By the Better Business Bureau
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 has received thousands of complaints about misleading Facebook and Instagram ads. In fact, the 2020 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.
Look out for these common scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker:
√ Products that claim to support a charity, when in fact consumers report they didn’t receive a product or know if the money went to a charity.
√ Free trial offers sometimes end up costing some consumers hundreds in unauthorized or unwanted charges.
√ Name-brand goods that are fake. If you purchase any counterfeit merchandise, you may run the risk of not only receiving poor-quality products, 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.
√ 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 seven days adds up quickly).
How do you avoid becoming a victim? Before you buy, do a quick online search. Put the name of the website in any search engine 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 it contains actual contact details for the business. If the only way to contact the company is through a form, that is a red flag.
Use good judgment. Many con artists play on consumers’ desire for popular products, the “hot items” or to help those in need. Keep this in mind and use your head, not just your heart. Always check www.BBB.org and www.Give.org for businesses and charities before you buy or make a donation.