CRIME

ICE shuts down 70 websites selling counterfeit merchandise

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities have shut down 70 websites that were trying to trick consumers into believing they're buying brand name products.

But countless of these counterfeit sites remain and they look so real it's difficult to tell the difference.

7 On Your Side has been looking into the scams and has some tips for you.

Rich Veno wanted to learn Italian before going on a family trip.

"I wanted to get Rosetta Stone," he says.

So, his wife typed the company's name into a Google search box, clicked on a site that looked authentic, and paid $200 for the language disks.

But when Veno opened his present, he noticed something on the Rosetta Stone packaging seemed off.

"I was suspicious because the logo wasn't the Rosetta Stone logo," he says. "I put two and two together and realized we had a counterfeit product on our hands.

Rosetta Stone attorney Michael Wu says scam artists have duped thousands of consumers, like the Venos, into thinking they're buying the real thing online.

He says the sites look authentic, almost identical to the true site.

ICE Homeland Security Investigations authorities are cracking down on these copycat sites. But they warn it's up to you to be careful, especially when it comes to submitting credit card information.

Even the security symbols on the sites are fraudulent.

In many cases, the criminals are making the prices of the items close to the real deal so that they can make the most money.

In most cases, credit card companies will reimburse you.

ICE Homeland Security Investigations offers the following Internet safety tips:

• If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
• Research the seller or website you're buying from. Does the company have a brick and mortar store? If so, trying calling during business hours. Weird answering machines-or replies in the middle of the night-probably mean something is up.
• Do your homework. Educate yourself on the exact logo, hardware and stitching of whatever you are considering. It also helps to visit an actual store to examine the real deal up close. Take pictures and compare them to the seller's images.
• Don't ever buy an item that you learn about via bulk email ("spam"). Your chances of receiving the item at all are less than 50%.
• Always use a credit card to purchase online. This protects you. Your maximum exposure is $50, and often you won't even lose that amount if you get scammed.
• Don't conduct business with an anonymous user. Get the person's real name, business name (if applicable), address, and phone number. Verify this information before buying. And don't send your payment to a post office box.
• Save copies of all of the emails and other documents involved in the transaction. Then, if you discover that an item is counterfeit, you have documentation to help you deal with the problem.
• Don't be afraid to ask lots and lots of questions.
• Trust your gut. This is probably your best line of defense, so don't reason away your intuition.

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