It’s the most wonderful time of the year… especially if you’re a pirate site, eager to relieve hurried and stressed shoppers of their gift dollars!

Counterfeit goods are not a new phenomenon, but their online incarnations are recent enough to be misleading for some consumers. In particular, anyone unfamiliar with streaming services or app stores could easily be duped by some of the more carefully crafted operations out there.

This week, the Copyright Alliance released tips for online consumers concerned about the legality of products they want to buy. Among the pointers they offer are the following helpful guidelines:

  • Be wary of extreme bargains on digital content, especially if it is deeply discounted against other sources you find. 99 cent downloads of entire albums are unlikely to be legit, so quit that site and find a legal alternative!
  • Look for the following security indicators on sites you buy from, which typically help to indicate a reputable seller:
    • accepts major credit cards
    • accepts common online payment processors like PayPal
    • contains the https: prefix (and usually a lock symbol) in your browser’s address bar, which shows the data you send for any transaction is encrypted.
  • Look for spelling mistakes, unclear imagery, poor print quality, and other basic errors that can indicate counterfeit artwork or packaging.
  • Research your product on several sites before making your purchase.Make use of databases on sites like www.wheretowatch.com and www.whymusicmatters.com to find multiple legitimate sources for movies, music, and TV shows.

Keith Kupferschmid, CEO of Copyright Alliance, had this to say about the organization’s move to warn consumers about the dangers of online holiday shopping:

“Sites selling pirated and counterfeit merchandise have become savvy at portraying themselves as legitimate online retailers selling genuine products. Those who ignore this advice may find that their gifts are the type that keep on giving for all the wrong reasons.”

Whether it’s a digital gift or physical product, no one wants to receive a knock-off for Christmas.

Use these pointers and other resources from the Copyright Alliance site to make sure all the gifts you buy this holiday season are legit!