Top 10 Ways To Protect Yourself From Counterfeiting & Piracy

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Shopping in Thailand can be fun – haggling the prices, getting great deals, the aroma of open-air markets, and getting souvenirs for family and friends. But, you need to be careful. Your shopping trip can result in your goods being confiscated, heavy fines, and possibly jail.

Thailand is notorious for counterfeit goods (shirts and hand bags), pirating software, and illegal copies of movies. Customs may inspect your luggage when you return and confiscate everything.

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Here’s some quick tips on what you can do to protect yourself:

1. Scrutinize labels, packaging, and contents.

There is no foolproof way to know the difference between a bargain and a fake, but labels and packaging can be revealing indicators. Look for missing or expired “use by” dates, broken or missing safety seals, missing warranty information, or otherwise unusual packaging. For larger purchases, such as mechanical or electronic equipment, seek reputable sellers and check serial numbers with manufacturer databases. If you purchase medicine from a new vendor and it does not match the size, shape, color, taste, and side effects of your usual product, contact your pharmacist or the manufacturer to determine if it came from a legitimate source. You can also verify authenticity by comparing the manufacturer’s contact information with another product’s packaging, as addresses and phone numbers provided with counterfeit goods could be misleading.

2. Seek authorized retailers.

Companies often publish lists of authorized retailers online or in packaging materials. If you are uncertain whether a retailer acquired its products from a legitimate distributor, ask for verifiable information from the retailer about the source of the goods. Familiarize yourself with the suppliers of retail outlets and encourage your favorite stores to secure their supply chain. Trustworthy vendors work within a secure distribution network that follows steps such as those published in the U.S. Chamber’s Supply Chain Tool Kit.

3. Watch for missing sales tax charges.

Businesses trading in counterfeit goods often do not report their sales to financial authorities—a difference you may notice in the price you ultimately pay, particularly in states that collect sales taxes. If a purchase price does not appear to reflect the required sales tax or other fees, you should inquire further about the price and the source of that company’s products before buying.

4. Insist on secure transactions.

Operations dealing in counterfeit products are likely to disregard the need to transmit and store customer data in a secure fashion. Avoid making a purchase if you are uncomfortable with the security of the transaction. When doing business online, make sure your payments are submitted via Web sites beginning with https:// (the “s” stands for secure) and look for a lock symbol at the bottom of your browser. When making transactions in person, look for assurance that your credit card information does not appear on copies that can be mishandled.

5. Seek quality assurance in the secondary market.

You may wish to purchase used or discounted products from a reseller. However, the differences between reasonable packaging and content irregularities and counterfeits may be too subtle to detect. Avoid counterfeits in the secondary market by asking for details about your supplier’s quality assurance processes. Reputable and reliable resellers have comprehensive inspection and authentication procedures and technicians to inspect the equipment they sell.

6. Report questionable spam and faulty products.

Consumers can play an important role in keeping the market free of fakes by acting as a source of investigatory clues for U.S. brand owners. If you receive spam that directs you to a suspicious Web site, report the information to the brand owner and to the authorities. If you suspect you’ve purchased a counterfeit or pirated product, notify the brand owner and contact the place of purchase for an exchange or reimbursement. Report unsafe products to the Consumer Product Safety Commission by calling 800-638-2772. Many counterfeit and pirated goods are the product of complex illegal manufacturing and distributing operations. If you suspect an intellectual property crime, report it to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.

7. Be vigilant when buying abroad.

While many international businesses offer unique products that are unavailable or hard to find at home, in certain foreign markets counterfeit and pirated products are even more prevalent than in the United States. The U.S. Department of State publishes travel advisories that may alert you of known counterfeits appearing in your destination country. Be aware that U.S. Customs officials have the authority to confiscate counterfeit products upon reentry into the United States. Also, when shopping on international Web sites, look for trusted vendors that use identifiable privacy and security safeguards and have legitimate addresses.

8. Teach your kids about counterfeits.

Educate your children about the dangers of fake products regarding their safety and the livelihood of the businesses that make the products they enjoy. Teach children to shop with legal and safe retailers both in local stores and online. Watch for Internet retailers’ compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires that online businesses use additional safeguards to protect the personal information of people under 13. Finally, ask children to check with a parent before giving out personal or family information online.

9. Warn friends and family of illegitimate product sources.

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to spread information about dangerous and defective products and those who sell them. By talking about this problem, you may also learn where your friends and family have found reliable, safe, affordable, and legitimate alternatives.

10. Trust your instincts.

As always, beware of a purchase that is “too good to be true.” If you are uncomfortable with the circumstances of your purchase—such as price, venue, lack of a sales receipt or warranty information, or, most importantly, a vendor’s unwillingness to answer simple questions about the source of the products for sale—use your common sense and walk away.

