In the past few years, ordering items online has not only increased a thousandfold; it’s become the norm. Unfortunately, the increase in scams and knock-offs has flourished as well.
Ordering from so-called reputable sites, such as Amazon, Etsy, or even Walmart, often felt safe and easy, but with the rise of third-party sellers, cheap counterfeit products and knock-offs have become more prevalent.
Real vs. Fake – How to Avoid Getting Duped Online
Some sites are well known for providing knock-offs, such as Wish.com, where customers frequently find themselves “wishing” they had ordered elsewhere! However, you can take a few very easy steps to learn how to tell Real vs. Fake before you order.
1 Identify fake websites
2 Check out the seller
3 Reviews- the tell-all
4 Look for additional photos
5 Be wary of drastic discounts
6 Spelling and grammar errors
7 Product mismatches & omissions
8 Flawed logos & fonts
9 Contact details
10 Missing parts, pieces, or accessories
Identifying Fake websites
When shopping online, a straightforward way to prevent the purchase of counterfeit items is to verify the authenticity of the website. When the site is fake, so are the products.
For example, this site claims to have reviews for this Christmas red truck wreath dating back a couple of years, yet they’ve been online for less than three months.
Verify the URL and that the site is secure by looking for “https” (instead of “http”) and the lock symbol. Additionally, you can verify the site’s authenticity by entering its URL on ScamAdvisor and/or Whois. This will show you whether it is a credible site or not.
There are immediately several things that raise concerns in this domain URL.
1 The domain name itself is rraasthaa.com; It’s difficult to remember, has no branding, and contains nonsense repeat letters. Authentic brands have names, usually easy to remember names, like Amazon.
2 The wreath price is 25-30% lower than anywhere else I’ve seen it.
3 The reviews are broken and appear to be fake.
4 While it has multiple images, they are much lower quality than those I’ve seen elsewhere, which means they’re not the originals.
I recommend you start with ScamAdvisor, but do not end your search there! The reason being, new sites will often not yet be reported, so they’ll fail to show up at all, or will appear to have an okay rating. Such is the case with this knock-off scam listing I found on rraasthaa.com
The tried and true method is to check the domain on Whois. If the domain age is fairly recent, you can rest assured it’s likely fraudulent.
Notice how the domain is only registered for one year? Most legitimate businesses pay in advance for multiple years, a minimum of three to five. So, think about it for a moment; if you create a brand and register it, and it’s legit, would you plan on it only being around for one year?
Or, think of it from the scammer’s point of view, would you pay for three to five years worth of registration fees if you knew your site was a scam and you would need to delete it within a few months? Not likely.
The registrant is also important. For example, does it link to common anonymous registrant data, or does it link to an existing brand with contact information, a registered legal address, a contact telephone number where you can reach someone if there’s an issue with your order, etc.
Check out the Seller
If you’ve already verified the site seems legit, your next step is to check out the seller.
✔️ Does this person have previous sales? If they have few sales, you might need to question yourself why that is.
✔️ Does this person have previous reviews? A lack of reviews can indicate a counterfeit seller.
✔️ Does this seller have similar products for sale? For example, if they sell handcrafted wreaths, do they have multiple wreath designs?
✔️ How long have they been in business? Did their site or profile recently pop up in the last few weeks or months, or has it been online for a couple of years?
As you can clearly see above, Lil Log Cabin Creations has over 1,599 sales and nearly 300 five-star reviews for her work.
Check the Reviews
Always check the reviews for an item. While reading reviews may seem like an obvious step, many crappy purchases could be stopped in their tracks by reading the ten most recent reviews.
While you’re at it, be sure also to check the date of the review. If the product suddenly has a few great reviews all posted in a cluster within a couple of days, there’s a chance they could be fake reviews, yet another ongoing issue online.
Notice in the photo of the fake/scam site that the review dates are broken, and the reviews lack any information whatsoever, aside from keyword stuffing to ensure it reaches the search engines quickly?!
Click on the reviewer’s name to see if they have other reviews or their own rating. Yes, I am basically telling you to review the reviewer! Do they have multiple product reviews for the same company? Do their reviews include helpful information or just blanket statements like “I Love It?”
