Billions of dollars are spent by consumers each year shopping online. But how can you tell if you are getting what you paid for?
The 2NEWS Investigators have a warning about purchases that have already cost some people millions of dollars.
U.S. Postal Inspector Lee Jones says, "There are thousands of victims and there are millions and millions of dollars in loss. This investigation has a global impact."
Jones is talking about the online sale of counterfeit prints by world-renowned artists.
The fake prints have unique numbers and forged signatures--making them look like "limited editions."
And some victims have paid up to fifty-thousand dollars for a single one.
"A consumer should look for a certificate of authenticity, from the seller. In addition they should also ask the seller for a history of where the seller obtained the print."
Postal inspectors often go undercover to crack these cases. An inspector poses as a buyer of artwork. The print is then examined in a laboratory. Once there's confirmation the art is bogus, agents move in for an arrest.
Postal inspectors rely on tips from gallery owners and art aficionados to zero in.
"I would suggest that consumers contact a legitimate art expert or contact the artists' foundation to legitimize the print. And also, I would strongly suggest the consumer ask the seller a lot of questions."
If you believe you have been a victim of a fraud, including online auctions, mailed sweepstakes or lotteries... you can file a complaint on the government website at http://POSTALINSPECTORS.USPIS.GOV
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Also in the headlines
A Chechen immigrant was shot to death by authorities while being questioned in the Boston Marathon bombing case early Wednesday after he lunged at an FBI agent with a knife, officials said.