BBB: Don't fall victim to fake advertisements

Posted at 9:44 AM, Dec 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-04 11:44:17-05

According to Better Business Bureau, scammers are attacking shoppers through social media this holiday season.

Since early November, BBB Scam Tracker has had multiple reports from consumers who say they made a purchase through social media sites Instagram and Facebook, but have never received the product. They are also having a hard time reaching the company to get the status on their products.

"These shoppers are easy targets for scammers because they’ve already bought in to the company by following their page or liking their content. Because buyers can choose who they follow on social media, the ads they see are perfectly targeted for their demographic. For example, if you’re an avid hiker you probably follow accounts that promote the outdoors. If you come across an ad selling hiking boots at a low price, you’re more inclined to purchase the product right away," said BBB's Veronica Craker.

Many advertisements can look like a regular post on social media, and the ads are common. Instagram has 2 million advertisers, Facebook has 3 million, and Twitter has 130,000.

"Social media sites do try to ensure sellers are operating fairly, but it's impossible for anyone to control how a company conducts business and communicates with its customers. With more and more people using social media apps to communicate, it makes sense they’d use those same tools to make purchases. And with the holiday shopping season underway, it's only going to increase. If you do find a post you believe is fraudulent or advertising a phony product, report it to the social media site," Craker said.

How can you tell the difference between a legitimate business and one that's just out to scam you? 

  • Do your research. Anytime you provide financial information to purchase a product you need to make sure you know who you’re giving your money to.
  • Examine the company's website. Look to see if it reveals where its headquarters are, or contact information. Read closely and look for any misspellings or sections of the website that are still “under construction.” Check BBB for the company’s record.
  • Use your credit card if possible. There’s added security with a credit card that allows you to dispute the charges, should you run into problems with the transaction. And before you pay, make sure the browser shows the “s” in “https” and a lock icon. This shows that your financial information is being transmitted on a secured network.

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