Avoid buying counterfeit products online

How to avoid buying counterfeit products online?

Online retail outlets – including websites, social media platforms and online marketplaces – offer choice, value and convenience but choose what you buy carefully. 

The sale of counterfeit products, which was once confined to street retail outlets, has now infected e-commerce platforms. Furthermore, the problem of counterfeits has impacted a wide range of products -including electronics, car parts, clothing, shoes and toys.

The risks

  • Typically, counterfeitproducts are of inferior quality to the genuine article and may not look as good – in the case of clothing – or be fit for purpose – in the case of electrical products.
  • Buying counterfeitproducts may put your safety (or that of others) at risk. For example, counterfeit electrical products are often not tested before sale and, as a result, there is an increased risk of electrical shocks and/or fire.
  • Online retail outlets selling counterfeitproductsmay steal your personal details and/or infectyour computer or mobile device withmalware.
  • Buying counterfeit products hurts legitimate businesses, including the manufacturers of genuine itemsand will impact the livelihood of their employees.
  • The purchase of counterfeit products also reduces the volume of money going into the Serbian economy – counterfeiters do not pay taxes.
  • Profits from the sale of counterfeitproducts are often used to fund more sinister organised crime activities, including people smuggling, slavery and terrorism. Do you want to fund organised crime?If you suspect a product offered for sale is counterfeit, do not buy it. If you believe an online retail outlet is selling counterfeit products, report the site to the Market Inspectorate (stopfalsifikati@mtt.gov.rs) 
    You can find more information concerning the risks of buying counterfeit products at https://www.europol.europa.eu/activities-services/public-awareness-and-prevention-guides/i-just-thought-it-was-bargain-i-was-not-aware-of-risks… 

    The European Union (EU) maintains a rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products, many of which are counterfeit. The rapid alert system enables quick circulation of information about dangerous non-food productsamong national authorities. 
     The rapid alert system is open to the public and contains a description of the types of dangerous non-food products in circulation (https://ec.europa.eu/safety-gate-alerts/screen/webReport Serbia has an equivalent system, which also highlights dangerous non-food products, many of which are counterfeit – www.nepro.gov.rs. 

    Here are a few tips that, if taken together,can assist you identify counterfeit products offered for sale online and can prevent you from becoming a victim. 

    Is the online retail outlet legitimate? 
    Check the company name, registered address and contact details. Use a search engine to ascertain if the company name and address actually exist. Is there a valid contact email address, phone number or contact form? If there is only a mobile phone number and/or generic email address, such as g-mail or hot-mail, this should be a warning sign. 

    Check product/seller reviews 
    Search for online reviews of the product and the seller left by other consumers. Read them carefully and look out for any consistent or overly positive comments. It is possible these could all be coming from the same source. You can use online tools to help determine the legitimacy of a review, such asFakespot. 

    Is it a professional looking online retail outlet? 
    Online retail outlets selling counterfeit products often do not meet the professional standards expected of a legitimate seller. They contain spelling mistakes, use bad grammar, display poor quality images and/or symbols used to identify payment mechanisms. 

    Read the Domain Name wording 
    Check if the domain name contains the words “genuine”, “original” or the name of a brand together with words like “cheap”, ‘’offer’’ or ‘’discount’’. If such combinations of words exist, this is a warning sign. Also,be cautious of domains which end in .net or .org, as they are rarely used for legitimate online retail outlets.  

    Check the Domain Name registration 
    Check if the domain is registered in a different country. Even if the site uses the Serbia country domain (.rs), do not assume that it is registered in Serbia. Be suspicious of sites that are written in your language but use a domain from another country.  

    Ascertain how long the Domain Name has existed 
    Check how long the domain has existed. If it has been active for less than a year, it could be a scam site. You can check this information and discover who owns the domain by using a WHOIS database. Such databases can easily be locatedby using any popular search engine.  

    Has the online retail outlet listed your consumer rights? 
    Online sellers must clearly outline your rights as a consumer (https://zastitapotrosaca.gov.rs). Is there a complaints process and what are your cancellation rights? Who should you contact if there is a dispute relating to your purchase? What is your legal guarantee and is there a returns policy? A valid returns address should also be provided. If the seller is using a Serbian website but the return address is in Asia, then we recommend you consider buying your product elsewhere.  

