Fake fancy dress: How to spot the real deal and avoid the dangers of counterfeit goods

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Police have warned parents to be on their guard when shopping for World Book Day costumes this year.

They say buying fake fancy dress not only poses serious safety risks for your children, but also put you at greater risk of becoming the victim of identify theft.

Read more: Police warning as thousands of counterfeits found at West Yorkshire eBay trader's home

Here are eight top tips from police for steering clear of counterfeit goods:

1. Trust your instincts – if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Legitimate items are rarely discounted, so do not rush and be fooled into believing you are getting a good deal. Fake costumes can retail for as little at £5.99 on auction sites.

2. Check the spelling and grammar on the website and of the URL as often the people behind these sites will try to deceive you by slightly changing the spelling of a well-known brand or shop in the website address.

3. Look to see where the trader is based and whether they provide a postal address – just because the web address has ‘UK’ do not assume the seller is based in the UK. If there is no address supplied or there is just a PO Box or email, be wary.

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4. Only deal with reputable sellers and only use sites you know or ones that have been recommended to you. If you have not bought from the seller before, do your research and check online reviews. People will often turn to forums and blogs to warn others of fake sites.

5. Ensure the website address begins ‘https’ at the payment stage – this indicates a secure payment and also check that the website URL is correct and accurate for the site you wish to visit.

6. Keep security software and firewalls up-to-date.

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7. Ask the trader if there is a returns policy or guarantee. Most rogue traders will not offer this.

8. Watch out for pop-ups appearing asking you to confirm your card details before you are on the payment stage. Never enter your PIN online.

If you believe you have fallen victim to fraud by purchasing counterfeit goods, report to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.