It's not always easy to distinguish authentic cartridges from phony ones. The counterfeiters have gotten very good at their craft, and sometimes you can't even tell that the ink you bought was bad - until it starts leaking all over your printer.

Here are a few hints to help you look out for fake cartridges:

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• Is the price too good to be true? Pirates sell their products using the lure of impossibly low prices.

• Is the print quality consistent with the norm? There will be a marked difference in quality and quantity of printouts per cartridge.

• How reliable are the cartridges? If the failure rate is higher than 1%, then you may be dealing with bogus cartridges.

• Does the packaging or the cartridge itself look out of the ordinary in any way? While the packaging and cartridge can often be cunningly forged, there is sometimes some detail that helps to give it away. Look for hard-to-forge marks of authenticity, like HP's security label.

• Who are you dealing with? A no-name merchant or a recognized distributor? Make sure that you're buying from an authorized dealer of the relevant ink brand. Check the manufacturer's website for a list of genuine dealers in your region.