In woman's never ending quest for glamor and panache, a designer purse or handbag is a formidable weapon. Even if our dresses may not be sporting a designer tag inside, we can often get away with wearing something of lesser heritage and few if any catty individuals will know for sure.

On the other hand, we can go into the fray brandishing a plainly labeled Coach bag, for example, and its undeniable style will give us an air of confidence that can go a long way. If we happen to be on a limited financial footing, either long term or while weathering a crisis, we may still get a lot of mileage out of a fine bag or purse.

In cases of ongoing or temporary financial distress, we may turn to the domain of the purveyors of cheap bags and purses that still have designer heritage. Such a course is not without peril, however.

While there are thousands of cheap bags and purse available on eBay, for example, on a weekly if not daily basis, those shopping there are at some risk. While most sellers are honest, and eBay goes to great lengths to so assure us, some are less so, or even outright frauds. The buyer must be wary.

The financial risk aside, there is also the potential for humiliation to be considered. Should we buy a cheap Louis Vuitton bag and appear in public with it, what will be the effect of having someone recognize it as a counterfeit and point out that unhappy fact to all within earshot? A nightmare scenario, to be sure.

If one can't afford to buy new at retail, the best protection is probably to buy from a recognized consignment dealer or a company that rents designer goods. These agencies employ full time, trained and documented experts whose job it is to examine each article presented for sale and authenticate it as genuine.

Of course, a premium is charged for such service and expertise. While there is nothing wrong with seeking outrageous bargains from substantially unknown and unknowable sellers, caveat emptor applies. It's a judgment of risk that each of us in the hunt for discount purses and bags must make.

Now it should be said that buying on eBay is much less risky than some would have you think. The site has worked hard to promote confidence in its buyers and to ensure that only sellers of good repute get to stay around. They have instituted a strong buyer protection plan and they have always had a feedback process that will quickly weed out anyone who would try to defraud others. Still, as with any purchase, ask plenty of questions if you feel it is necessary and remember that you are always free to just walk away if a seller leaves you uncomfortable in any way.