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Just in time for holiday shopping, counterfeits catching WNC shoppers off guard

Source: WLOS Staff

A News 13 investigation reveals if you’re not careful of what you're buying and where you're shopping this holiday season, you could fall victim to counterfeits.

News 13, along with some help from the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office, is exposing the fakes and showing you how to protect yourself.

“We pretty much answer the phone, 'Thank you for calling OP Taylor's. We are out of Hatchimals this year,” Katrina Butterick, a toy expert at OP Taylor’s, said.

Top holiday toys are vanishing as quickly as your time to shop.

“People have bought them up and are selling them online for ridiculous amounts of money,” said Butterick.

This causes some parents to consider look-a-like alternatives, but this holiday it's buyer beware online according to the North Carolina Secretary of State.

“You have no idea who you're dealing with when you buy these things online,” said Elaine Marshall, North Carolina’s Secretary of State.

Worse than settling for an alternative is getting a deal only to find out it's a fraud being passed off as the real thing or a counterfeit.

Aleiza Rowe, the manager at Mori Luggage and Gifts, has watched the real products they sell be counterfeited this holiday, including Lokai bracelets that claim to have beads that are filled with water from Mt. Everest, the Earth’s highest point, and mud from the Dead Sea, the Earth’s lowest point.

“They have all of the stuff to make you feel like you are buying a Lokai bracelet, the pamphlets, the stand, the cards. They're $6 and people are like, 'Oh.' They come in and see ours and they're like, 'Why are yours $18?' Well, we're a reputable dealer,” said Rowe.

“The fraudsters know what's popular. They know what people are going to want, and they want a piece of the action,” said Marshall.

News 13 exposed some of this year's favorite fakes, starting with what you tote your morning java in.

“Yeti basically works in the stainless steel arena with the silver tone,” said Marshall.

That means colorful knockoffs are counterfeit. You can find a reputable dealer that will dip a Yeti tumbler in paint, but it violates the warranty. But these aren't Yeti's tumblers underneath. You can see the difference in quality when the Secretary compares them side by side.

“They're very fragile. You can look at this one and see it was just in the box with the rest of them in the back of the car that it chipped off. It's a very sharp edge that if you didn't realize it was cracked and all of a sudden it broke; Boy, you'd be in real trouble,” said Marshall.

The lids on the counterfeits, when side by side with the real product, have a bluish tint to them. The labels on the imitation Yeti's also have several misspellings and if you look at where the label should line up, they don't. Real products typically have labels where the seems match up.

They're not the only colorful con putting you in danger this holiday season.

“Folks need to know, Apple only makes white,” said Marshall of the chargers used to re-energize your Apple products. “Underwriters Laboratory has issued a warning about these colored ones because they can spark and that can start a fire."

News 13 found white chargers with a metallic band at a Leicester gas station, Secretary of State investigators say they're suspect, too.

The last thing you want is a faulty extension or power chord for the holiday lights.

“Very, very flimsy,” said Marshall as she easily bent the extension cord in-half, “We've seen video of these melting and burning into flames. It doesn't have any type of, it has the old UL which is printed on there, which is not the hologram."

You should look for the metallic UL or Underwriters Laboratory tag, the gold standard ensuring the wiring inside is safe.

TELLING A FAKE FROM A LEGITIMATE PRODUCT

So, how can you tell a bogus product from the real deal before you hand over cash or click purchase?

“If the price is too cheap, that's a very good sign,” said Marshall. She reminded buyers you get what you pay for applies. Quality, name brand items are going to cost a little more.

She recommends that while the holidays can be hectic, don't be in a rush. Give products you’re buying a good once over, meaning read the label.

Counterfeit Label by Jennifer Emert on Scribd

“There's actually a misspelling on here, that's another sign,” said Marshall.

If you buy on credit versus debit, it makes it easier to stop the purchase if you suddenly realize you’ve been taken and what you’ve purchased is a fraud or never comes in the mail.

The Secretary of State’s office recommends keeping all paperwork associated with the product. This includes confirmation numbers and electronic receipts which could be evidence for police if your deal goes the wrong way.

“You can cancel that charge and then report to your local sheriff, or it's really the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division where you would want to make your complaint," Marshall said.

And when shopping online -- be vigilant. Asheville Police said you should check any seller's rating before you buy.

“If they're going to buy from someone like that, check to see what type of reputation they have, if they have a long standing reputation, or if they have five reviews over the last two days and that's it,” said Detective Sergeant Mike McClanahan.

One more to leave you with, take a look at this product:

If you're familiar with the brand, you likely thought, "OK I know this, Beats by Dr. Dre, the popular headphones brand."

Look back at that picture again, this time a little closer. The box says Deats by Br. Dre, not Beats by Dr. Dre, obviously a counterfeit. This is why you have to take your time, check the box carefully.

It’s better to ask the child or gift recipient the exact name of what they want so you know what you're getting, not a look-a-like product if you’re looking for the name brand item.

You can also check out the web extra video attached to this story to see a counterfeit Buck Knife bought here in North Carolina.

If you feel you’ve been sold a counterfeit product, you can contact the Secretary of State’s office on the web or by calling (919) 807-2100 or (800) 688-4507.

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