Internet haven for fake designer products
HOUSTON Shopping on the Internet is a great way to score deals but don't believe everything you see! One site, called outletscentre.com advertised real, not fake, designer shoes. The shoes are called Christian Louboutin -- the ones with the red bottoms. Prices in the boutiques are staggering! We're talking up to a thousand dollars a pair. "If I had $1,500, sure, I would buy them but since I don't, I can't do it," shopper Dionna Norris said. So when this site said it was selling the high-end Parisian designer shoes for less than $200 a pair, it's not surprising shoppers jumped at the deal. "I would love to have one though for a lower price," shopper Kasey Cruz said. The problem is when the shoes arrived, they weren't from France, they were clearly from China and looked fake. "The sole itself is a rubber sole where Christian Loubouton actually uses a red leather sole," Houston Shoe Hospital's Davone Pigott said. The Houston Shoe Hospital gets in between 50 and 60 pairs of the real Christian Louboutins every week, so they know the difference. Our expert says the red sole on the fake does not have the shiny thick coating like the real Louboutins that keep the red from rubbing off. Also, the word "Paris" on the fake pair it was too big. The other telltale sign is the craftsmanship. "And you see the thick stitches and this thick, unedged, untrimmed -- seems like someone took some scissors and really just cut it, uh, cut it with a knife or something," Pigott said. So what appeared to be a good deal online actually wasn't, so what should bargain shoppers be aware of when they are shopping online? "It's all over the web and it's becoming a big problem," said Monica Russo with the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau checked the site outletscentre.com and there were some real red flags. First and foremost are the misspellings and grammatical errors. Another sign this could be a shady site is the vague contact information. "There is no physical address listed there, it's really just an email," Russo said. The BBB says the best way to determine if a website is legitimate is to check the domain name. You can do that by logging onto a site called "whodatis.com." We ran a check on "outletscentre.com." "It's actually registered to a registrant in China and that's a big problem because China is the king of counterfeit luxury goods," Russo said. If you did order something from a company you now suspect, you probably won't get your money back. But you can always dispute the charge with your credit card company, since you may have been misled by false advertising. Worst case, you think your card may have been compromised, you might have to close the account. "But in all of these cases these outfits are hard to track, they are in another country, they don't have a storefront and they are hard to find," Russo said. Bottom line is as more shoppers are looking for better deals, scam artists are looking for you. "I like real stuff, I wouldn't want the risk of paying for something and then it turns out to be fake," Cruz said. If you do buy something from a site you now suspect, you should report it to the federal trade commission and your local Better Business Bureau.