Hunting for a deal may get you more or less than you bargained for

Tori Floyd

With the popularity of extreme couponing booming and the prices of gas and food rising, one thing is clear.

Canadians want to save a buck.

But in the effort to save money, consumers may be putting their finances and their well-being at risk by going for bargains that seem too good to be true.

Scams are popping up all across Canada every day, and it seems like the problem is getting worse. One of the areas this is most rampant is in the buying and selling of counterfeit goods.

The RCMP investigated 1,500 cases of counterfeiting between 2003 and 2008, managing to seize $64 million in fake products.

In Mississauga, Ont., there's a big problem with fake goods coming from a local flea market. Everything from DVDs to makeup to winter wear is being knocked off, and customers are buying into it.

"People want a deal. They want it cheap," says RCMP Insp. Todd Gilmore in a Mississauga News story. "There isn't any regard for quality or safety. Who knows what is in it?"

People should wonder because some of the contents that Gilmore's team and private counterfeit-prevention companies are finding can be downright terrifying.

When high-end winter coat maker Canada Goose set out to find knock-offs of its products, it found the filling in some of the fake coats was stuffed with feather mulch, which can contain mould and feces.

In another incident, a woman purchased counterfeit MAC cosmetics and had to be taken to the hospital because of a severe reaction to the ingredients it contained. Since that incident, MAC has issued a statement warning customers to only purchase their products from official retailers.

Rampant fraud isn't limited to goods, either. In Winnipeg, a 23-year-old man was recently arrested for putting up ads to rent out two properties he didn't actually own.

No matter what the crime may be, the RCMP warns people should be on the lookout for a couple of red flags.

Think about the price

If the price seems unreasonably low, you're almost guaranteed not to be getting a quality product. Whether it's makeup or an apartment, you have to pay a reasonable price in order to get something of reasonable quality in return.

Check the quality

Look at the product you're going to be getting. If the person selling it can't show it to you before they deliver, or if you notice defects in a product, you aren't getting your money's worth.

Don't give out personal details

This is more relevant for online scams. If you're asked to give credit card information or your SIN card number, the person on the other end isn't really going to give you what they say they will. You'll likely just end up with a whole history of credit card fraud.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

Anything that sounds like a truly amazing deal will almost always have a catch. Consumers should be wary of anything too appealing.

If you suspect you've been a victim of fraud, you can visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website for more information and to learn how to report fraud.

(Reuters Photo)