Online shopping is a great way for consumers to find the best deals on the items they are looking for. You probably know that Amazon is the largest online retailer and you can find almost anything imaginable to purchase.
Unfortunately, counterfeit products are a huge problem. They support criminals who avoid taxes, organized crime and even terrorists. It's estimated that counterfeit merchandise costs U.S. businesses over $250 billion every year.
You're not going to believe how these counterfeit items could potentially impact your travel status.
Online purchases can cost you Trusted Traveler status
This situation is a bit shocking. I'm talking about an incident that happened to PayPal Engineer Harper Reed, who shared his story on Twitter.
Reed recently ordered a high-end Rimowa suitcase on Amazon. He paid $700 for the luggage, but it never arrived and ended up receiving a full refund from Amazon.
Later, Reed tried to renew his Global Entry status with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Global Entry is a Trusted Traveler program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the U.S. Members enter through automatic kiosks at select airports and is a terrific time-saver for the frequent traveler.
To Reed's surprise, he was denied renewal. It turns out that the Rimowa bag he tried to purchase was actually counterfeit. Customs flagged Reed as an importer of counterfeit goods and denied his Global Entry status.
Importing counterfeit merchandise is a violation of customs' laws and makes you ineligible for Trusted Traveler programs. The problem is, Reed had no idea the luggage was counterfeit. He paid full price for the suitcase and the listing looked legitimate.
That doesn't matter to CBP. If a company like Rimowa reports counterfeit products are being sold online, both the seller and buyer can be flagged. Which is most likely what happened in this situation.
If your application for a Trusted Traveler program is denied, you can click here to file an appeal. However, it could take months to get it overturned and could impact future travel plans.
Counterfeit products are a growing problem. Keep reading for ways to avoid them.
How to handle counterfeit merchandise
It can be difficult to spot a counterfeit item. Scammers are great at producing fake products, but there are some things you can watch out for:
Counterfeit items don't go through the same quality control procedures that the real items do. If the item doesn't seem to be up to standard or is poorly made, there's a good chance it's fake.
Deal is too good to be true
If you see a product that is being sold by an unknown source and it's really inexpensive, it's probably fake. If it is a bargain that is too good to be true, it probably is.
Items made by reputable businesses will not have simple mistakes on its packaging. Counterfeit items may have the wrong logo design or could even have misspelled words.
Make sure you receive all items
Many counterfeit products are sent without things like the owner's manual or product registration card. If you receive an item without these things it's most likely fake.
If you purchase an item from a third party, make sure the seller has contact information or a website so you can do some research for yourself. If the seller doesn't have positive reviews, avoid buying from them.
If you purchase an item and determine it is counterfeit you need to report it to Amazon. Click here to report it on the Amazon site.
If you are a seller and find counterfeits of your product you need to report it to Amazon. Click here to fill out a form to report infringement and get the counterfeit page taken down.
Speaking of travel, here are my best money-saving tips for the frugal traveler
Have you ever had buyer's regret after a family vacation? You probably made some great memories, but it sure took its toll on your pocketbook. Luckily, you've got me! As a frequent traveler, I've learned several tricks to save money. All it takes is a little advanced planning, and you'll be shaving dollars off your trip in no time!