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Have You Seen These Important Safety Tips For Online Shopping?

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Shopping is an activity that is necessary in our lives. Many people spend a small percentage of their day doing some type of shopping, be it for food or some other essential items. Online shopping is when a consumer purchases products or services through the Internet. Approximately 68% of online Americans say they think internet shopping saves them time.

We’ve all heard how great shopping on the Internet can be, and that you can get things far cheaper, as the shops don’t have to pay expensive overheads. At the same time, most internet users express discomfort over a key step in online shopping – sending personal or credit card information over the internet. The good news is that consumers are now taking proactive steps to protect themselves to ensure safe online shopping.

Here are a few informative tips about online shopping that I’ve learned through my experiences.

1. Before you give your payment information, check that the Internet connections you will be using are secure and that the website encrypts your card number so it can’t be read by others.

2. Always print out your order confirmation and save your receipts into a separate folder marked “receipts”, even if you lose or misplace your paper receipt you will have a back copy up should you need a refund.

3. Some con artists try to lure consumers to their fraudulent Web sites by using corporate names or Internet addresses that are very similar to those of legitimate, well-known companies.

4. ShopSafe is a consumer guide for online shoppers. All shops listed on ShopSafe have had their security, delivery, range of goods and prices checked. If you ever have any difficulty communicating with a merchant who is listed on ShopSafe, all you have to do is contact them and they will do their best to contact that merchant on your behalf.

5. Remember, before you make a purchase or a payment, read the information on the Web site regarding your right to stop payment or the company’s refund and return policies for damaged goods or faulty service.

6. Check the web site to make sure there is a privacy policy posted, and that you’re comfortable with the way your personal information is treated under that policy. Also, only provide the minimum information needed to complete a transaction, don’t divulge your Social Security number, credit card number, address, phone number or other personal information unless you’re sure the Web site is legitimate and you know why that information is needed.

7. When shopping online through a Web or online auction site, look for a feedback section on the site to review comments on the seller based on previous transactions.

8. Don’t do business with any retailer that does not provide its physical address and a contact telephone number for customers.

9. While you’re shopping online and you become dubious about a merchant, if the Web site appears to be suspicious or if the offer seems “far too good to be true,” trust your instincts. As my mother used to say “when in doubt, don’t”.

10. Contact your state’s Attorney General’s office (see “Government Agencies That Can Help”) or the Better Business Bureau and ask about the merchant’s reputation. Using the website address of the company you intend on ordering from, check their record with the Better Business Bureau. The BBB is funded by more than 375,000 business members, and the system has provided 60 million instances of service to consumers and businesses. Web sites that display a BBB On Line trademark, indicates the retailer meets high standards for good online business practices.

11. Search for trustworthy businesses using keywords that are part of the business name or that describe the products or services they offer this will ensure that they are legitimately selling the product or services they are advertising.

12. If you should receive an email claiming problems with your order or account, and asking for your personal financial information, do not ever respond to them, legitimate businesses will never send this type of email to you.

If people’s worries about security of personal information were eased, the pool of online shoppers would be greater. It is so easy to compare prices, there are no queues and plenty of parking spaces online. One important piece of information about shopping online and paying online from home—it can be safe and easy, but before you begin to shop online, you’ve got to do your homework, don’t be fooled and entrust your personal and financial information to just any Web site.

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What Smart Shoppers Know About Telephone, Mail Order, and Internet Sales

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Do you shop in your underwear? If not you’re truly missing out.

We can help you get started:

Buying without visiting the mall

Buying by telephone and mail is a convenient way of shopping for most consumers. As more people have access to a computer, and as more companies sell their products and services online, the Internet is also becoming a convenient way of shopping for most people.

Consumers face more choices than ever before, not only when selecting merchandise, but in determining whether to shop through the mail, via the Internet, over the phone, at their local store, or the new mall outside of town. The following tips are what smart shoppers should know about purchasing merchandise through the mail, by telephone, or via the Internet.

Shop carefully before buying

First, do some comparison shopping. If the product you want is available locally, how does the local price compare with the telephone or Internet price? (Remember to add the price of handling and delivery for orders that are shipped.) Also consider the advantage of receiving the product right away from a local merchant, and of having the merchant nearby if problems develop. (But also remember the cost and time involved in getting to and from the mall.)

Watch out for offers that seem unbelievably cheap. The merchandise will most likely be of poor quality, or you may never receive it.

Most retail sellers allow a customer to return purchased merchandise within a reasonable time for a full cash refund, store credit, or an equal exchange. Find out the seller’s return policy. Many sellers have a very limited return policy. Some do not allow returns. Can you return the item if the item is too large, or the color is not exactly right? Who pays for return postage? If the seller does not allow returns for full cash refunds, store credit or equal exchanges for at least seven days, the seller’s refund policy must be conspicuously posted.

