Though everyone knows there is a risk of buying pirated or counterfeit software, very few people ever think they will fall victim to these scams. However, according to recent data compiled by Microsoft, an estimated 37% of all businesses have bought illegitimate software at some point in their course of operations.
Evidently, illegitimate software is surprisingly common in the world of business. But fortunately, the stress, the headaches, and the potential legal hassle can all be avoided. If you are a business owner who is hoping to purchase high-quality software, do so the right way. There are numerous ways you can protect yourself against a Microsoft Audit and assure that your business operates smoothly.
Reasons you want to avoid illegitimate software:
The primary reason you want avoid purchasing pirated or counterfeit software is that doing so is illegal and even in the event of an honest mistake, you can be held legally liable. But even if this is something that isn’t important to you (even though it should be), you will not be able to get away with most scams for very long.
Microsoft conducts periodic audits on those who claim to hold software its licenses. If you fail to pass an audit, not only do you risk facing legal repercussions, but you also risk having a major interruption in your business operations. Furthermore, pirated software is far more likely to be corrupted, contain malware, and risks compromising the privacy of your intellectual property and customer’s data.
Contrary to popular belief, the risk of getting illegitimate software isn’t simply limited to online software dealers. Recent studies conducted by the Harrison Group reveal that this kind of software can come from just about anywhere, and because of this, it is important to keep your wits about you no matter where you may happen to shop.
Signs you are purchasing counterfeit software:
Though some sorts of pirated software can be almost impossible to detect (which is why you can never really be too cautious), there are several red flags you should always be looking out for:
- If the software you purchased comes in multiple disks, and some of the disks are corrupted upon installation, this may indicate the entire software package is illegitimate.
- The box has a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) that is abnormal or even completely lacking. The COA is specifically designed to be difficult to replicate, and if you have reason to be suspicious of this, do not purchase or use the software.
- The company you are buying from isn’t an officially licensed partner of Microsoft—though not all of these companies are illegitimate, licensed partners offer a much greater sense of security.
- The company attempts to sell you the product and product key separately.
- The product key—which should be 25 digits on an orange and white label—has been manipulated or altered in any way.
Steps you can take to avoid purchasing counterfeit software:
Now that you know some of the most common signs of pirated or counterfeit software, you can be better prepared to make a responsible purchase. Keeping all of these things in mind, here is what you can do to make sure you can avoid purchasing pirated software:
- Inspect the product before you buy. With an awareness of the common red flags mentioned above, you can better protect yourself and avoid the bulk of counterfeit software scams. Microsoft is a very organized and precise company; accidents and product lemons rarely “just happen”.
- Investigate the credibility of the company you are buying from. Good online retailers will have ample reviews available, a well-developed website, and will be willing to answer any questions you may have along the way. As a consumer in an industry that has victimized an estimated 37% of buyers, you have every right to be skeptical.
- Only buy from licensed Microsoft partners. Microsoft partners will not only be able to get you the best discounts on legitimate software possible, but they can also offer a tremendous amount of knowledge and security. Because being an official Microsoft partner is such a valuable title, these businesses simply would never want to risk losing such an honor and will do everything in their power to make sure their products are completely legitimate.
- Trust your gut. When we are confronted with what seems to be a really great deal, it can be very tempting to look the other way. But if something seems suspicious, than it very likely is. If the company you are considering buying from is unwilling to disclose all the information you are asking for, you have plenty of choices when buying software—feel free to take your business elsewhere.
The importance of staying informed and knowing who you are dealing with:
Though it is of course morally reprehensible for any company to try to steal from you or sell you a counterfeit software product, the ultimate responsibility lies in the hands of the end consumer. In the competitive world of software, there will always be new companies trying to gain your attention, and—unfortunately—some of these companies are willing to take shortcuts along the way.
By knowing the red flags to look out for, the steps to take to avoid purchasing illegitimate software, and the importance of being a conscious and active consumer, you can avoid the headaches that have plagued many businesses thus far. Buying software is an art; you have to carefully balance the discounts on software you are hoping to gain while also making sure the source you are buying from is completely legitimate.