In the day and age of versatility, we-the consumers of performance products-are living in the heyday of acces- sibility. We are able to choose from a wide array of parts to make our vehicles more efficient and more powerful, and at the same time we can obtain parts by driving down to our local speed shop or purchasing online from auctions, forums, or websites.

However, with the explosion of accessibility comes the emergence of unscrupulousness. I've been working at Mackin Industries for over 10 years now (OMG) and have had the pleasure of helping everyone, from the local car enthusiast to professional racing teams, achieve their performance goals. At the same time, I've come across instances where the consumer was ripped off by predators looking to prey on the popularity of our car culture. Many times I've seen people drop thousands of dollars with a guy online, only to find that he has disappeared. This needs to stop.

My friendly neighborhood message for this month's column is for you, the consumer, to be diligent when purchasing performance products. Oftentimes, people get so engrossed in finding the cheapest price that they don't realize who they are purchasing from. In the same way that you research the proper way to improve your car's performance, do the same amount of research into who you will be entrusting with your hard-earned cash.

Here are some recommendations on how to purchase your products:1. Make sure you are purchasing products from an authorized dealer. From there you know they automatically have connections with the factory to ensure you will be getting the products in an efficient and legal manner.

2. Don't buy from companies that are gray marketing or parallel importing products because they are looking to disrupt the integrity of a product line.

3. Never pay 100 percent in full for any special-order product. Paying a deposit up to 50 percent is a generally accepted practice with most legit businesses. If some guy on a forum is asking for full advance payment, go elsewhere. It's also advised to pay with your credit card instead of cash because you will have some buyer's protection to request a charge back.

4. Call and consult with the manufacturer first to make sure you are purchasing from sources that will ensure timely and legal delivery.

I'm a firm believer in finding the best prices for a product, but remember, when you buy from a source, you are paying for the product, their service, and YOUR peace of mind.-Eddie Lee, general manager of the motorsport parts division for Mackin Industries