It is easy to spot a fake item online.
But what about the items that you might purchase for a reasonable price on Amazon, eBay or any other online retailer?
In a report released Monday by Belk Online Shopping, researchers at Harvard Business School examined how the vast majority of online shoppers who have purchased goods online fall victim to a form of fraud.
The study said more than $25 million worth of merchandise, valued at about $20 billion, was stolen from consumers in the United States every year.
The findings are part of a report that found that more than half of consumers who have shopped online in the past year say they were victimized by fraud.
“We find it very troubling,” said David Tannenbaum, president and CEO of Belk, which provides a platform for shoppers to search and buy items online.
“There are a lot of people that are using this platform to find and buy products.
But unfortunately, it’s just a form a lot more than a shopping cart.”
The report is the first comprehensive look at how online retailers have tracked the sale of counterfeit goods.
The company said that it is currently working with the Federal Trade Commission and other law enforcement agencies to address the issue.
“As consumers, we have a responsibility to protect ourselves from fraud,” Tannengbaum said.
“If you are a consumer, you want to be aware that you have your items at home safe, secure and that they will be safe and sound.”
Belk estimates that the estimated total cost of goods stolen from shoppers each year is about $2,000.
Belk says it tracks the amount of stolen merchandise sold by consumers and has identified fraudulent sellers who purchase thousands of items at a time.
According to the study, more than one-third of consumers have purchased items online using a stolen credit card.
The majority of consumers said that when they purchased an item from the online retailer, they thought they were buying for themselves.
“This is one of the reasons that consumers feel a lot less safe when they buy online,” TANNENBAUM said.
Tannenhbaum said that Belk is working with law enforcement to investigate the perpetrators of these online fraud schemes.
“It’s important to know that consumers should not buy from someone who is selling them a product that’s counterfeit,” he said.
In the study released Monday, Belk found that only 17 percent of consumers say that their personal information was stolen online, while only 5 percent said that they were asked to provide information about their personal finances.
The number of consumers with stolen personal information from online retailers has risen by more than 20 percent in the last decade, the company said.
The report also said that consumers were also more likely to report fraud when they were shopping online.
The survey asked consumers whether they would buy from a company if they knew it was selling counterfeit goods, but the most common response was “I would not,” followed by “I think I would.”
It is not clear how many people are actually buying counterfeit goods online, but Tann-eng said that the number is increasing.
He said that, based on his research, about 1 percent of retailers were suspected of selling counterfeit merchandise, while the other 95 percent were not.
TANNENGBAUM, who is also an author of the report, said that he is optimistic about the way Belk’s platform is changing consumer behavior.
“The more consumers are able to get to know their vendors, the more trust and confidence they will have in their online purchases,” he added.
The research was based on a survey conducted by Belkar that surveyed 6,000 consumers who purchased items on Amazon.com, eBay.com or other online retailers in the U.S. The researchers surveyed more than 8,000 people across the country and used a proprietary panel of more than 2,000 survey respondents.
Belkar also conducts a survey called The Best Seller Index, which is conducted on a weekly basis by a panel of retailers that includes online sellers.
The best sellers on Amazon were listed on the company’s platform.
The Better Business Bureau said in a statement that the study shows that retailers have a vital role in helping consumers feel confident when shopping online and that the data confirms that consumers can trust the products that they purchase.
The BBB said that consumer confidence is an important part of its mission.
“When consumers feel that they are buying a product from a trusted brand or an online retailer that has been vetted by an independent third-party, it helps them make more informed buying decisions,” the organization said in the statement.
“Consumers have a right to trust the quality of the products they purchase online, and we encourage them to do so.”