BBB News- Scam Alert: Misleading Social Ads Fool Shoppers

Social media is an integral part of our daily lives. We use it to connect with friends, family and others within the community. Recently though, consumers are finding that social media is a great place to find new products and services to purchase. Approximately a third of online shoppers (31%) say they are using social networks to peruse new items to buy.

In many cases shopping through social media is a positive experience. Nonetheless, with the rise in use of social media as a resource for retail, BBB has seen an increase in complaints from consumers who have had an unfavorable experience after making a purchase through an advertisement found on a social network. In fact, the 2017 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report shows that online purchase scams are among the riskiest forms of consumer fraud.

The most common complaints and BBB Scam Tracker reports that BBB receives are on the following:

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. 

How to Protect Yourself: 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. 

How to Protect Yourself: Know the red flags -Items that are priced significantly lower than what other retailers are charging, spelling and grammatical errors in the advertisements, and poor quality images 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 and accessories. The advertisements look great so consumers purchase without doing any research on the website or the company behind it. The complaints and BBB Scam Tracker reports show that this is risky behavior. Consumers report merchandise received is not as advertised, items are slow to arrive, if they arrive at all. 

How to Protect Yourself: 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 that promises more likes and followers, or offers virus protection for your gadget. Beware though, not only are you opening up your device to this unknown entities app, you could possibly be signing up for recurring subscription fees, some as high as $99 every seven days.

How To Protect Yourself: 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).