How to avoid counterfeits

(CNN) - Americans love deals on designer items - and scammers know it.

Clothing, shoes and handbags are among the most popular items for counterfeiters, so do some homework before you buy.

"Before you go ahead and jump on that deal, check out a merchant -- especially one you're unfamiliar with -- ahead of time," warned Mandy Walker of Consumer Reports. "Go online, put the merchant's name in a search engine and the words "rip-off" and "complaint" and see what other people that have dealt with them are saying."

Look for security features like a seal or sticker a real manufacturer will add that's hard to reproduce. Some major labels will offer advice on avoiding counterfeits on their company websites. Beware of low prices simply too good to be true and use a credit card for purchases, which can offer greater protection than a debit card in the event of fraud.

If you do get duped, don't try to resell the merchandise.

According to Walker, "Even if you tell somebody, this isn't a real 'whatever' handbag but it's still a great bag, you're still liable -- you could really get in trouble, you could really get prosecuted. So don't resell it."

Demand your money back regardless of the return policy and loop in your local or state consumer protection agency.