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Buyer Beware: 'Epidemic' Of Counterfeit Goods Sold Online

The Better Business Bureau is warning of the risks of online shopping.

May 14, 2019 - 5:03 pm

WWJ -- Most Americans have shopped online. It's a convenient way to save time and money.

But the Better Business Bureau is saying to proceed with caution, as there is an epidemic of phony goods being sold online.

Melanie Duquesnel, president and CEO of the BBB serving eastern Michigan, says there's an alarming growing trend in the number of counterfeit products bought online.

"Studies are showing that one in four people have received a counterfeit product that was purchased online," Duquesnel told WWJ.

She says one in 10 people shop online.

The BBB says the most common knock-off items include watches, purses and shoes, while they are seeing an increase in counterfeit technology products, such as ear pods, which are wildly popular. The bureau says the vast majority of phony items come from China. Counterfeit medicines from online pharmacies are also prevalent and pose a serious health risk.

The BBB has received thousands of complaints from victims, and consumers pay the price.

"Counterfeiting may cost as much as $1,000 per year for every adult in the country. Pretty significant numbers," Duquesnel said.

Laura Blankenship with the BBB says a Michigan teenager was left partially blind in one eye after wearing a pair of knock-off colored costume contacts.

Katharyn Barron, Assistant Attorney General of Michigan says there are three steps to follow if you receive a counterfeit product or believe something may be fake:

  1. Always keep the product -- Barron says it's the only proof you have that you received a counterfeit good.
  2. Notify the seller that you received a counterfeit good and that you're retaining it for the manufacturer and law enforcement authorities.
  3. Notify the manufacturer -- Barron says they're often the ones in the best position to go after the sellers.

Barron also says buyers of fake goods should ask for a refund from their credit card company and report it to the Better Business Bureau.