BBB Scam Alert: Think twice before buying from these social media ads
Milwaukee, Wis. – Social media advertising is an effective way for small businesses to get the word out about their products. Unfortunately, the same goes for scams. BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker) has received thousands of complaints about misleading Facebook and Instagram ads. In fact, the 2018 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report found that online purchase scams were the most common cons reported to Scam Tracker and the category with the most victims.
How the Scam Works
Look out for these common scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker:
Products That Claim to Support Charity: As you scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed, you see an ad from a small business selling adorable jewelry, t-shirts, or other merchandise. The best part? Some of the proceeds from the sale will go to a charity that helps rescue animals, foster children, or support another worthy cause. Some consumers even report getting direct messages from sellers promoting the products and asking them to spread the word to friends and family.
Free Trial Offers: Many of these misleading advertisements tout celebrity endorsements and promise a trial of the hottest new skincare or nutritional supplement for the minimal investment of shipping fees. What consumers report is that once they agree to the terms and conditions of these offers, they realize they have agreed to multiple monthly shipments for products in excess of $70-$100 each.
Before you sign up for these “limited time offers” research the company online, see if there are any other consumer complaints, read the terms and conditions you are agreeing to carefully, and if you can’t find any terms and conditions, that is a red flag. Watch out for pre-checked boxes and make sure that you know who and where the company is that you are purchasing from.
Counterfeit Merchandise: Name brand goods are prime targets for unauthorized duplication, from sporting goods to designer apparel and handbags. If you purchase any of these products you may run the risk of not only receiving a poor quality product, but it may not meet environmental and safety regulations either.
Look out for red flags. This includes items that are priced significantly lower than what other retailers are charging, spelling and grammatical errors in the advertisements, and poor quality images. These are all signs that the advertisement may be for a counterfeit product.
Engaging Ads, Poor Customer Service: This category covers a broad spectrum of complaints that BBB receives, from ads for beauty products to trendy clothing to kids’ toys. The advertisements look great and the products are often inexpensive. This means that consumers purchase without doing any research on the website or the company behind it. However, weeks pass, and the products never arrive. When the buyers reach out to customer service, they get a vague answer or they don’t hear back at all.
Apps of Unknown Origin: While scrolling through your feed you may feel compelled to download the latest “free” app. Beware! By downloading this app, not only are you opening up your device to these unknown entities, you could possibly be signing up for recurring subscription fees. Victims report being charged fees as high as $99 every seven days.
Before you enter your username and password, read the reviews. Also, read the description of the app carefully and look for spelling and grammatical errors. Check that the developer’s website is a working website and read the terms and conditions carefully ($99 every 7 days adds up quickly).
How to Protect Yourself from Social Media Scams
- Do your research. Before making a purchase, do a quick search for the business in question. Do they have valid contact information? Don’t be fooled by professional photography or consumer reviews on their website. These can be lifted from other sites. Check BBB Scam Tracker to see if others have been duped.
- Search for previous complaints. Do a Google search of the business name followed by “complaints,” “reviews,” or “scam” and see what pops up. If you find other people have been cheated by this business, steer clear.
- Use good judgment. Many con artists play on consumers’ desire to help those in need. Keep this in mind and use your head, not just your heart, when supporting charitable causes. Go to Give.org to research organizations before giving.
For More Information
If you’ve been the victim of a social media ad scam, share your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report could help other consumers avoid falling victim to similar scams.
For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2019, people turned to BBB more than 183 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.8 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.
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