BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's hard to pass up a good bargain. But authorities warn shoppers need to be extra cautious this holiday season.
The malls are packed with people eager to find the best deals on this season's hottest trends. Electronics, toys, and designer purses are always a hit. The prices can get competitive.
U.S. Homeland Security Investigator, Special Agent Alan Prejean, warned counterfeit operations are also hard at work.
"You see this typically with your mom and pop stores, your nail salons, sometimes these purse parties people have you'll see it," Prejean said.
U.S. Customs and Enforcement agents have busted several counterfeit operations in the Baton Rouge area in recent years. Prejean said knock off purses and sunglasses are hot items. He said to make sure you don't fall prey, pay attention to the location, quality, and the price.
"If you're buying something you know might cost $350 when you're paying $60 for it, that's a red flag. It's probably fake."
But things can get tricky when you shop the Internet. Prejean said social media sites like Facebook are flooded with advertisements and links to online stores that may not be legit.
"Oakleys or some other item for sale at 75% off, and when you look a little deeper these people are probably located in a foreign country."
If you do shop online, Prejean said it's best to pay with a credit card through a secure site like Paypal so that the transaction can be traced. Agents realize some people know they're buying a bogus bag but what they may not realize is that some of the profits fund criminal activity.
"We see people that are selling counterfeit merchandise also involved in narcotics. There have been some ties to possibly some terror activity in the past."
For that reason alone Prejean said consumers you should be extra careful about where they do business.
ICE agents added, if you get in a bind over a product you bought from an overseas retailer there is very little they can do to help.