Consumers go off 'shopping cliff' in online scams

10:43 PM, Jan 6, 2013   |    comments
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"With a depressed economy and fears of the 'fiscal cliff' looming, shoppers went online with a vengeance this year looking for bargains. But many fell prey to cybercriminals who racked up over $2 billion in fraudulent sales in counterfeit and fake goods," said James Lee, executive director of the Consumer Fraud Center. "We saw the heaviest counterfeiting in clothing, accessories, drugs, toys, electronics, personal care and beauty items and CDs, DVDs and video games."

According to comScore, there was a 16 percent growth in holiday online shopping, with almost $40 billion in goods bought online in 2012.

Anti-piracy organizations have tracked the growth in the global trade in counterfeit and fake goods as a percentage of total global trade from 1.85 percent in 2000 to almost 5 percent last year; amounting to $600 billion in counterfeit goods.

Even sites that are considered reputable for online shopping are not safe.

"We've seen a considerable number of complaints come in from consumers who have purchased goods from what they thought were legitimate sellers who set up shop on Amazon," Lee said. "We have forcefully urged Amazon to revise its practices to join others in the industry such as eBay and to adopt better consumer protections. But so far we've only been met by silence."

If you were scammed the Consumer Fraud Center urges you to dispute the charge with your bank or PayPal and report it immediately to appropriate law enforcement agencies, including the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center, and the Consumer Fraud Center's complaint system.

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