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Feds Warn Shoppers About Holiday Scams

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As the holiday shopping season ramps up, federal investigators want consumers to be aware of potential scams.

Counterfeit merchandise floods the market during the holidays and buyers may not even be aware they're purchasing fake products.

"There are criminals in our community that will take advantage of consumers this Holiday Season and offer deals that are too good to be true," said Robert C. Hutchison the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agent in Miami.

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Hutchinson said con men have found a way to "knockoff" everything people buy as gifts.

"From high end jewelry, purses, shoes, electronics, make up, sports jersey's and many other items," said Hutchinson.

Items like headphones, batteries, even cologne are included as well.

According to investigators, people looking to save a little during the holidays may be suckered into these bogus great deals.

"The criminals are using store fronts, the internet, or they may just be selling it out of a flea market or the back of their car," said Hutchinson.

The labels and packaging can be very convincing, especially with higher priced items. Sometimes, the only way to tell the difference is to hold a real one next to the fake.

There may be even bigger problems with buying counterfeit products. Some may be dangerous to shoppers' home or health.

Software may contain malware that can ruin your computer. Some perfumes may cause skin rashes and toys may be made with excessive amounts of lead.

But Hutchinson said there is a simple solution.

"You can buy from trusted stores or websites that are authorized retailers and that will permit returns," he said.

Hutchinson also suggested reading the labels carefully for misspellings – many times brand-name products have one different letter that may give it away.

In the end, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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