But how can you tell when something being offered on a Web site is the real deal and not a knockoff of, say, a designer product?
CNET Executive Editor Molly Wood offered some tips on The Early Show Thursday.
"It's a lot harder to tell online" that an item is fake, Wood told co-anchor Harry Smith, "but there are some easy things you can do. One thing you might want to assume is that, if you are looking for luxury goods at eBay (for instance), there's a decent chance that what you're gonna find is a knockoff."
1) Looks: "Use your eyes!" Wood suggests. Look at logos, stitching, color -- do your homework and become familiar with the product. For instance, Louis Vuitton bags have five stitches across the top, the snaps all say Louis Vuitton, the color is specific. What should the zipper look like? Look for lots of clear, detailed photos with the listings.
2) Price isn't always a dead giveaway these days. There may be a markdown, but not the obvious "too good to be true" flea market price. If the seller is offering a used bag, there should be a discount, but if they're offering a brand new bag at a sale price, that would be sketchy.
3) Feedback on auction sites from other customers can be helpful -- find out whether customers have complained about the seller; it's easy to hop online and check the comments section. "If you even see one that says, 'I got a fake bag,' you're out of there," Wood says.
4) Seeing is believing: Look at the item in person if you can. Don't use that PayPal before you see the merchandise, if the seller lives near you. If you can't see it first, ask for the original receipt from the bag's owner. If you want to be absolutely sure, go to an authorized dealer.
5) Wording of ads: A good one will feature wording such as "absolutely 100 percent guaranteed authentic" or "power seller with 99.9 percent positive ratings." Red flags include use of "auth" rather than "authentic," or "style" as in "Louis Vuitton-style bag." Also -- "genuine leather." Duhh -- of course it would be!
What recourse do you have if you think you've bought a counterfeit?
There aren't many steps you could take. You could go to the Web site and post negative comments on the seller. You could go to the site and make a formal complaint. The site should investigate, but it takes a long time to get your money back. You could contact the fraud division of your local police department, which should work with the Web site. One way to get your money back on a sale, if you got an inauthentic item, would be to make sure you pay via credit card (even if you use PayPal), so you could contact your credit card company in the event of fraud.
Editor's Note: CNET and CBSNews.com have the same parent company, CBS Corporation.
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