhaps put other charges through your credit card," says Lipkus.

To avoid purchasing counterfeit goods, Barry Elliott of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) says consumers should thoroughly research an online store prior to making a purchase, as fraudulent websites selling counterfeit items will mimic legitimate sites.

In the case of popular retailers such as Canada Goose, Lululemon and Michael Kors, fake sites will typically offer discounted prices, using the concept of a limited, one-time-only sale to attract buyers.

Natasha Tusikov, an assistant professor of criminology at York University, says some sites such as Canada Goose's now have search tools to help consumers determine if sites advertising and selling their authentic products online are from authorized retailers.

"Doing that will confirm you are dealing with the actual manufacturer," Tusikov says.

The CAFC also advises looking for any obvious red flags on sites, such as spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, or online stores using a web-based email like Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo under their contact details as opposed to a company email account. …

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