Lancashire residents are being warned not to fall foul of fake products and online scams on Black Friday (29 November) and Cyber Monday (2 December).
Millions of shoppers will be on the lookout for bargains during these pre-Christmas sales. Last year, sales across the UK were up by 46% and predictions forecast that shoppers could spend as much as £8 billion by the end of Cyber Monday this year in total.
Citizen’s Advice has reported that almost half a million consumer-related issues were dealt with last year. Many related to undelivered parcels and fake goods and over 50,000 of these were in November 2018.
The anonymity that the internet offers makes it easy for criminals to use sales sites to sell counterfeit goods or steal personal details and banking information.
Amanda Maxim, trading standards manager for Lancashire County Council, said: “Unfortunately, it’s not only shoppers and legitimate retailers that are looking to take advantage of these huge sales days.
“Organised criminal networks and scammers can also use them as an opportunity to sell fake goods and get hold of people’s personal details.
“These goods are often low quality, cheap fakes, but there’s a more serious issue. Research by Customs has revealed that 37% of fake goods picked up at European boarders are unsafe.
“Figures also show that 25% of UK consumers have had their personal details stolen in the past during these sales. Once these criminals have your data, they can use your money to fund crimes such as drug trafficking, money laundering and child exploitation.”
It is easy to buy counterfeit goods online by mistake, as the people selling them operate using sophisticated looking websites, fake trademarks, brands and emblems, and bogus certificates. They con people that they are buying genuine, safe products when in reality they are not.
There are signs that people can look out for to ensure they are buying genuine goods.
Amanda added: “Beware if you think something looks too good to be true.
“It’s up to each of us to take precautions when we shop online.
“Check who you’re buying from and make sure the company and the website is legitimate. Websites selling counterfeits often may not look as professional, containing spelling errors and poor quality images. If you’re in any doubt, do a quick search as you should be able to find an address for the company. Look for contact details in case there should be a problem.
“When making a payment for goods, the web page should also have an address that begins with HTTPS and displays a padlock or key logo in the address line to indicate you’re using a secure online payment system.
“Don’t get caught up in the sales fever and buy in haste. Always compare the price of the product against other retailers and the manufacturer’s website and check on the Anti Counterfeit Group website for handy hints to buying online. Remember that if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
Find more tips on how to avoid being caught out this Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend at www.a-cg.org/consumer-advice.
If you think you’ve bought fake goods, report the seller to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline 03454 04 05 06.