Tips for Avoiding Pirated and Counterfeit Goods this Season

It’s that time of year, again! Soon, stockings will be hung by the chimney (with care, of course), dreidels will be spinning, and the sweet smell of cookies and hot cocoa will fill many a home. The holiday season is upon us!

Whether you’re an avid cyber-shopper, or prefer the nostalgia of a Hunger Games-style battle for that last gadget on the shelf, we’ve put together a list of tips to help shoppers avoid buying pirated and counterfeit goods this holiday season.

1.      Beware of “Fully Loaded” Kodi Boxes

Kodi is an open source media player application that is itself legal. But what about those “fully loaded” boxes? What are they loaded with? According to Kodi, they’re loaded with “impossibly cheap subscriptions to improbably large selections of Movies, TV shows, Live Sports, etc. [that] are not affiliated with the Kodi project.” These “criminal boxes” as Kodi puts it, are the work of “criminals who profit from piracy.” And while these devices promise users unlimited free content, as the old adage goes, nothing in life is free. So what’s the cost? Earlier this year, it was estimated that 200 million video players and streamers, including Kodi boxes and similar devices, contain software vulnerable to malware attacks to enable hacking.

2.      If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… it’s probably illegitimate a duck

There a few telltale signs that a website is illegitimate. For example, these sites may be riddled with spelling or grammatical errors, and broken links, and often fail to list contact information. Always check to make sure that webpages asking for personal information or payment information are “secure,” which is indicated by a padlock symbol on the left side of the address bar. According to a report from the Digital Citizens Alliance, shoppers visiting illegitimate sites make their digital devices more vulnerable to malware that can result in identity theft.

3.      Avoid buying “mainstream” goods at flea markets

While flea markets can provide great avenues for creators and artisans wishing to market their goods, you should avoid buying new, mainstream products at flea markets. Chances are, if you spot a “new” luxury handbag, or discounted versions of the same products you’d find in the mall, they’re probably illegal knockoffs. Sellers of pirated and counterfeit products gravitate toward temporary venues where they can quickly sell and disappear before being detected. And besides the fact that these counterfeits are generally of lesser quality, it’s just plain uncool to buy fakes.

4.      Be careful when purchasing vinyl albums and “best of” collections

With the increasing popularity of vinyl albums, pirate sellers like to lure music fans in by offering albums in vinyl that were never actually released in vinyl. I ran into this issue a couple of years ago when I wanted to buy Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange album on vinyl (yes, I’m that millennial who owns a record player & listens to LPs). But a little digging revealed that the album was never released in that format and the seller listed it as an “unofficial” version. Similarly, pirate sellers find it profitable to sell “Best of” collections of popular artists that aren’t available in stores.  This problem is not unique to music.  Fake, pirate compilations of movies and software present similar issues for consumers.

5.      A price that’s “too good to be true” is a red flag

Again, if it walks like a duck… it probably is. Be wary of extreme bargains on software, movies, music, etc. Popular releases or box set collections available at prices far below other retail prices = a major red flag. Your gut can be a really great tool for detecting counterfeit goods.

6.      Play it safe and stick with what you know

Avoid buying illegal products by sticking to the reputable brick-and-mortar and online retail stores that you know and love. If you come across a new retailer that raises a red flag, be sure to carefully research whether it’s legitimate before spending your hard-earned cash there.

And with that, the Copyright Alliance wishes you happy holidays, filled with good food, lots of love, and [legitimate] gifts to share!

Photo Credit: karandaev/iStock/thinkstock

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