BUYER BEWARE: Knock-offs also target off-brand suppliers - KMSP-TV

BUYER BEWARE: Knock-offs also target off-brand suppliers

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A Twin Cities man is still recovering after an off-brand cell phone charger left him with a severe electrical burn, but agencies are now warning that counterfeit products can look an awful lot like legitimate ones.

On Monday night, Fox 9 News reported a warning from a 28-year-old man who was severely injured after he tried to save a few bucks by buying additional power adapters for his iPhone 5 on eBay. Unfortunately, the devices he bought on the cheap ended up costing him the use of his hand after the burn became infected, requiring three surgeries so far.

MORE: Charger leaves man with electrical burn, infection

Although those types of accidents are rare, many retailers and manufacturers -- including Apple -- are taking steps to get knock offs knocked out of the market and are warning customers that off-brand accessories can be much more than unreliable -- they can be dangerous.

Yet, the Internet is brimming with below-average prices luring shoppers away from name-brand accessories, but Underwriters Laboratories, which creates and tests voluntarily safety standards, warns that the lower costs can only come from cuts to materials and labor.

"Manufacturers of counterfeit products very often will skimp on the wire, and therefore, it can't handle the amount of electricity and could cause a problem," John Drengenberg, consumer safety director at UL, explained.

According to Drengenberg, UL has even seized a number of counterfeit chargers that bear bogus UL labels.

"Counterfeiters do a very good job of making it look exactly like the real item," he warned.

Drengenberg recommends checking labels too, because counterfeit items that are rushed to market often contain grammar and spelling errors; however, he says the biggest way to tell if a product is reputable is price because if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is -- and if there's no brand name at all, it could be because no one wants any hassle coming back to them.

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