Protecting from online sales of counterfeit prints

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by WCNC.com Staff

WCNC.com

Posted on November 23, 2012 at 7:42 AM

It’s no secret that we love to shop online. We’re spending billions of dollars each year doing it and that includes purchasing what we assume to be one of a kind, unique items.

You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy beautiful art, but what may look appealing to the eye, could be junk.

Lee Jones, a U.S. Postal Inspector, knows the pitfalls all too well.

“There are thousands of victims and there are millions and millions of dollars in loss. This investigation has a global impact”, said Jones.

He is talking about the online sales of counterfeit prints by world-renowned artist including Mark Chagall, Salavardor Dali and Pablo Picasso.

The fake prints have unique numbers and forged signatures, making them look like ‘limited editions.’  Some victims have paid up to $55,000 for a single one.

Jones said, “A consumer should look for a certificate of authenticity, from the seller. In addition they should also ask the seller for a history of where the seller obtained the print.”
 
Postal inspectors often go undercover to crack these cases. An inspector poses as a buyer of counterfeit artwork.  The print is then examined in a laboratory. Once there’s confirmation the art is bogus, agents move in for an arrest.

Postal inspectors rely on tips from gallery owners and art aficionados to zero in on scams.

Jones has a recommendation, “I would suggest that consumers contact a legitimate art expert or contact the artists’ foundation to legitimize the print. And also, I would strongly suggest the consumer ask the seller a lot of questions.”

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, including online auctions, mailed sweepstakes or lotteries, you can file a complaint on the government website at postalinspectors.uspis.gov

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