Interested in buying a Rolex watch for $26 or a Coach bag for $19.95? It might sound tempting but be careful. At a price like that it's either stolen or counterfeit.
But why should you care if it's a rip-off of a designer brand? It only hurts the company, not the consumer, right?
"The distribution and sale of look-alike or counterfeit merchandise is not only deceptive, but also potentially harmful to legitimate businesses and consumers," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett. "Depending on the circumstances, phony goods can also be potentially hazardous because they have not been subject to safety testing or other consumer protection guidelines."
How do you know -- besides the low price -- that an item is a knock off and not the real thing? Corbett says it takes an observant shopper.
Look for colors or styles that aren't used by the manufacturer. Check the quality of the materials used to make the product. Nothing screams "knock off" louder than cheap plastic fasteners and vinyl where there should be leather.
Corbett says there are other tip-offs as well. A counterfeit item will have unusual labeling or packaging and the merchandise may seem out of place in the type of store. For example, you wouldn't expect to pick up a pair of Prada in a discount shoe store.
Along with counterfeit products, Corbett urges consumers to be watchful for scams, especially those that might be linked to electronic classified ads or online auctions.
"Con artists know that consumers are using the Internet to search for bargains," Corbett said. "Offers that seem 'too good to be true,' especially those including requests to wire-transfer money or cash checks, should be approached extremely cautiously."
Corbett said that scam artists can easily generate authentic-looking online ads and auction listing for everything from toys and pets to used vehicles or rental homes - often copying photos and descriptions from legitimate ads.
"Using popular websites like Craigslist or other Internet listings, criminals lure victims with low prices and attractive offers for high-demand items," Corbett said. "Typically, they operate at long-distance in order to hide their true identity or location by communicating only via email and asking consumers to handle all payments by wire-transfer."
The best course of action is to take your time and never act quickly. Corbett said criminals are hoping that consumers will send money before they have time to carefully evaluate the situation or the seller. That's why most scams are structured to force victims to make a quick decision.