Last year, I bought Birkenstock sandals I thought was real on eBay. They look identical to the ones the original manufacturer sells, but they turned out to be counterfeit products. The touch of its leather was not as sophisticated as my old Birkenstock shoes.

I enjoy online shopping, but I have so much frustrating experience in receiving fake items. But my experience has taught me some lessons. Let me share with you what to do to avoid counterfeit products before purchase and what to do even if you accidentally attain them.

How to avoid counterfeit products before purchase

how to fight against counterfeit products

1. Check product photos

Say no to the listings with few and low-quality photos. Also, don't trust the photos which look like they are stocked for wholesale.

2. Descriptions are a trap

Short descriptions are not acceptable. You have to read descriptions carefully. Sometimes sellers trick you by words or phrases telling you an item is not what it actually is. This happens a lot, especially to jewelry, accessories, and fashion categories. Take a Rolex watch for example. Seeing from the age of the watch, it doesn't make sense that a watch usually have its fixed manufacturing period.

Source from Gentleman's Gazette

3. Ask questions, or the item could fail you

If you have any question about a listing, you have to leave your questions in the question and answer section, no matter what. Take advantage of that section to ask sellers questions or for more authentic photos.

4. Price is an indicator of crime

You should be always suspicious of the listing price. You always get what you pay for. So don't ever try a branded item at a low price. That is too good to be true. If an item is at the wonderful bargain price, please don't fall for this fairy tale because it is most likely fake!

5. Chinese items are a dead end

Definitely don't take an offer from China! This country is famous for its pirates and counterfeit products. Particularly, electronic products it manufactures are of low quality. Of course it can produce some satisfying items, but we'd better not risk buying fakes at our expense. It would be like a gambling shopping experience. Trust me. Not fun at all!

6. Review is the key

Always read through product reviews before you buy them. Take others successful and failed shopping experience into account and try to avoid the same mistake. For example, you can search for the filtered reviews based on the selected review keywords on Amazon. Also, check an after-purchase product photo in the review section is a must before you making a decision to buy the item.

7. Seller's rating is a symbol of authenticity

Seller's reputation plays a critical role in the possibility of selling fakes. You can observe sellers past transaction history and how buyers evaluate their products from them. Some comments may expose their product authenticity and quality. So always confirm if the past listing was as described in the seller's rating section to assure that you can gain an item as promised.

8. Verify item's hallmark

Rather than simply checking logos on the package, identifying a typical characteristic of a genuine product makes a difference. For example, when you buy Moroccanoil, you have to check if its package has a QR code to verify its authenticity. So you can ask for a photo of its hallmark from a seller before making an order online. Another example is that genuine LEGO bricks would be carved with its logo. However, you would not be promised a genuine item even if you check item's hallmarks from photos because visual proof sometimes could be misleading and fake.

How to deal with counterfeit products after purchase

If you unfortunately found your purchased item fake, don't panic. There is still some ways that could save your money.

If receiving a fake from eBay...

Dispute stage

When receiving a fake, you should open a "significantly not as described - counterfeit item" dispute on eBay. Generally, during the dispute, eBay personnel will not be involved. Then you will contact your seller and kindly inform them that the item you received is counterfeit and that you would like to request a return for a full refund.

However, in the following two scenarios, you are not required to return the item to the seller.
● If a buyer suspects that an item is a fake with strong counterfeit indicators - to avoid trafficking in counterfeit products again to another buyer.
● If you buy a fake item from abroad - eBay is worried that buyers have to pay the return shipping cost.

If you are lucky, you might be fully refunded by the seller without nuisance. When shipping the item back, you should choose a shipping option with tracking. When the item plus the shipping costs over 750 USD, you have to provide signature confirmation. Do NOT close the dispute until you receive your refund.

Fraudulent sellers will most likely deny your accusation. If so, escalate the dispute to a claim as soon as possible because the opportunity to escalate a dispute to a claim can expire.

Claim stage

When the dispute becomes a claim, eBay will be involved and investigate the case. They might be in favor of either the seller or the buyer. But often they will request a formal authentication document of a trustworthy third party from buyers. Remember do NOT buy a formal authentication document until eBay asks you to do it because they might not ask for it. If the document is requested, buyers have to pay for an authenticator. It usually costs buyers 75~125 USD.

Obviously, the documents are not cheap since it takes time to put them together. Buyers would find them not only expensive but also difficult to procedure depending on brands and products. The authentication documents also require a cover letter with contact and business information of the authenticator.

Always update yourself with any progress eBay make on the claim. Being late to reply during the claim stage can cause you to lose the case.

If receiving a fake from Amazon…

In contrast, Amazon formulates a stricter anti-counterfeiting policy, so buyers are more protected from pirated and counterfeit products. But it doesn't mean there is no fake in Amazon's marketplace. Amazon has been working on this and inclined to eradicate the root of this issue from the side of the issue. But as an Amazon buyer, what can we do? Here is a thought:

Fulfilled by Amazon

Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) program means Amazon is liable for the entire transactional process, including storage, shipping, and payments. So if you happen to buy a fake, you can certainly request a return in this program. This program takes priority in the name of Amazon's reputation so Amazon will deal with the customer claim as soon as it can. Amazon will refund the order in this case.