By Kelsey Sheely
shoppers on vacation, prepare to be bombarded with social media ads and scams.
Highly targeted advertising on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook makes it easier for brands to position themselves in their target market than ever before. But these ads also make it easier for shady brands to trick scrollers and impatient shoppers with brilliant images, only to deliver poor-quality products or nothing at all.
Social media scams have exploded in recent years. According to data from the Federal Trade Commission, fraud complaints that started on social media have grown from nearly 28,900 in 2019 to over 71,500 in 2020. And that number is set to double again in 2021. , with nearly 76,000 reports of fraud on social networks. filed in the first half of this year, resulting in a loss of $ 292 million to consumers.
“As these ad platforms attempt to weed out the obvious bad actors through their automated algorithms, it is literally impossible for them to fully protect end consumers from unreliable businesses,” says Oleg Donets, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Real Estate Bees, a marketing platform for the real estate industry. “Most of the time, the responsibility for controlling advertisers rests with the end customers.”
But how do you know which brands to trust? These five steps will help you separate gems from fakes.
1. SEARCH FOR INDEPENDENT OPINIONS, COMPLAINTS
Reviews on a business website can be handpicked, or worse, completely fabricated. So look for customer reviews on independent sites, such as Trustpilot and Google My Business, and look for complaints about Better Business Bureau scam tracking.
You can also reach out to your friends, family, and your wider social network for information. They probably got the same ads you got, and there’s a good chance someone will pull the trigger and be able to tell you if the product is as advertised.
“I have friends who have been successful in ordering clothes through ads (Instagram), so I go to them for recommendations on brands they trust,” says Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings expert based at Bakersfield, California.
Can’t find a review? Think of it as a red flag.
2. RESEARCH THE HISTORY OF THE ESTATE
One clue to a business’s legitimacy is the length of time its website has been in existence. To find out when a website was created, simply plug the URL into the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers search tool.
Sketchy businesses appear and disappear faster than moles in the arcade game, creating a new domain name every time they resurface, so beware of sites created over the past year. Businesses with an established web presence are more likely to be legitimate, but you’ll still want to check for reviews and return policies.
3. TEST CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE
Take a test drive with the brand’s customer service before you buy. Contact the company through its official channels, such as an email or support phone number, as well as a direct message on the social media platform.
Donets suggests doing this several times to get a real sense of how responsive the business is.
“In my experience, this strategy works 90% of the time,” says Donets. “In most cases, a shady business will answer at most one or two questions and then stop answering.”
4. THREE CHECK RETURN POLICY
Make sure you are perfectly clear about the return policy before hitting the “buy” button. If you are not satisfied with the item, 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 allow returns?
“I fell into this trap and bought a ring with my daughters’ names on it,” says Woroch. “It didn’t look like the photo in the ad, and unfortunately I ignored the no-return policy. So basically I threw away $ 40.”
5. PAY WITH A CREDIT CARD
You can do all the research in the world and still fall victim to a brilliant Instagram ad. And if you paid from a checking account or with cryptocurrency, you have little recourse to get your money back.
But credit cards have an added layer of protection. If an item isn’t as advertised and the brand’s customer service doesn’t respond to the issue, you can initiate a chargeback through your credit card company and have the charge reversed.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the NerdWallet personal finance website. Kelsey Sheehy is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: ksheehynerdwallet.com. Twitter: kelseylsheehy.
NerdWallet: Consumers Get Powerful Tool for Credit Card Chargebacks https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-chargebacks
ICANN Research https://lookup.icann.org/lookup
Better Business Bureau Scam Tracking https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker