As the holiday shopping season gains momentum, the risk of interacting with fraudulent businesses and con artists online increases as consumers search out the perfect gift for friends and families. Many consumers are concerned that the global supply chain challenges and labor shortages will impact the availability of products for purchase. The National Retail Federation reports that 57% of shoppers will turn to online stores for their holiday purchases this year, opening up opportunities for scammers to take advantage by selling counterfeit items at premium prices.
According to BBB’s 2021 Online Purchase Scams Report, which analyzed over 55,000 online purchase scam reports from 2015-2021, scammers use more than 400 different types of products to perpetrate fraud. While footwear and apparel were the most common counterfeit items, with Nike as the most frequently used brand, other top brands include NFL clothing, Apple gadgets, Louis Vuitton handbags, Tiffany jewelry, LEGO toys and 3M N95 masks.
In November, BBB serving the Heart of Texas concluded its investigation into the Fort Worth-based business Beats by Dr. Dre, which sells products that appear to be Beats by Dre headphones. Unethical and fraudulent businesses often associate themselves with well-known brands and names to convince consumers they are interacting with, and receiving, brand-name products. BBB recommends holiday purchasers pay close attention to the name of the business and any signs it may not be an authorized retailer of the brand-name product, including checking with the brand's official website.
Despite listing the business’s physical address in Fort Worth, BBB’s investigation team determined the Beats by Dr. Dre website is operated by an individual, or individuals, located in China. Reports by consumers indicate that Beats by Dr. Dre requests items to be returned to China to obtain refunds, most of which are never issued.
Over the past year, 10 complaints have been filed against Fort Worth-based business Beats by Dr. Dre, all of which have remained unanswered. In May, one consumer reported, “I purchased four Bluetooth headsets and was suspicious of them being knockoffs, but the price was good for Bluetooth headsets. Once I received the products, it was very obvious they are knockoffs. Extremely poor quality, one of the headsets is physically broken and none of them are Bluetooth.”
The most counterfeited products and brands include:
Products Brands Shoes Nike, Adidas, Louboutin
Clothes NFL, North Face, NBA ,Canada Goose, Nike
Gadgets Apple, Samsung, Beats, Sony
Handbags Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Coach, Chanel, Prada
Jewelry Tiffany, Cartier, Chanel, Kendra Scott, Pandora
Toys LEGO, Pokemon, Funk, MGA LOL
N95 Masks 3M
To steer clear of counterfeit items online this holiday season, BBB offers the following tips:
• Watch for low-priced or mid-priced items for an item typically listed at a much higher price at most retailers. Remember, if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
• Consumers expect quality from things like shoes, clothing and jewelry. When searching for a name-brand or popular luxury item, pay close attention to its price and check with official retailers to determine the likelihood of it being offered at the advertised price. If a product is listed at significantly higher prices at authorized retailers or its website than is shown, it is more than likely not authentic.
• Read the website and look for grammatical errors. Typographical errors indicate the site was put together quickly and may not reflect the typical brand messaging you would expect. Grammatical mistakes in public-facing communications are rare for brand-name items that typically have the resources to employ extensive marketing departments.
• Search for contact information. Search for a phone, email address, online chat function, and check to see if there is a brick-and-mortar address for the business. If listed, take the time to call the phone number to verify it is in service and search for the location of the business. Fraudulent companies will often list vacant lots or residential buildings for their physical address.
• Check BBB. If a business displays a BBB Accredited Business seal, verify its legitimacy by going to BBB.org and looking up the company.
If you have been a victim of a scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Information provided could prevent another person from falling victim.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2020, people turned to BBB more than 220 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at BBB.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico.