Receiving cash and/or gift cards for Christmas is exciting. You can’t wait to start buying things. If you have seen something on a social media ad you think you would like to purchase, you may want to think twice.
Social media advertising is an effective way for small business to get the word out about their products. Unfortunately, the same goes for scams. Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker 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, and online purchase scams have spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
You make your purchase. But when your merchandise never gets delivered, the doubts start to build. When you contact the company about your purchase, they are suddenly unreachable or reply with an autoresponder. In reality, the product never
existed. It was all a ploy to get your money.
Free Trial Offers: Many of these misleading advertisements tout celebrity endorsements and promise a trial of the hottest new skin care 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 into 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.
Before buying, do a quick online search. Google the website name with the words “complaints,” “reviews,” and “scam” to see what other customers are saying. Check the “About Us” or “Contact Us”
information on the company’s website to see if they contain actual contact details for the business. If the only way to contact the company is through a form this is a red flag.
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 this 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 developers website is a working website and read the terms and conditions carefully ($99 every 7 days adds up quickly).
If you’ve been the victim of a social media ad scam, share your experience at BBB Scam Tracker. Your report could help other consumers avoid falling victim to similar scams.
(Partially reprinted from bbb.org)
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