Here’s an example of real reviews from users. The usernames are clickable; you can see what other product reviews they’ve left. In addition, they offer information about the item they’ve purchased.
In some cases, scammers will actually copy and paste stolen reviews as well. This is why it’s important to review the reviewer, so to speak.
Legit reviews often contain customer-uploaded images, additional helpful information, as well as facts about the product they received. The dates are not back to back, all within a couple of days (a common fake comment scam!).
Look for Additional Photos
Handmade crafts will almost always include additional photos. These may consist of different styles, varying color options, but nearly all legit crafters will share multiple pictures of their work. This trick is particularly helpful when purchasing items from Etsy.
✔️ Do those photos contain the artists’ or owners’ watermark?
✔️ Does the watermark name match up with the product seller?
If these answers are ‘NO,’ you are likely about to get duped out of your money. However, not all artists and brands watermark their images. It’s best to use several checks to ensure authenticity.
Another helpful option is to right-click on the image and choose “Search Google for the image.” Google will return an image search, and you can find the item in that search.
Most often, the first couple of results will often display the original owner of the photograph. Clicking on the image will take you to the site to verify the authentic product rather than the fake. The real site will contain multiple photos with considerably higher quality.
Counterfeiters are often too lazy to copy all of the images. Instead, they’ll generally steal just one or two and shrink them down or simply clip them from a screenshot to remove watermarks. This is not always the case, so once again, it’s best to do a bit of sleuthing.
Drastically Cheaper Options & Unrealistic Discounts
If you see an item shared online and all of a sudden you see it elsewhere for a drastically cheaper price, chances are, it’s a knock-off. Remember the old adage; you get what you pay for?
Well, it applies here. Hand-crafted items take time, money, and significant effort to create. So if you’re expecting that item to come at a mass-manufactured price, you’re going to get mass-manufactured quality.
Find out how much discount the brand or luxury item typically gets and if it’s too low, like 70-80% of the MSRP, then you’re buying a fake.
Grammatical & Spelling Mistakes
Counterfeit products can easily be identified by incorrect spelling (such as the presence of an extra or missing letter) or grammatical errors. For example, Hewlett Packard will be written as Hewlet, or Louis Vuitton may be spelled Vitton.
It may surprise you that these mistakes in brand names are often intentional to snag unwary customers. However, those in product information and instructions indicate fraudsters’ low level of education. Please read carefully before signing up for any product.
Identifying Counterfeit Products in Person
While the above-aforementioned tips are geared towards online purchases, I’ve put together some additional tips to avoid in-person scams.
Product Mismatches & Omissions
The company prints information like codes, serial numbers, trademarks, and patents on the package or product. Fake products usually miss a few details while copying the information. Online cross-checking is also possible, especially for electronic items and appliances.
Flawed Logos & Fonts
For in-person purchases, if you are paying attention, it is easy to detect fake logos, brand names, and trademarks. Likewise, if you are attentive and familiar with the original logos well, you can detect even the most minute variations.
To verify whether an item is fake or genuine, you can take a picture of it and compare it with the original online. For example, the font might be different, or the size may differ. Likewise, the coloring of the photograph can be faded or slightly altered from the original. In some cases, the printed text could be illegible, faded, smudged, or misaligned.
No contact details
The manufacturer’s physical address, e-mail, phone number, or contact details should be on the product or package. As a result, you would have no chance to contact anyone if you have a grievance you would like to resolve.
In that case, it would be advisable to stay away from such products. However, if the contact details are available, you may wish to check them out on the website or, if possible, call before making your purchase.
Missing Parts, Pieces, or Accessories
If you have purchased an item online, it’s a great idea to record the unboxing process when you receive the product. By recording, you will have a record of what you actually received, as well as the condition of the product when you received it.
If purchasing an item in person, make sure that the box contains all the supplementary parts and accessories listed on the package. Contact the retailer if the instruction manual, warranty card, wires, plugs, or any other item is missing. Better yet, open the box in-store before purchasing.
The counterfeit product industry is a billion-dollar business. To avoid getting duped, you must learn how to identify fake products before making your purchase.
From font and spelling mistakes on the packaging to missing parts or pieces in person, there are several ways for you to spot a fake. It may take some time and effort but determining whether something is real vs. fake will save you money and frustration down the line!