The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) warns people to be on the lookout for pirated software this Holiday season. The number of people who innocently purchase or receive pirated software as gifts goes up during the Holidays as shoppers look to stretch their gift-buying budgets. While the price may be right, selling and distributing pirated software is costly to all consumers.

“Popular video games, business applications and home software have all been widely copied and distributed illegally,” says Keith Kupferschmid, SIIA’s VP of Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement. “If a shopper is in a rush, or just looking for the best deal, it’s easy to unintentionally purchase a pirated application, wrap it up and give it as a gift.”

Despite steep discounts, illegal software always comes with a hidden price tag. Users won’t have access to technical support or upgrades. Patches that repair software vulnerabilities will also be unavailable. Worst of all, pirated software can come loaded with a virus or other malicious code.

Pirated software is not sold only off the back of trucks or at sidewalk stands. Many pirates set up professional-looking Websites and/or “crooked” auctions through eBay or other auction sites. Users should be aware that more than 90% of the software sold on auction sites is illegal in some manner.

Here are some warning signs to help you spot software pirates selling products through auction

1. If the price is too good to be true, it is. For example, $20 for a
$200 retail-priced piece of software.

2. Check the seller’s reputation. Don’t be fooled by just seeing “Power
Seller” or an equivalent rating. Check their user comments — do they
have any neutral/negative feedback from buyers claiming fraud by the

3. Check the seller’s other auctions. Has this seller placed 10, 20 or
more auctions for the exact same piece of software, all at an
unbelievable price? This is almost always an indicator of pirated

4. Check the seller’s history. Has this seller just appeared and started
selling massive amounts of the same piece or set of software products?

5. Check the location of the seller. Are they offering product from
another region of the world? In addition to the potential for piracy,
you may be purchasing software that will be incompatible for your
computer. If the product is coming from a foreign country, you might
be buying software that will not run on US computers, will run in a
foreign language, OR may be unlicensed for the US. In addition, many
online scam sellers based in foreign countries will attempt to mask
their foreign background to appear as though they are US sellers
selling US retail product. However, many auction sites provide you
ample information on the true location of the seller which will allow
you to make this assessment.

6. Offers to sell outside of the auction. If the seller is willing to
cheat eBay, he’ll probably cheat you as well.

Warning Signs of Pirated Software

* The software is being offered at a price well below the retail price.
* The software lacks proper documentation
* The product packaging or manual is of inferior quality or includes
handwritten labels
* The serial number/CD key is printed on the CD, sleeve, or jewel case
* The software is labeled “OEM” and not included with hardware
* The software is being sold as a “back-up copy”
* Offers of “brand new CD in sleeve,” not in a box or ‘shipped in jewel
* Offers of “beta” or pre-release versions
* Offers of compilations (multiple products from different publishers on
the same CD). Legal software is rarely, if ever, sold that way.
* Offers of academic versions that do not state the eligibility