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Be cautious when buying electronics

Are my electrical products counterfeit?
Did you know that more than 1 million counterfeit electrical products ó including extension cords, power strips, batteries and hair dryers ó have been recalled in recent years?
Perhaps even more shocking is that less than one-third of Americans are aware these deadly devices even exist.
May is National Electrical Safety Month, and the Electrical Safety Foundation International wants you to know about what you can do to protect yourself and your family against dangerous and defective counterfeit electrical products.
The following safety tips provided by ESFI can help people identify and avoid these fraudulent products:
– Use established vendors and authorized retailers. Buy electrical products from reputable retailers who get their goods from legitimate distributors and authorized manufacturers. Avoid buying electrical products at flea markets or bargain warehouses.
– Exercise caution in online transactions. Do your homework when conducting business online. Be especially wary of buying electrical products directly from unknown companies or unauthorized sellers, particularly in countries like China, where counterfeiting is a serious issue.
– Check for certification marks. Quality electrical products sold in the United States should be certified by nationally recognized testing laboratories for safety. Look for certification marks from laboratories such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Intertek (ETL-SEMKO).
Scrutinize labels and packaging. Product packaging and warning labels offer a valuable source of information. Make sure that labels and packaging are free of grammatical errors and that any information provided is consistent with information elsewhere on the package.
Avoid products that lack any identifying brand label or affiliation. Make sure that the name and contact information of the product manufacturer are clearly displayed on the packaging or the product. If this information is missing, then consider an alternative product or retailer.
Trust your instincts. Beware of bargains that seem too good to be true. Counterfeiters often skimp on materials and key-manufacturing steps to cut costs, allowing them to be sold at prices no genuine brand manufacturer can match.
Be proactive. Organizations such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) provide up-to-date information about product recalls on their Web sites. Working together to promote education and awareness, we can help to prevent the devastating electrical injuries, fatalities, and fires that are being caused by counterfeit electrical products.
To learn more about the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and counterfeit electrical products, visit www.electrical-safety.org, or contact
Toi N. Degree is a family and consumer education agent with the Rowan County Cooperative Extension Service, Contact her at 704-216-8970 or by e-mail: toi_degree@ncsu.edu.

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