Prepare to be bombarded with holiday shoppers, social media ads — and scams.
Highly targeted advertising on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook makes it easier than ever for brands to reach their target market. But these ads make it easy for shady brands to deceive eager scrollers and shoppers with flashy images, only to offer low-quality goods or nothing at all.
Social media scams have skyrocketed in recent years. According to Federal Trade Commission data, complaints of fraud that started on social media increased from about 28,900 in 2019 to more than 71,500 in 2020 and the figure is on pace to double again in 2021, with about 76,000 reported cases of social media fraud. There are reports. Filed in the first half of this year, it resulted in a $292 million loss by consumers.
Oleg Donets, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Real Estate Bees, says, “While these advertising platforms clearly try to weed out bad actors through their automated algorithms, the sketches for them are the full range of end consumers from companies. It is impossible to protect in kind.” Marketing platform for the real estate industry. “Most of the time, the responsibility of investigating advertisers falls on the shoulders of the end customers.”
But how do you know which brands to trust? These five steps will help you distinguish gems from fakes.
1. Independent review, search for complaints
Reviews on a company’s website can be completely fabricated, or worse, completely fabricated. So look for customer feedback on independent sites like Trustpilot and Google My Business, and search for complaints on the Better Business Bureau’s scam tracker..
You can also tap on friends, family, and your wider social network for insights. They are likely to be shown the same ad as you, and chances are good that someone pulled the trigger and can tell you whether the product is as advertised.
Andrea Voroch, a consumer savings specialist in Bakersfield, Calif., says, “I have some friends who have had success ordering clothing through (Instagram) ads, so I turn to them for recommendations on which brands they trust. Huh.”
Can’t find any reviews? Guess that’s a red flag.
2. Research Domain History
One indication of a business’s legitimacy is how long its website has been around. To find out when the website was created, simply plug the URL into the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers lookup tool.
Sketchy companies pop up and disappear faster than moles in arcade games, creating a new domain name each time they re-emerge, so be wary of any sites created in the last year. Companies with an established web presence are more likely to be legitimate, but you’ll still want to check reviews and return policies.
3. Test Customer Support
Take the brand’s customer service on a test drive before you buy. Reach the company through direct messaging on the company’s official channels, such as support email or phone numbers, as well as on social media platforms.
Donate suggests doing this several times to get a true sense of the company’s accountability.
“In my experience, this strategy works 90% of the time,” Donnett says. “In most cases, a shady company will answer one or at most two questions, and then they stop answering.”
4. Triple-Check the Return Policy
Make sure you are clear on the return policy before tapping on the “Buy” button. If you are unhappy with the item, in how many days do you have to return it? Does the site allow a full refund or will you be issued a credit? Does the company even give returns?
“I fell into this trap and bought a ring with my daughters’ names on it,” Voroch says. “It didn’t look like the picture in the ad, and unfortunately I ignored the no-return policy. So basically I threw away $40.”
5. Pay by Credit Card
You can do all the research in the world and still fall victim to a flashy Instagram ad. And if you paid with a checking account or with cryptocurrency, you have little recourse to get your money back.
But credit cards have an extra layer of security. If an item is not as advertised and the brand’s customer service does not respond and resolve the problem, you can initiate a chargeback through your credit card company And the charge is reversed.
This column was provided by personal finance website NerdWallet to The Associated Press. Kelsey Sheehy is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @kelseylseehy.
NerdWallet: Consumers have a powerful tool for credit card chargeback https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-chargebacks
ICANN Lookup https://lookup.icann.org/lookup
Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker