Cyber Shopping Fraud Surges
While the 2012 holiday shopping season saw an increase in total sales, it also included a rise in the trend of online fraud. The National Retail Federation estimates the retail industry will lose $2.9 billion this holiday season from returns of fraudulent returns of online purchases. Worse still, the Consumer Fraud Center (CFC) reports that online shoppers were duped into buying $2 billion in counterfeit and fake goods during November and December. CFC Director James Lee calls it the "shopping cliff." "Often what (shoppers) see online is not what they get in the box," he tells KTRH.
Lee explains that cyber-criminals have moved beyond setting up phony websites and companies, and are much more sophisticated. "What they're doing now is going on to legitimate websites like Amazon, and opening up on the marketplace section of Amazon for third-party sellers, and creating fake stores there." As for what they are selling, it now goes far beyond bogus designer apparel or purses. "We saw sharp increases in fake DVDs, fake video games, fake CDs, fake toys, and consumer products like small electronic appliances," says Lee. He adds that some of these phony items can actually be dangerous, because they don't meet government safety standards.
Anyone who ended up buying an item online that turned out to be fake or counterfeit is encouraged to report it, both to the CFC's online complaint center and the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Consumers should also dispute the charges with their credit/debit card issuer or PayPal. "The more people share information about the different websites that are pirating this stuff, the quicker we can go out and try to get these sites shut down," says Lee.