The Internet offers a tremendous opportunity to purchase brand name and designer goods at discounted prices worldwide, both retail and wholesale. However, fakes, scams and illegitimate dealers abound. Indeed, from our own estimates, fake and non-existent goods make up a good half of what is advertised for sale on the Internet; about ten percent are honest ads offered by reputable dealers, much of the rest are the same goods being offered over and over by traders who do not actually own them but just copied someone else's ads and are waiting for a buyer, acting as middlemen.
Tips to buy brand name fashion goods safely:
1) Know your source. Look at the website's "About Us" or "Contact US" section, is it clearly stated what the business name is? Who the owner is, with name and last name? Where the business is located? Phone numbers? If the answer is no, stay clear of that website. Legitimate dealers have all the interest to make their business information available to customers. If detailed business information is unclear or not available, that is the first sign of a shady outfit.
2) "Replicas" are fakes. A few of the top fashion brands are only sold through brand-owned stores worldwide. Among these are Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chanel. There is no way to buy authentic goods of these brands anywhere except at their stores or on their official websites, period. If you see these brands advertised by independent dealers, you know that you will be buying fakes. By the way, some dealers advertise fakes as "replicas". Let's get one thing clear: there are no ok replicas to trade; replicas are fakes and as such, whoever engages in manufacturing, trading, selling and buying them is subject to criminal charges in most countries.
3) Ask for references. If you are buying retail, call the business so you will get a feeling for who is behind it. If you are buying wholesale and cannot visit to see the goods yourself, ask for references. That is, ask for the contact information of clients of that business. You can then contact these clients to find out if their business experience with the dealer in question was good. Again, legitimate dealers will be happy and proud to offer references, those who refuse to provide them or don't have any, most likely have something to hide.
4) Go see it. When buying wholesale or discounted designer goods in quantity ask to inspect the goods, always. A reputable dealer will welcome an inspection BEFORE payment. Again, those who refuse an inspection or ask for a deposit to allow inspection either don't own the goods advertised (they just copied someone else's ad) or worse.
5) Beware of prices too good to be true, they usually are. As demand is strong worldwide, luxury brand name fashion goods sell very well at full price in retail stores, therefore there is little need to discount them heavily. Consider that the most discount for current season goods is 25-30% below retail. For end of season 50% for previous season 50-60%. Beware of higher discounts than these, most likely the goods are fake or non-existent.
6) Beware of hard to find brand name goods offered in plenty and discounted. In the brand name fashion business, most bargains come from end of season or previous season goods as leftovers cleaned up from retail stores. Therefore the resulting stock is usually quite varied. (For example one bag of style A in black will be offered, two bags of style B in brown colour etc.) If you see homogenous lots of goods offered, be very suspicious, most likely the goods are fake or non-existent. For example if you see 25 bags of a certain brand all of the same style and same colour it could be a sign that something is wrong.
7) Do your own background checks. To see who owns a certain website just go to www.whois.org and type the website address, the registrant name and address will appear. This will give you a clue about who you are dealing with.
If you are a business you may want to also check professional business directories such as Dun and Bradstreet (www.dnb.com) where most legitimate businesses are listed. Also you can type the site name or business name in a search engine and see how many results or customer reviews there are, this is another good clue.
8) Beware of "paperwork" and samples. In our activity as fashion brokers we deal daily with orders made directly to the brand houses. In our experience of many years, the only type of "paperwork" we came across are the purchase invoices from the brand house to the retailer. There is no other kind of paperwork, period.
Some brands, besides tags include an authenticity certificate, usually a credit card-sized card with a hologram sticker. Again, only some brands use them.
Remember that invoices, labels and other papers (holograms included) can be easily faked by anyone with a computer. In other words "paperwork" is easy to "provide". So the bottom line is: go see the goods for yourself whenever you can.
The same applies to samples. Anyone can go to the offical vendor down the street, buy a genuine sample and send it to you. But how will you know that the rest of the lot is also genuine?
9) Beware of perfect photographs, they may be stolen from the official brand websites and catalogs to back non-existent merchandise. In fact most smaller discount dealers cannot afford a professional photo studio to take photos of their goods. A home made-looking photo in these cases is more of a guarantee than a sleek one.
10) Beware of anonymous customer testimonials. Many illegitimate dealers and fraudulent sites try to win your confidence by including plenty of customer testimonials in their pages. Take a close look at them, are a name and last name stated for each testimonial? If the testimonial is a business there should be also the full business name, city, country. A great but anonymous testimonial by "Sandy P. from Dallas" is worthless and probably made up.
11) Be assisted by a reputable fashion broker. Especially if you are purchasing to resell or purchasing abroad, use the services of a local fashion broker.
A good broker will save you a lot of trouble and will cost you very little as normally they are paid a flat yearly fee by the sellers. A good broker will have several reliable and tested sources for authentic brand name goods and can check very quickly if a new source is legitimate or not.
12) If you think you are the victim of Internet fraud or scam, report your case to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, an FBI - NW3C partnership who will try to settle your issue and prosecute any proven scam as well as help to prevent future ones.