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Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

shopperToday, many consumers aren’t “shopping ‘til they drop.” Rather, they’re clicking on online deals until they get carpal tunnel syndrome. Beyond the tingling, weakness and finger or hand-muscle damage that comes with the syndrome, there are other dangers, too. Counterfeit goods – including fake pharmaceuticals, low-quality batteries, extension cords and Christmas lights, among many others – pose a real danger. That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission provide safety tips to guard against online counterfeiting and piracy. Here are a few of their suggestions for the holiday season and beyond (scroll all the way down for a link to the full list):

  • If it's too good to be true . . . it probably is. A product that is selling at a drastic reduction in price is obviously suspicious. Check to see if the site is an authorized retailer (manufacturers often publish these lists). Watch out for sites with poor quality photos; spelling mistakes; logos that look similar, but not identical to corporate logos; and lack of terms of service or contact information. If you are still unsure, ask the retailer for evidence that their products are legitimate.
  • Insist on secure transactions. When doing business online, make sure your payments are submitted via Web sites beginning with https:// (the “s” stands for secure) as opposed to http:// (without the –s) and look for a lock symbol at the bottom of your browser. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at www.ftc.gov/privacy for more information.
  • Check to see if the product has been recalled. Before completing a purchase, take a minute and visit CPSC.gov or Recalls.gov to determine if the product has been previously recalled. For consumer products, it is illegal for anyone to attempt to sell a recalled product. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) oversees federal recalls, and in order to prevent further deaths or injuries, the agency works to ensure that recalled products are not resold.
  • Be certain that replacement cell phone batteries have been certified by a nationally recognized test laboratory. Some websites that are not associated with reputable manufacturers and carriers might be selling incompatible or even counterfeit batteries and chargers. Consumers should purchase manufacturer or carrier recommended products and accessories. If unsure about whether a replacement battery or charger is compatible with a particular cell phone, contact the manufacturer of the battery or charger. Lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries, which are commonly found in today's cellular phones, have a lot of energy in a small package and can ignite and explode if counterfeited and not designed and manufactured with standard safety features.
  • Be particularly careful when purchasing medicine online. Always consult with your doctor, and only take medications prescribed by your doctor or another health care professional. Use a licensed pharmacy. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy can tell you whether an online pharmacy is licensed and in good standing. Reputable sites frequently offer toll-free access to registered pharmacists to answer your questions. If you purchase medicine from a new vendor and it does not match the size, shape, color, taste, or side effects of your usual product, contact your pharmacist or the manufacturer to determine if it came from a legitimate source.
  • Never click on a link in an unsolicited e-mail. This is often how spyware and malware

Check out the full list of tips. And to learn more about what government and industry are doing to fight counterfeiting and piracy, visit www.fightonlinetheft.com.

-Dan Sytman-


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