WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Once viewed by many as a problem limited to purveyors of high-end luxury goods, today counterfeiting has become a multi-billion dollar criminal activity affecting almost every American industry. While criminals see the production and sale of counterfeit goods as a lucrative, low-risk business model, this illicit activity not only harms U.S. businesses but also puts consumers at severe risk, especially during the holiday shopping season.
On Cyber Monday last year, consumer spending mushroomed to $1.5 billion in online sales, with experts forecasting even more growth in 2013. Unfortunately, illicit websites offering counterfeit goods that appear identical to the genuine products are also growing exponentially, duping holiday shoppers into buying shoddy and sometimes downright dangerous products. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center is issuing a consumer safety alert and tips for consumers to avoid purchasing these dangerous fakes.
- TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If it's too good to be true, it probably is.
- INSIST ON SECURE TRANSACTIONS. When doing business online, make sure your payments are submitted via websites beginning with https:// (the "s" stands for secure) and look for a lock symbol at the bottom of your browser.
- WATCH FOR MISSING SALES TAX CHARGES. Businesses trading in counterfeit goods often do not report their sales to financial authorities—a difference you may notice in the price you ultimately pay, particularly in states that collect sales taxes.
- SEEK QUALITY ASSURANCE IN THE SECONDARY MARKET. Reputable and reliable resellers have comprehensive inspection and authentication procedures and technicians to inspect the equipment they sell.
- BE PARTICULARLY CAREFUL PURCHASING MEDICINE ONLINE. Reports suggest that 96% of online pharmacies do not meet safety or legal standards.
- BE VIGILANT WHEN BUYING ABROAD. When shopping on international websites, look for trusted vendors that use identifiable privacy and security safeguards and have legitimate addresses.
- AVOID THE IMPOSSIBLE. If a movie is still in theaters (or has not even premiered in theaters yet), beware of online streaming or download sites, which oftentimes install malware that can steal your credit card and other personal information without you even knowing.
- SCRUTINIZE LABELS, PACKAGING, AND CONTENTS. Look for missing or expired "use by" dates, broken or missing safety seals, missing warranty information, or otherwise unusual packaging.
- REPORT FAKE PRODUCTS THAT ARE FAULTY OR DANGEROUS. Consumers can play an important role in keeping the market free of fakes. Report unsafe products to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. www.SaferProducts.gov
- SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THE DANGER OF FAKE PRODUCTS. Teach your kids about counterfeits and warn friends and family of illegitimate product sources.
The Chamber's Global Intellectual Property Center is working around the world to champion intellectual property (IP) rights as vital to creating jobs, saving lives, advancing global economic growth, and generating breakthrough solutions to global challenges.