(WPRI) -- As you get started on your holiday shopping list, online shopping can be a great way to snag a great deal. But not all Internet merchants are created equal, and low prices can blind you from spotting counterfeit items.
A Coach bag can set you back hundreds of dollars, as can Ugg boots, but if you find them online and the deal seems too good to be true- chances are you're right.
We all love deals on designer items, and scammers are well aware of it. Clothing, shoes and handbags are among the most popular items for counterfeiters, so be sure to do some homework before you buy.
"Before you go ahead and jump on that deal, check out the merchant, especially one you're unfamiliar with, ahead of time," said Mandy Walker of Consumer Reports. "Go online, put the merchant's name in a search engine, and the words 'rip-off' and 'complaint' and see what other people that have dealt with them are saying."
Look for security features such as a seal or a sticker. A real manufacturer will add one that's hard to reproduce.
Some major labels will offer advice on avoiding counterfeits on their websites. Also, use a credit card for purchases since they can offer greater protection than a debit card in the event of fraud.
If you do get duped, don't try to sell the merchandise.
"Even if you tell somebody 'this isn't a real "whatever" handbag, but it's still a great bag,' you're still liable," said Walker. "You could really get in trouble, you could really get prosecuted."
Demand your money back, regardless of the return policy, and loop in your local or state consumer protection agency.
Also, if you're buying a counterfeit handbag from an unreliable online retailer, chances are that retailer may not be on the up-and-up, meaning they'll be less likely to refund your money.
For more information on counterfeit products, visit the FBI's website.
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