Scam risks when shopping on the web

For many of us, simply perusing Facebook or Instagram posts can lead to finding the perfect product or piece of clothing that we feel we must have. It may be from a well-known retailer or a company we have never heard of, but ultimately, we have already made the decision to purchase that product. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of danger involved with that type of shopping.

Approximately a third of online shoppers say they are using social networks to peruse new items to buy. While searching for new products to buy on social media may find you the latest trends, it may also find you a deal with a scammer or an unethical business.

Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report summarizing 2017 saw the riskiest consumer fraud was online purchase scams. It skyrocketed from number four on the list in 2016 to number one in 2017. Additionally, since January 2018, Idaho victims have reported losing an estimated $35,000 to 14 scams where their main means of contact was social media.

BBB suggests social media users be wary of common tactics. One being falling for advertisements that look great so consumers purchase without doing any research on the website or the company behind it. According to BBB Scam Tracker, consumers have complained about items being slow to arrive, not being what was advertised — and that’s if the products arrive at all.

The best way to protect yourself is to 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. It is a huge red flag if the only way to contact the company is through an online form.

Also, be wary of free trial offers as many of these misleading advertisements tout celebrity endorsements and promise a trial of the hottest new skincare or other product 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 offers, research the company online to see if there are any other consumer complaints. It’s also wise to read the terms and conditions you are agreeing to carefully. If you can’t find any terms and conditions, that is a red flag.

Watch out for counterfeits. 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 receiving a poor-quality product.

Definitely watch out for 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.

If you’ve been a victim of a social media scam, share the experience with BBB Scam Tracker so others can avoid the scheme.


Jeremy Johnson is the eastern Idaho marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau, serving the Northwest and Pacific. Contacther at by emailing jeremy.johnson@thebbb.org.


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