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Social Media Shopping Scams

As we head into prime holiday shopping season, make sure the excitement of great deals popping up on social media don’t get the best of you. To be sure, there are many legitimate deals offered by retailers, but mixed in with them are also scam ads that are after your money or personal information.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns consumers that the ads on social media sites are often not bringing you to an actual website to purchase the product. Plus, they may be stealing credit card numbers and personal information. The BBB also says that these fake ads can appear on any social media platform; however, Facebook and Instagram are the two most prevalent.

Think back to your own experience on social media. How many times do you see ads for everything from purses and watches to bathing suits and sunglasses and more? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Victims of fake ad social media fraud have reported the following:

  • Not receiving items they ordered
  • Receiving counterfeit items
  • Receiving merchandise vastly inferior than what was advertised
  • Having their identity or credit card information stolen
  • Ads coming from companies they’ve never heard of before

There are many complaints sent to the BBB about fake ad scams. One customer ordered a high-end drone that actually sputtered out after 5 minutes. The company would not provide a refund. Another customer ordered a snow blower…and received an ice scraper in the mail. Two other people reported ordering motorized surfboards, but instead got cheap foam boogie boards.

Humorous? Yes…but not when you’re at the receiving end of the cheap merchandise and losing money. Often the people behind these sham companies are “dropshipping” —setting up what looks like a store selling its own products. Instead they are the middlemen, offering products from foreign manufacturers, often in China. The dropshipper doesn’t design, manufacture or even hold any inventory.

If you took the bait, have you ever NOT received the things you ordered? Or been dissatisfied with the quality? Or even had your identity stolen? It happens. When you shop online through legitimate secure websites, you are, for the most part, purchasing your items from legit organizations. The problem is that when you click on social media ads, you may come across a site run by individuals who have set up an online storefront to capture your identity or sell you designer knockoffs (aka “counterfeit” goods). And they might try to grab your money or identity through your social media account.

What to look out for:

  • The biggest red flag is “too good to be true” —$25 Ray-Bans, for example.
  • Google the URL for the website and see if other people are complaining. This might yield some important information.
  • Retailers you don’t know. Shop with retailers you are familiar with.
  • Unsecure connections. Look for a secure connection—https:// —and a privacy policy when browsing sales on an unfamiliar website.
  • Use your credit card so your liability is not tied to your credit union or bank account.

So, what do you do if you suspect you’ve been scammed?
Contact your credit union or credit card company immediately, where you can cancel a credit card, change your password or put a hold on your account. You can also report your experience so that other would-be shoppers won’t be duped.

Resources:, CBS News, ABC7 News, Better Business Bureau

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