    Is the product image good quality? 
    Online retail outlets selling counterfeit products often copy product images directly from the brand’s genuine website. If the product images look grainy when you zoom in and/or part of the image has been cropped, then it is likely this outlet is selling counterfeit products. 

    Is the price too good to be true?
    Sellers often try to fool consumers by advertising counterfeit products at prices considerably lower than the recommended retail price. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.  Compare prices on other outlets and look out for high delivery charges. 

    Official websites publish authorised sellers 
    Check the brands official website. Brands often publish a list of authorised sellers. If the online retail outlet you are visiting is not listed, it may be selling counterfeit products. In some cases, the brands also publish website black-lists and these should be avoided at all costs.  

    Shipping Logistics 
    Another red flag isextra-long shipping times. Some online marketplaces do not reimburse third-party sellers for their sales for fourteen days. Consequently, a new vendor with counterfeit merchandise has to maintain their account for at least two weeks, so they will schedule shipping times for longer than the online marketplaces processing time. 

    Check that the site is secure and its URL begins with “https” instead of “http”
    To make a secure online payment check the payment page uses a URL address that begins with HTTPS and displays a padlock or key logo ( ). If you use a credit card, debit card or payment processorlike PayPal to make the purchase it will be easier to get your money back, if the product is subsequently found to be counterfeit. Never use a direct money transfer as this type of payment request usually indicates a scam and your bank will probably not refund your money. 

    Examine the Product’s Packaging
    If you have completed the above “Tips” check list and still decide to proceed with the purchase, please also check the product when you take possession.
    Brands generally put their logos on packaging in addition to their products. So, if your purchase arrives in plainpackaging with no logos – that should be a red flag.  
    If you do see a brand logo on the product packaging and/or product, compare it with the one on the company’s website. Misspellings and differences in design could mean you have purchased a counterfeitproduct. Also look for certifications, use-by dates and warranties which should arrive with the product. In some cases, you can verify the serial number of the product on the manufacturer’s/brand’s website. 

    A product that clearly shows it adheres to safety standards can be reassuring. If the appropriate safety standards are not included in any documentation that comes with the product it may be a counterfeit. For more information on appropriate safety requirements, please visit (www.tehnis.privreda.gov.rs) 
    Finally, if the product has already been opened and/or there are no instructions included, there is a chance the product is counterfeit.


  • Do not trust an online retailer just because they show the logo or original photos of a reputable brand. This does not necessarily mean they are genuine.
  • If you are asked to pay for a product via a bank transfer – do not do it. If there is a subsequent problem with the product you may not get your cash back. Alternatively, use a credit card, debit card or payment processor – like PayPal – to make the purchase as it will be easier to get your money back.


  • Ask the seller questions about the products, request extra non-generic pictures and confirm they offer an after-sales service. By contacting the seller you can also find out if the phone and email address provided are non-existent or false.
  • Contact an authorised re-seller or official representative of the brand to check if they know the seller or the suspicious online retail outlet. Be aware that some luxury brands cannot be sold via the Internet, only in physical shops through an official retail network.


    Did you do your due diligence and still get tricked? Follow these steps to claim a refund and assist Serbia defeat counterfeit products. 

    Reach out to the vendor 
    Your first move is to notify the seller that the item you received appears not to be genuine. It may be helpful to include photos. The vendor might not have known that the product was a counterfeit and may quickly refund you. 
    However, if the seller denies sending you a counterfeit and refuses a refund, or does not respond at all, escalate your complaint. If you made your purchase from a social media platform or online marketplace, you can report the third-party seller to the social media platform or online marketplace and initiate a complaint. The social media platform or online marketplace is usually obligated to investigate claims relating to the sale of counterfeit products and will suspend the vendor from the platform if it is confirmed they are selling counterfeit products. 
    Denied a refund? Remember, if you used a credit card, debit card or payment processorlike PayPal to make the purchase you can request the payment companies to secure a refund on your behalf. 



    Regardless of whether you receive a refund, if you purchased a suspected counterfeit product you should file a complaint with the Market Inspectorate (stopfalsifikati@mtt.gov.rs)
    Letting officials know about the sale of counterfeit products can help spark a broader crackdown, which will make e-commerce shopping safer for all Serbian consumers.