Better Business Bureau warns of "epidemic" of counterfeit goods sold online

Posted at 6:18 PM, May 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-15 08:34:06-04

BALTIMORE — In the last three years, the Better Business Bureau has received thousands of complaints from consumers duped into buying knock-offs. On Tuesday, the consumer watchdog issued a report warning of the explosion in counterfeit goods sold online and where they come from.

According to the report, it's organized criminals operating out of China who are behind the vast majority of this fraud. These sellers are able to push up their counterfeit products in internet searches. They heavily advertise on Facebook and Instagram, and it's harder to spot fakes online because some sellers may use pictures of the real products.

And when the consumer tries to return the counterfeit item, the seller stops responding or requests the buyer sends the item back to China, which costs money, takes time, and is risky.

Aside from lost money, these counterfeit products could be a health hazard.

"These counterfeit products are now in medicines that we buy online; it's in products for your car that you order online; it's in clothing," said Angie Barnett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Greater Maryland.

BBB is urging credit card processors to crack down on counterfeit sellers. They'd also like to see a new program that helps victims get their money back and identifies bogus websites.

If you are a victim, the BBB advises consumers to ask for a refund from the seller. If they don't respond, seek a refund from your credit card company. And report counterfeit goods to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the BBB, the FTC, the FBI, and the online marketplace where you bought the item.

To read the full report with recommendations and tips for consumers, click here.