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1/21/2011

Consumer Alert

Online “Steals”

Who doesn’t like a good deal?  When shopping online, chances are you’ll come across deals that seem almost too good to be true.  The truth is some deals ARE too good to be true because the goods for sale are counterfeit or pirated.

While many counterfeit products are just plain shoddy, some can put your health or safety at risk.  And all counterfeit products steal from the people who designed and produced the legitimate products.

Some websites hawking “incredible deals” are clearly selling the types of knock-off products you might find someone selling from an alley.  But other websites make it hard to tell whether discounted products are real or fake.  The products can range from designer clothes to DVDs to pharmaceuticals.

“Some Iowans who thought they were getting a great deal on a product have called us about a great deal of headaches when the product arrived,” said Attorney General Tom Miller.  “They may have gotten a good price, but the quality of the product was terrible.”

Is the website legitimate?
Substandard products are often sold on substandard websites.  Websites that are not secure threaten the security of your credit card.  They can also facilitate identity theft, and harm computers through spyware and malware.  Secure websites display an “https://” prefix instead of an “http://” prefix in the address bar (the “s” means it is encrypted and secure).  A secure website also displays a padlock image on the bottom of your Internet browser.  But even a secure website doesn’t always secure guarantees on the authenticity of its products!

Is the deal too good to be true?
A $500 (retail) designer purse selling for under $100 is obviously suspect merchandise.  Is it an authorized retailer?  Manufacturers often list authorized sellers.  If you’re not sure, ask the retailer for evidence that their products are legitimate.  Also, look at the quality of product photos and the wording of product descriptions.

Pharmaceuticals
While medication can be expensive, consumers should be especially careful about ordering prescription drugs from online sources.  Unlicensed sellers and overseas pharmacies may put patients at risk with substandard, incorrect or even dangerous medications.

To file a complaint or get more information, contact the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, Hoover Bldg., Des Moines, IA 50319.  Call 515-281-5926, or outside Des Moines call toll-free at 1-888-777-4590.  Our website is: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov.