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Voice of the consumer: Counterfeit websites hawking scarce cleaning supplies

Jenna Middaugh
Jenna Middaugh(KKTV)
Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 6:58 AM MST
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Our 11 News Call For Action team pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - As coronavirus cases continue to skyrocket in Colorado and across the country, scammers are looking for any chance to take advantage.

If you’ve gone to the grocery store recently, you’ve probably noticed things like toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies flying off the shelves again. The same thing is happening in stores around the U.S. That has forced many people to turn to online shopping to order these hard-to-find items. But beware: sometimes, those websites are fake.

The Federal Trade Commission said it recently filed a complaint against 25 counterfeit websites that used real images and logos of Clorox and Lysol products all in an effort to make people think they were buying real cleaning products from the companies’ official websites. Many of the websites named in the complaint contained words like “Clorox,” “Lysol” and “clean” in the web address.

The fake websites took people’s money but then never delivered the cleaning products. The FTC said in some cases, people reported that when they tried to return to the fake website to ask for a refund, the website was gone.

In the complaint, the FTC said none of the websites are owned by, affiliated with or authorized by the companies that make Clorox and Lysol products. The FTC said it is doing what it can to shut down the websites, stop the fraudsters from setting up future sites and educate everyone to know what to look out for.

“The FTC is working hard to stop fraudsters who try to scam people with false promises of scarce cleaning supplies during the pandemic,” said Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith. “If a seller seems to have items that are out of stock everywhere else, do an online search for complaints about the seller or website before you buy.”

The FTC also recommends paying by credit card when you shop online. You get protections under federal law that way, so you don’t have to pay for items you ordered but never received. Before buying something online, you should also look at the terms of sale. Find out when you can expect the delivery, whether you can get a refund if you need to return the item, who pays for return shipping and whether there’s a restocking fee.

If you come across a scam like this, or any other scam, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

You can also report scams, fraud and price gouging to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. The consumer hotline number is 800-222-4444.

I also wanted to remind you about our new segment on KKTV 11 News. Tune in to 11 News at Noon on Fridays to watch our ‘Fraud Friday’ segment with AARP ElderWatch. We will talk with the experts from AARP about what scams they are hearing about and how you can protect yourself. This segment will air on 11 News every Friday through the end of the year.

Click here to read the original column on gazette.com.

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