BBB urges caution when purchasing used cell phones; recent investigations recover counterfeit products
LAFAYETTE, LA — Technology is here to stay with consumers who can’t wait to buy the latest and the greatest new cellphone. Will you be one of the first in line to snap up the new Apple iPhone 5C or 5S? Or will you be looking for bargains on the older yet still popular devices?
Although the new iPhone 5C will cost $99 to $199 on a two-year plan and the snazzy 5S up to $399 on a two-year plan, smartphones not on a plan can cost up to $700 or more.
Suddenly, the used cellphone market looks especially attractive to those wanting to save money. Used cellphones are widely available online and at some local businesses.
The Better Business Bureau of Acadiana is warning consumers to be especially careful when purchasing used cellphones or brand insignia accessories. If you are trying to sell your old iPhone or acquire a used one, do your research before jumping at what seems like a great deal. It may not be.
Recently an Acadiana resident and business owner pleaded guilty to trafficking counterfeit Apple products, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Investigators told U.S. Homeland Security investigators that iphonelafayette.com was selling counterfeit iPhone merchandise; the store was located on Kaliste Saloom Road in Lafayette.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office worked with a private investigator working for Apple, an industry representative who specialized in trademark and copyright infringement investigations. The investigator purchased several covers displaying the brand insignia for Louis Vuitton, Coach, Otter Box, and Apple for $100; the cases purchased were counterfeit.
Additionally, an undercover Louisiana State Police trooper purchased an Apple iPhone sleeve and Luis Vuitton case from the store, which were also determined to be counterfeit. Authorities searched the business and discovered numerous counterfeit items, including Louis Vuitton iPhone cases, Coach iPhone cases, OtterBox iPhone cases and Apple iPhone cases.
The business owner faces up to 10 years in prison, a $2 million fine and three years of supervised release for trafficking in counterfeit goods or services.
The Better Business Bureau warns if you’re buying a cellphone from an individual, make sure the phone has not been reported lost or stolen. You can do this by asking for the phone’s unique identification or serial number and checking it at free online services.
By doing this, you’ll also learn if the phone is blocked due to an unpaid bill. Refurbished phones sold by the carrier or reseller, however, should already have been vetted to ensure they’re clear.
Before making the purchase, check the phone from all angles for potential damage, make sure the screen is unbroken and works, check all physical buttons and look for discoloration near the charging port and battery, which could indicate water damage.
BBB also advises:
- If you’re purchasing or selling a phone from an online reseller, check out the company’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org. You’ll see its rating, possibly customer reviews and if there is a pattern of complaints.
- If you’re going through an online auction site to purchase a phone, check the seller’s history and rating. Pass if the seller has a low score.
- If you’re buying a phone via an online classified ad, insist on making the transaction in person to ensure there is indeed a phone and that it’s in acceptable condition
Pay using a credit card. If you pay by cash or check and the company closes, you will not likely be able to recover those funds. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act and certain credit card companies’ rules, consumers whose merchandise was undelivered can usually get a refund on their credit card.