1. Buy from reputable sellers
One of my golden rules for any retail transaction is to focus on whom you buy from as much as on what you buy. When buying brand-name products, buy directly from known national retailers. If you choose a smaller vendor, including third-party “marketplace” sellers on sites such as Amazon and Walmart, comb through user reviews and return policies, and check to see if the product is shipped from China; nearly 80 percent of fakes originate from there and Hong Kong, the CBP says. Be especially wary of small companies that advertise on social media sites. “That’s where a lot of the fraud lies,” says Saoud Khalifah, CEO of Fakespot, a company that analyzes and flags fake product reviews.
2. Get some backup
Seek out sites that will guarantee a product’s authenticity, especially if you’re buying luxury goods. The authentication program that eBay uses, for example, applies to select high-end handbags and watches, as well as certain sneakers. Products that pass inspection have an “Authenticity Guarantee” badge on their listings. Also check brand websites. Coach, Rolex and some other manufacturers have detailed guides to help you get the real deal, or they offer their own certificates of authenticity.
3. Recognize red flags
Super low prices are a big danger sign, according to the fraud experts at Redpoints.com, which helps businesses combat counterfeits. But even slightly lower prices can be a sign you’re not dealing with a legit retailer. Another way to spot sketchy listings is to download the Fakespot extension for the Chrome or Firefox browsers (available at Fakespot.com). When you’re shopping online on Amazon, Walmart, eBay and several other sites, you’ll be warned about suspicious reviews, which could help you avoid counterfeits. Another browser extension, from ReviewMeta.com, does the same thing on Amazon.