When you’re shopping online or you see an ad on Facebook or Instagram for a product that “ships from the USA,” what does that mean to you?

What it shouldn’t mean is that it was “made in the USA.”

The Federal Trade Commission says you need to know the difference between the two phrases.  While the wording is similar, they do not mean the same thing.

Let’s say a product is made overseas. The company may ship the product to a distribution center in the U.S., which then ships it from there. That allows the company to say their product “ships from the USA.” The FTC says it’s fine for a company to do that, as long as they make it clear that the product was not made in the USA.

If you don’t really care where it was made, then there’s no problem here. However, if you were expecting an American-made product, don’t rely on “ships” from the USA. Look for “made” in the USA.

For a quick quality check, the FTC recommends doing an online search of the company’s name, plus words like a “scam” or “complaint.” Check the reviews to see what other customers think, especially on credible sites with impartial and expert reviews. Also, look up the company’s return policy and see if they take returns to give refunds.

It’s also a good idea to pay by credit card because they have the most protections against fraud, including the right to dispute charges.

Of course, if you feel like you’ve been duped, or you got yourself a cheap knockoff, make sure you report it to the FTC.  You can do that here.