Rip-off protection for counterfeit gifts

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NEW YORK – A survey conducted by Kessler International, a corporate investigative firm, indicates that there is a significant increase in the amount of counterfeit merchandise flooding the marketplace this year that shoppers need to be aware of.

Kessler’s findings direct shopper’s attention to “too good to be true” prices on designer items such as watches, fragrances, handbags, clothing, toys, but also found that power tools, wine, cigars, and other items used as holiday gifts are being counterfeited and distributed this year.

Extremely low prices, especially from street vendors and Internet storefronts, usually indicate that the items are counterfeit.

More to consider. Michael G. Kessler said that when prices seem abnormally low, shoppers need to be aware that there is more to consider than the price.

Kessler noted that counterfeit merchandise is almost always of substandard quality, and consumers do not get the guarantees, warrantees, or functionality that come with the security of purchasing brand-name merchandise.

Additionally, investigators have linked the sale of counterfeit goods to terrorist groups and other organized crime syndicates as a means of funding and money laundering.

Protection. There are several ways for consumers to protect themselves from becoming victims of counterfeiters during the biggest shopping season of the year. These simple steps go a long way in the fight against counterfeiting.

* Only purchase brand name merchandise from reputable stores.

* Only purchase merchandise in original packaging.

* Check to see if labels appear blurred or torn.

* Carefully check to be sure product names are not misspelled or altered.

* Be leery if prices are significantly below market value.

* If possible, carefully inspect the item. Workmanship often reveals a fake.

* Contact the manufacturer if you have questions regarding an item’s authenticity.

* Understand risks involved with online auction sites; online “replica” sales and auction fraud are rising.

This is the time of year when the counterfeiters make a killing. They produce items that look, smell, feel, and sometimes even perform like the real thing, but assemble them at sweat shops and underground manufacturing facilities with inferior components.

“What ends up happening is that the consumer’s ‘fantastic bargain’ barely outlasts the holiday season,” Kessler said.

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