SCAM ALERT: Counterfeit Goods Online

Americans love deals on designer items, and scammers know it. Clothing, shoes and handbags are among the most popular items for counterfeiters, so do some homework before you buy.

Before you go ahead and jump on that deal, check out a merchant -- especially one you're unfamiliar with -- ahead of time. Go online, put the merchants name in a search engine, and the words "rip-off" and "complaint" and see what other people that have dealt with them are saying.

Look for security features like a seal or a sticker a real manufacturer will add that's hard to reproduce.

Some major labels will offer advice on avoiding counterfeits on their company websites.

Beware of low prices simply too good to be true.

Use a credit card for purchases, which can offer greater protection than a debit card in the event or fraud.

If you do get duped, don't try to resell the merchandise.

Demand your money back regardless of the return policy. And loop in your local or state consumer protection agency.

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