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Department Of Homeland Security Offers Tips To Avoid Buying Counterfeit Merchandise

NBC 7 Investigates takes a look at popular counterfeit merchandise sold online

A recent United Parcel Service survey of 5,000 shoppers indicates people make more than half their purchases online.

UPS is calling it the “retail revolution.”

With an increase in purchases online, NBC 7 Investigates took a look at popular items sold online and found counterfeit Hatchimals, one of the hottest-selling toys, and Oakley sunglasses being sold at a fraction of the price as their authentic counterparts.

Department of Homeland Security Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Eric Feldman said, he is not surprised.

“Anything worth a profit can be counterfeited and usually is counterfeited,” he said.

The Department of Homeland Security Investigations Department is tasked with policing commercial fraud online. Assistant Special Agent Feldman said, in just one Cyber Monday operation, HSI, closed down 10,000 websites selling fake merchandise.

Before making purchases online, there are some tips HSI said to keep in mind, including:

  • Counterfeit Merchandise is significantly lower priced.
  • The reviews for the products are often blocked or unavailable.
  • Websites selling the items tend to be poorly produced.
  • The contact phone number is usually not a toll-free phone number.
  • Your payment will be sent to an unfamiliar outside processor.

Feldman said, when it comes to counterfeits, “people will do all sorts of things to try to replicate that licensing, but they can never really get it perfect.”

Stefano Orsini, Group Risk & Compliance Director for Luxottica, Oakley’s parent company, said the sunglasses NBC 7 Investigates bought are counterfeit and the company is now taking action to stop it.

In a statement emailed to NBC 7 Investigates Orsini wrote, "It's not only about the trademarked style being copied, there is a real health risk as well. High-quality sunglasses are designed to protect the eyes from harmful UV rays."

A spokesperson for Hatchimals Manufacturer "Spinmaster" was interested in our story but turned down an interview.

"It really only lies with the consumer to have the responsibility to look out for themselves and their families by doing a little bit of due diligence,” Feldman said.

HSI suggests, if the deal seems too good to be true, do a little homework. The agency also suggests that you do your own vetting of the company and if it seems suspicious, err on the side of caution.

Finally, the agency suggests trying to contact the company by phone or email.

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