While the switch to online shopping has done wonders in terms of convenience, it has also unfortunately opened the door for many scam artists and counterfeiters looking to take advantage of the relative anonymity provided by the internet.And for the last decade, counterfeit car seats have become a growing problem. Made with inferior materials and not subject to safety standards or inspections, these pose a serious threat to families just trying to do the right thing.
“It’s everywhere,” says SMH Trauma Injury Prevention Coordinator Casey Howell, RN, TCRN. “Buying online, you’re not touching and feeling the car seat like you would in a store, and it’s easy to be misled.”
So look for the following signs to make sure your child’s car seat is the real deal.
Prominent Safety Labels
All car seats in the United States must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and pass inspection before they can be legally sold. This means that all legitimate car seats will have some very specific labels indicating they have passed the necessary safety inspections.
- A white label with lots of red and black lettering, indicating that the car seat has passed federal standards.
- A date of manufacture label that includes the model name, serial number and date of manufacture. This should be on the seat.
- Labels showing how to use the seat. Counterfeit car seats will not have these labels.
A Five-Point Harness
The harnesses on legitimate car seats are specially designed to protect a small child in ways that a simple seat belt does not. Harnesses should not look like an ordinary seat belt or like a flimsy set of backpack shoulder straps. A real five-point harness should include two shoulder straps, a strap coming around and over each hip, and a single strap coming up between the legs.
With straps coming from those five points and meeting in the middle, a small child is safely cushioned and restrained in the event of an accident.
Note: While chest clips are not strictly required by law, they will be found on virtually all legal car seats in the US.
Accompanying Registration Card & Manual
Some counterfeit car seats will come with a manual for use or a registration card, but the majority will not. The ones that do, will likely not have contact information available. If your car seat does not come with either a manual or a registration card, further investigation is warranted.
Be Mindful of Where You Buy
Buying online dramatically increases your chances of accidentally buying a counterfeit car seat. Be wary of unknown or strange-looking website, particularly if they have lots of spelling and grammar mistakes. But be aware that even big brands, such as WalMart, will sometimes use third-party vendors that you will need to vet yourself when shopping online through their websites.
Significant delays in shipping can also be a warning sign.
You Get What You Pay For
If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Car seats can be expensive, but they’re worth it.
“If it’s a $500 car seat and you’re getting it for $75,” says Howell, “that certainly should be investigated.”
Never Buy Used!
Buying used can be tempting but may not be worth the risk. Without knowing exactly where that car seat came from or what its history is, you can’t be certain that it’s genuine and in proper condition.
“Don’t buy used unless you know the original owner, they’re able to give you the manual, the seat has the stickers and you can guarantee that it’s never been in an accident,” says Howell. “Because as soon as those seats are involved in a motor vehicle collision, they should no longer be used.”
To learn more about counterfeit car seats and child passenger safety, click here.
Report Counterfeit Car Seats
Need to report counterfeit car seats? Follow this link.