By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Online shopping can be a great way to snag a great deal, but not all internet merchants are created equal. 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan has advice on how to spot counterfeit items.

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.

Mandy Walker of Consumer Reports says, “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 designer labels will offer advice on avoiding counterfeits on their company websites. Beware of low prices simply too good to be true and use a credit card for purchases, which can offer greater protection than a debit card in the event of fraud.

If you do get duped, don’t try to resell the merchandise. Walker says, “Even if you tell somebody, this isn’t a real whatever handbag, but it’s still a great bag, you’re still liable—you could really get in trouble, you could really get prosecuted. So don’t resell it.”

Instead demand your money back regardless of the return policy. You may also want to alert your local or state consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau too.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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