One of the busiest online shopping days of the year is the Monday after Thanksgiving, known as Cyber Monday. As consumers gear up their holiday shopping online, BBB is warning to beware of a copycat website using the name of a real greeting card store in California, but a fictitious address in Dallas, to sell counterfeit goods. Customer complaints about Bobbi’s Hallmark Shop at www.bobbishallmark.us allege non-delivery or poor quality of headphones and other electronics, failure to fulfill promised adjustments, and failure to respond to requests for information or assistance.
According to the Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 56 percent of consumers plan to shop online, up from 51.5 percent last year and the most in the survey’s 13-year history. The average person plans to do 44.4 percent of their shopping online, the most since NRF first asked in 2006.
“With more and more consumers doing their holiday shopping online, scammers are taking aim,” said Jeannette Kopko, spokesperson for BBB Serving Dallas and Northeast Texas. “BBB advises to beware of offers for popular gift items that seem too good to be true, and check out the seller with BBB and an Internet search.”
Since the first complaint on Bobbi’s Hallmark Shop in Dallas was received in January, 2014, the site has been the subject of 11 complaints from the U.S. as well as Canada, France, England, and Australia. In one case, a customer received the merchandise after filing the complaint. However, 7 of the other 10 complaints are unanswered, and 3 were closed as unpursuable. Bobbi’s Hallmark Shop in Dallas has a BBB rating of “F”, the lowest rating, due to the unanswered complaints.
A man in France complained: “I made an order to Bobbi’s Hallmark Shop … I receive nothing. I wrote them several times and I only had one answer that my item was shipping out … No order [received] but they have my money!”
Another customer from Connecticut said: “I ordered Samsung LAN adapter for $69.99 and did not receive it. They do not answer emails and their phone … This place supposedly is in Dallas, Texas. When I searched the name it also is a card store in California with the same logo.”
A man in Michigan reported: “[The product] is fake per the manufacturer.” He says the manufacturer informed him that the product does not have a valid serial number for the brand.
BBB Dallas learned that the website bobbishallmark.us is using the same name as an actual greeting card store, Bobbi’s Hallmark, in Bakersfield, CA. The California store has posted a disclaimer on its site stating: “We currently do not sell merchandise on our website and we are NOT affiliated with www.bobbishallmark.us.”
Initially, the bobbishallmark.us site used a Dallas address which happened to be the real address of a resident, who reported to BBB that the site was using his home address as its own. Then the site changed the address slightly by simply adding a digit. Dallas BBB determined the new address is fictitious – there is no such block on that street. While searching for the actual location of the business, BBB determined that the website is registered in China and may not have any actual U.S.-based operations.
Notably, a Canadian customer of Bobbi’s Hallmark in Dallas, who never received his merchandise, said he checked with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and learned the site is selling counterfeit merchandise. BBB Dallas has confirmed the report with RCMP.
Tips for consumers:
• Beware offers that seem too good to be true. The goods might be counterfeit or “grey” merchandise, versions of name-brand goods made for sale in other countries which don’t have warranties honored in the U.S.
• Look over the details on the site. Danger signs could include incorrect spelling or poor grammar; no address or phone listed; and a business name that’s the same or almost identical to another business.
• Avoid look-alike websites posing as well-known brands. Don’t fall for look-like sites using slightly different URLs. Go to the genuine site by typing the brand’s URL directly into your browser.
• See if the manufacturer has posted an alert. Navigate to the manufacturer’s website and look for any consumer alerts about fake websites or counterfeit goods sold under that manufacturer’s name.
• Check out the business. While you’re online looking at the merchant’s site, go to bbb.org and see if there is a BBB Business Review about the site. If so, the BBB Business Review may give details of complaints. You can also do an Internet search on the business name plus words like reviews or complaints to see what turns up.
• Pay securely. The payment page should be secure, designated by an “s” after “http” in the URL, as in “https”. If you pay with a credit card, you can dispute the charge if needed.
• Don’t buy obvious counterfeits. You may spend less, but quality often suffers as a result. Counterfeit transactions are illegal, and they are harmful for brand owners and the marketplace.
• Be cautious of “knock-offs” that look a lot like name brands. Knock-offs may look like the genuine product, with a different brand name. Such products may also have poor quality, and often test the limits of legality.
• If you find that you have bought a counterfeit, report it. Most brands have contact information online.
About BBB -- For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2013, people turned to BBB more than 132 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 112 local, independent BBBs across North America, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. BBB Serving Dallas and Northeast Texas was founded in 1920 and serves 13 counties in Northeast Texas.