Cyber Monday warning: Beware of scams

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November 26, 2012, 7:29 pm
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(NECN: Peter Howe - Boston/Waltham, Mass.) - As Cyber Monday revved up the online holiday gift shopping season, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency used the day to sound a warning: Beware of fake websites selling faked brand-name products.

“Bottom line, it's criminal organizations that are mass producing this stuff, generally in the far East, and having it smuggled into the united states,’’ said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of Boston’s ICE office, minutes after ICE announced it had seized 132 websites accused of selling fake sports jerseys and caps, watches, Lacoste shirts and other products.

Among them, BruinsJerseyShop.com.

Foucart showed reporters a trove of recently seized goods, including a faked Nike New England Patriots No. 87 Rob Gronkowski jersey, and noted that many counterfeit products are actually deadly – non-Underwriters-Laboratories-approved electrical extension cords, and faked health and medical products.

“We’ve seen some of the pharmaceuticals that were just totally chalk,’’ Foucart said. “People were getting just totally scammed.’’

Over the course of a year, ICE estimates, manufacturers of legitimately licensed and branded products, and customer collectors and state sales-tax collectors, lose out on $200 billion to $500 billion because of faked products made by criminal syndicates in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and other nations.

Foucart’s warnings came as experts were confirming a mad rush online for “Cyber Monday” deals. IBM, basing its report on real-time analysis of every order streaming into 500 participating retailers’ websites, said sales as of 3 p.m. Monday were up 25.6 percent from the same 15-hour period last year, with 21 percent of retailer webpage visits coming through mobile devices and 10.9 percent of purchases through smartphones or tablet computers.

“Mobile’s absolutely having a breakout year,’’ said Jay Henderson, strategy director for IBM Smarter Commerce in Waltham, Mass., the site of the former Unica, acquired by IBM.

While Black Friday may be drifting into the nighttime hours of Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday remains huge, Henderson said: “We definitely saw retailers offering promotions earlier this year, so they started on Thanksgiving day. That extended into Black Friday. But we haven't cannibalized any sales. We actually saw growth for both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, and then we're showing strong growth today for Cyber Monday.’’

Just be careful. “It’s buyer beware,’’ Foucart said. “If it doesn't look right, it probably isn't. Generally, we're telling the consumer, make sure that they have a brick-and-mortar store behind it,’’ and a verifiable address and telephone number.

Tags: NECN, Peter Howe, cyber monday, NECN Business
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