Beware of online shopping counterfeits

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Online sales in the U.S. reached $430 billion dollars in the past few years, growing 15% annually.

According to a Better Business Bureau report, that dramatic increase also brings with it a rise in fraud cases as one-in-four people have bought something online that turned out to be counterfeit.

"These methods are becoming increasingly more sophisticated," said Stephanie Garland, the Regional Director of the Better Business Bureau in Springfield. "So it's very concerning for us that a lot of people are falling for it. Most of the victims are actually women and the ages may surprise you. They're ages are between 30-39 years-old."

Toys and games(12.3 % sales lost) handbags and luggage(12.7% sales lost), jewelry and watches (13.5% sales lost), and clothing and footwear( 9.7% sales lost)account for the largest percentage of counterfeit items, but it can be anything.

"It was very frustrating," said Springfieldian April Medina, who thought she was buying American-made Seresto dog collars that turned out to be counterfeit.

"It's like twice the size," Medina said in pointing out the fake collars were much bigger than the real deal. "They (the real company) have their name on the side (of the container the collars come in) and this one (the counterfeit) doesn't."

The real container also has a different color on the inside of the lid while the counterfeit one does not.

For April the ordeal turned into six months of constant badgering and arguing with PayPal to get back the $110 she lost.

"I would get one thing fixed with PayPal and they would send me an e-mail and tell me I needed to do something else," Medina recalled. "And so I'd have to call them and say, "No, that's not what you said over the phone.'"

As in April's case, 88% of counterfeit goods come from China and Hong Kong.

Some people assume that cheap prices are a give-away that a product is fake, but that's not necessarily the case.

"A lot of people thought previously that price was a huge indicator," Garland said. "But people are just falling for fake things. A lot of this is happening on Amazon. It may be a similar product to what it looks like there, but it's not legitimate."

The BBB points out that over half the goods sold on Amazon's website are from third parties and that Amazon has admitted that counterfeiting is a problem for them so you should always check on the background of the seller.

"Just make sure it's legitimate and something you've heard of," Medina pointed out. "And always check the Better Business Bureau site."

"If you get something bogus go ahead and immediately report it to your credit card company, bank, or credit union," Garland added. "As soon as possible go ahead and work through it. You can also go to Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker and report it to the FTC as well as IC3 (Internet Fraud Complaint Center)."

As for getting your money back?

"Just be persistent," Medina answers.

Hopefully help is on the way.

"President Trump last month issued this huge study that he's having done on it," Garland said. "So we have six more months left to hear about law enforcement and what they're going to be doing to combat the problem. It is a big problem that we're all trying to work on in different areas."

The Better Business Bureau helped April get her money back and does try to resolve complaints. Victims can report scams at BBB Scam Tracker.