During the holidays, many websites are set up to dupe consumers into unknowingly buying counterfeit products; professional sports jerseys, DVD sets, clothing, jewelry, and luxury goods. We have a role to play in being vigilant in where and how we purchase online merchandise, we are not alone.
As one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) leads the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) and is working diligently to make this holiday shopping season a safer one. On November 26, 2012, ICE HSI seized 132 domain names that were illegally selling counterfeit merchandise online to unsuspecting consumers.
In its third year, the IPR Center has targeted websites selling counterfeit products in conjunction with Cyber Monday. The IPR Center partnered with European Police Office (Europol). This is not an American problem, it is a global one, and it is a fight we must win.”
The HSI will aggressively pursue product counterfeiters and those who sell counterfeit products. There are things you can do to safeguard your transactions online during this holiday season.
- If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Research the seller or website you’re buying from. Does the company have a brick and mortar store? If so, try calling during business hours.
- Do your homework. Educate yourself on the correct logo or spelling, packaging, hardware or stitching of whatever you are considering. It also helps to visit an actual store to examine the real deal up close. Take pictures and compare them to the seller’s images.
- Don’t ever buy an item that you learn about via bulk email (“spam”). Your chances of receiving the item at all are less than 50%.
- Don’t conduct business with an anonymous seller. Get the person’s real name, business name (if applicable), address, and phone number. Verify this information before buying. And don’t send your payment to a post office box.
- Save copies of all of the emails and other documents involved in the transaction. Then, if you discover that an item is counterfeit, you have documentation to help you deal with the problem.
- Don’t be afraid to ask lots and lots of questions.
- Look at the whole picture and review the facts. Misspellings on a website, no way to contact the seller other than email and product prices that are too good to be true could mean you are about to get scammed.
Counterfeit criminals are robbing from legitimate companies, many of them U.S.-based, and hurting the men and women who depend on those companies for their livelihood. You can help fight piracy and counterfeiters. To report intellectual property theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.