Counterfeit or Real?

7 tips for avoiding counterfeit items online:
Internet ScamBusters #31

Internet ScamBusters™
By Audri and Jim Lanford
Copyright © Audri and Jim Lanford
Issue #31

7 Tips for Avoiding Counterfeit Items Online

We’re often asked how to avoid buying counterfeit items on the Net. Here are 7 tips to avoid getting taken:

  • Don’t ever buy an item that you learn about via bulk email (“spam”). Your chances of receiving the item *at all* are only 45%, and the chance of your getting what you think at a reasonable price (so you’re happy with the transaction) is less than 5%. In other words, as Jim likes to say, “If it’s spam, it’s scam.”
  • Always use a credit card to purchase online. This protects you. Your maximum exposure is $50, and often you won’t even lose that amount if you get scammed.
  • If you are buying something at a reputable online auction site, always check out the references for the seller and only buy from sellers who have good references. And take advantage of online auction guarantees, such as those offered by
  • Don’t conduct business with an anonymous user. 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.
  • Be more cautious if the seller uses a free email service, such as hotmail, yahoo, etc. Of course, most people who use these free services are honest. However, most problems occur when a free service is used. After all, with a free email service, it is very easy for the seller to keep his or her real identity and information hidden.
  • 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.
  • Use common sense and trust your intuition. If you have a funny feeling about an item, don’t buy it. You’re very likely right that it is counterfeit.