If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably fake.

That's the advice of Cumbria Trading Standards Service, which says there are four key indicators of counterfeit goods and they're warning sales shoppers to be savvy about their spending.

While cheap prices are attractive, it's the first sign of a fake and potentially dangerous product.

Trading Standards manager John Greenbank says: “Cumbria Trading Standards advice is simple. Remember the four Ps of Christmas shopping."

Four Ps of Christmas shopping:

1. Price - If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

2. Product – Research the product and read reviews. How much should it cost? What are its features?

3. Place – Where was it advertised? Are you buying from a reputable trader or from an unfamiliar website or social media page?

4. Packaging – Does the packaging look professional? Is the product labelled correctly?

As well as price the other tell-tale signs of a counterfeit product are the place it was purchased, its packaging and the product itself.

Trading standards says cheap prices may be attractive but the real question is are they safe?

"The counterfeiters want to save money by cutting corners in the products they sell," said a spokeswoman.

"Counterfeit goods are poorly made and have not undergone strict safety tests required by law.

"This can result in dangerous products being sold to you."

In recent years there has been a move towards the selling of counterfeit products on social media, and ahead of Christmas the most common phonies were must-have children's toys.

Across the country officers have been discovering counterfeit toys including the must-have LOL Surprise Dolls, Fingerlings and Lego mini figures.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is urging shoppers to be wary of turning to "suspect" online sellers offering next-day delivery on toys that are out of stock elsewhere, warning that they may not actually exist.

It is urging shoppers to look for the CE safety mark on toys or their packaging, and is calling for this to be clearly included in the information on websites selling toys.

Simon Blackburn, chairman of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "Christmas can be a great time for bargains but it can also be a magnet for dodgy traders and criminals who won't think twice about making easy money from selling dangerous toys to unsuspecting shoppers.

"Faulty electrical toys can lead to fires or electrocution, inferior materials can break and cause injuries, while toxic levels of ingredients can cause burns, illness and even prove fatal.

"As well as looking out for grammar and spelling errors on packaging - tell-tale signs of counterfeit goods - people need to resist cheap offers that look too good to be true, particularly if certain toys are sold out in well-known retailers, as this could be a sign that they are fake, unsafe and poor quality or simply don't exist.

"Selling illegal, fake toys is a crime and ruins the reputation of genuine traders, harms legitimate businesses, costs the economy millions in lost tax revenue and often funds organised criminal gangs."

It doesn’t stop there though with reports of counterfeit UGG Boots, IPhone and hair straighteners also found.

If you spot a fake, or think you've receive a gift that is counterfeit call Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

Trading Standards says the likelihood of being able to obtain a refund through contacting the seller is "remote".

There's nothing more frustrating than ordering a gift that arrives broken, damaged or wrong.

That's without factoring in the ones which simply don't arrive when they said they would.

Complaints about delivery services have been increasing for some time – and the rises are significant.

In the last six months, complaints nationally went up by 48 per cent on the previous period.

James Walker
James Walker, founder of financial advice website Resolver, said: "We’ve been literally flooded with complaints about deliveries in the last few weeks – particularly on delivery dates not being met.

"Don’t panic! If you’ve not got your gifts in time, you can cancel and get a refund.

"Don’t waste time arguing with the delivery firm – go to the retailer – it’s their job to get your goods to you on time."

With many people still awaiting undelivered Christmas presents, and others looking to order online in the Boxing Day sales, consumers are being urged to know your rights:

Complain to the retailer, not the courier.

When you enter in to an agreement with a retailer, your contract is with them, not with any third party they use during the process of carrying out the transaction. If items you order are not delivered, are damaged or faulty, or left in an unauthorised place, the retailer is responsible for sorting the problem.

If it didn't arrive, it's up to them to prove it.

Retailers are usually able to track deliveries through their contracted delivery services. The onus is on them to prove you received the item, not the other way around. You’re entitled to ask for proof of delivery if you’re being charged for an item you haven’t received.

Arrival times.

If no date was given or agreed, you must receive your purchase within 30 days of the order being placed - otherwise you are entitled to a full refund.

What do I do if I discover a fake?

You have the legal right to a refund if you’ve bought something that’s fake or counterfeit.

You can also report the seller to Trading Standards or report the seller for fraud. Trading Standards might take legal action against the seller, but they can’t help you to get your money back.

You have the legal right to a refund within a ‘reasonable’ time. The law isn’t very specific on how long you have, but if you’re confident you should be entitled to a refund within the first two months or so.

If you paid for the item more than two months ago, you’re legally entitled to a partial refund, depending on how much you’ve used the item and how long you’ve had it.

You’re legally entitled to a full refund on fake goods within 30 days of paying for them.

Sometimes sellers argue items were obviously fake because they were very cheap. However, they’re breaking the law by selling fake items and your legal rights still apply.

Getting your money back:

Contact your bank and say you want to use the ‘chargeback scheme’. They can ask the seller’s bank to reverse the transaction and refund the money back into your account.

Many bank staff don’t know about the scheme, so you might need to speak to a supervisor or manager. They might ask you to put your request in writing. You should do this within 120 days of when you paid.

If you used PayPal, you can use its online Resolution Centre to report your dispute. You must do so within 180 days.