Holiday Shopping Tips
NOW THAT THE HOLIDAY SHOPPING SEASON IS UNDERWAY,
The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPRCenter) wants to remind everyone that all consumers should have an enjoyable shopping experience free from counterfeit or stolen goods or pirated streaming content. Keep reading to learn online shopping best practices, ways to protect financial and banking information, general information to help spot and report fake or stolen merchandise, and why digital streaming from unauthorized sites is unsafe.
What’s the risk of buying counterfeit products?
Every year, the United States government seizes millions of counterfeit goods as part of its mission to protect U.S. consumers and businesses. Counterfeit goods cheat consumers with substandard and potentially hazardous products. For example, counterfeit electronics can overheat and explode, bicycle helmets can break upon impact, phony cosmetics and health care products can be with dangerous or unsanitary ingredients, and seasonal items for the home, like holiday lights, can be poorly wired and cause fires.
Additionally, some of the websites used to sell counterfeit goods put shoppers
at risk of having their personal and financial data stolen. Online shopping at
unknown or unverified sites makes consumers particularly vulnerable to scams
that trick them into buying counterfeit and pirated goods.
Holiday Shopping DO’S
Use one credit card for online purchases
Consider opening a credit card account for online use only. Keep a minimum credit line on the account to limit the amount of charges an attacker can accumulate.
Use good password practices
- Use a different password for each account.
- Use the longest password or passphrase each system permits.
- Develop mnemonics, or memory aids, to remember complex passwords.
- Consider using a password manager program to keep track of your passwords.
Be on the lookout for counterfeit, pirated, or stolen goods
Criminals try to trick holiday shoppers into buying substandard (and often hazardous) counterfeit goods. Look for poor quality, sloppy stitching, missing security labels, and irregular markings on apparel. Be vigilant.
Pay attention to other items an individual or seller is offering
If a person or seller has multiples of the same items, particularly those that are listed as “new with tags,” that could be an indication they are stolen. Also, look for prices that appear way below what you expect to pay.
Holiday Shopping DON’TS
Don’t use a debit card for online purchases
Debit cards do not offer protection against identity theft. Because banks immediately deduct charges from your account, an attacker who obtains your account information may empty your bank account before you even realize it.
Don’t forget security basics
- Keep your operating system, browser, and software up to date.
- Use and maintain antivirus software and a firewall.
- Use caution with email attachments and untrusted links.
- Watch for suspicious activity on your accounts
If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Criminals use legitimate product photos on their websites, despite selling fraudulent or stolen products. Often, consumers pay full price for subpar items that don’t last long. Yet, one of the biggest dangers illegitimate products pose is that they aren’t manufactured or stored properly according to U.S. standards and codes.
How Consumers Can Help
Individuals who believe they have purchased a counterfeit, stolen or pirated item can report it by calling the toll-free tip line at 866-347-2423,
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, or reporting it online at the HSI Tip Line.
The IPR Center, working collaboratively with its many public and private sector partners, leads the U.S. response to combat intellectual property theft, counterfeit merchandise, and digital piracy. The IPR Center brings together key federal and international law enforcement partners, prosecutors, academia, and industry experts in a task force setting. By working together, the IPR Center addresses the theft of innovation that threatens economic stability and places the public’s health and safety at risk. To learn more about the IPR Center or report the sale of counterfeit goods, please visit www.iprcenter.gov.