Find out if the quality and performance of the merchandise are guaranteed. Is there a warranty? If so, check the terms of the warranty. Are repair parts available? Can the item be repaired locally if it needs repair? Who pays for shipping if it needs to be returned to the seller for repair? How long will it take the seller to repair the product and return it to you?

Ask the seller for a more detailed description of the merchandise, and ask for a copy of the warranty, if one is offered, if you have any doubts about either.

Find out how long it will take the business to ship your order. If the business does not state a delivery time, the maximum time you must wait for shipment is 30 days, according to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rule, and a similar rule in effect in California. If the business does not ship the item within the proper time frame, it must notify you of the delay and give you the opportunity and a cost-free method to cancel the order and receive a refund.

It is safest to order from reputable merchants who are known to you, your family, or trusted friends. If you have not done business with the merchant before, and the purchase is especially large or important to you, check the business’ reputation. If you have any doubt, call a local consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau to find out if they have received any complaints about the company. However, if the Better Business Bureau has not received complaints about a business, which does not necessarily, mean there have not been any complaints. Unless you already know the company by its reputation, it is best not to start out with a big order. Instead, find out how the business handles one that is smaller or less important to you.

If you decide to order

Your name, address, and product information (e.g. stock number, color, size) must be communicated clearly. If you want the item sent to someone else as a gift, it is especially important to give the correct name and address of the person you are sending it to. Most sellers also ask you to provide a means of quick and inexpensive communication, such as a telephone number or e-mail address. Since doing this will involve giving up some of your privacy, give it some thought before you do so.

Keep a copy of your order form and any letters you send to the business. If you order by telephone, make a note of the date, time, type of payment, and confirmation number. If you order over the Internet, print out a copy of your order. If the transaction does not pan out, this information may be of help.

Never send cash. Pay by check, money order, or credit card so that you have a record of payment. If you do not know the company or its reputation for integrity and competency, it is best to pay only by credit card, since you ordinarily can cancel the payment if the promised merchandise is not delivered.

Examine the merchandise immediately when you receive it. Make sure it is what you wanted and ordered. If it is not, telephone or e-mail the business right away. All reputable mail, telephone, and Internet sellers maintain an easy-to-use method of returning such merchandise and either returning your payment or sending the merchandise you ordered. If things do not seem to be going right, notify the business in writing and keep a copy of your letter. Return any merchandise promptly for a refund or exchange.

Before buying over the Internet

Internet shopping can be as safe and advantageous for consumers as shopping by telephone or mail. You have many more options, including purchase of air transportation, music, books, and almost anything else, but there are also some risks, which you can reduce by acting carefully and cautiously.

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Why Not Replace the Incandescent with Cfl’s?

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The entire world is facing the crisis of energy. Whenever the light goes off we blame the electricity department and the government for poor supply. But we never think or want to think that what lies behind the problems. The electrical energy we consume is mostly produced from the non-renewable sources of energy, such as coal and natural gas. The energy produced by the generators and converters use petroleum products to run. All these raw materials are non-renewable and would exhaust one day. Without imaging the fate of that day, we keep using the energy extravagantly and mercilessly.

How could you help?

You will be thinking that how you could help resolve the energy crisis?

You can.

You can do it just by replacing your incandescent bulbs with the CFL bulbs in the home, office and at every place. The average incandescent bulb emits 12-15 lumens per watt while a compact fluorescent bulb emit 60 lumens per watt, a 4 to 5 times better output. Well other appliances like refrigerators and electric irons also consume significant amount of energy but it is the lighting that uses 25 percent of a homeowner’s electricity consumption.

Wastage of energy

The traditional bulbs convert only 5% of the energy into light while the rest of energy is wasted in the form of heat and radiation. Maximum amount of energy isn’t utilized. Then why we are using these bulbs. Apart from that these bulbs add to the emission of green house gas, which is a serious threat to our environment. Compact Flurescent Bulbs use 66% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb. By replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 32-watt CFL you can save upto $30 in energy costs over the life of a bulb. These bulbs give the same amount of light as a standard bulb, but have lower wattage. Having less wattage means that they use less energy and create less pollution.

Advantages of CFL bulbs over Incandescent bulbs

CFL bulbs consumes only one-third of the electricity used by the incandescent bulbs. By replacing only a few bulbs you can save more from your monthly electricity bill. The average lifetime of a CFL bulb is up to ten times longer than regular incandescent bulbs. It makes them convenient as well as cost effective.

Apart from its energy and money efficiency, CFL bulbs are considered much better for the environment. One CFL can check more than 450 pounds of emissions from a power plant over its lifetime. CFL bulbs produce about 75% less heat for added comfort and lower cooling costs.

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