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To help inform small businesses of the risk of being lured by counterfeit software offerings, Microsoft has launched a worldwide online video awareness campaign that calls attention to software acquistion methods that may lead to purchasing pirated content.  The digital video campaign is designed to provide more information and heighten awareness of the risks associated with common ways to purchase including a tip on how to tell whether your Microsoft software and hardware are genuine.

According to Microsoft’s blog, more than 400,000 people from around the world have reported buying or receiving pirated software to Microsoft since 2005. The typical report comes from someone who bought counterfeit software off an online marketplace or downloaded it from a fake Microsoft site.

Microsoft advises small businesses to take proactive measures to protect themselves and to report counterfeit sites so that other businesses can avoid the same mishaps.  With a great deal of trickery out there, here are a few ways to spot potential red flags, according to Microsoft.

High Quality” looking websites: Online retail websites may look legitimate and turn up as a top result in a search for “cheap software” or “Microsoft Office 2010,” but the product that is being sold is not genuine Microsoft software.

Software auctions: Business shoppers looking to save money on a software purchase may decide to bid on software. The fine print of the software license is always important to research before a purchase is completed. Business shoppers should always confirm they are bidding on a legally licensed copy of software.

Peer-to-Peer software:  Research by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) shows that business leaders and consumers alike often believe that software downloaded from a peer-to-peer website is a legitimate software acquisition method. Business shoppers should be aware that software licenses do not permit legal sharing in this manner.

Here’s the video, which is a little bit creepy since there’s a dude in Spandex lurking under the copying machine.

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