Published: July 21, 2022 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.
Data recently released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shows that the number of complaints about social media shopping scams more than tripled over the last year. Consumers reported losing more than $117 million to this type of scam in just the first six months of 2020 compared to $134 million for all of 2019, according to the FTC’s latest Consumer Protection Data Spotlight. The social media sites overwhelmingly involved in these scams are Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook), with consumer scam reports totaling 94% of all rip-offs involving a specific platform. Security experts note these scams are well-run global operations that are taking advantage of the massive increase in online shopping due to the pandemic and the inexperience of those having to shop online for the first time.
Sneaky Copycat Scams
Starting with pop-up ads on social media for everything from high-end consumer products and fashions to everyday items, they are abundant. The ads promise to deliver exactly what is ordered, usually at unbelievable, rock-bottom prices. The ads are in reality a cattle-call for consumers to be scammed. Once the ad is clicked, the shopper is taken to a website that is anything but what it claims to be, in other words, it’s bogus. There are a number of tricks these fraudsters use to cast their webs, including copying an entire legitimate website and its products. Once copied, the site name is altered ever-so-slightly so that most consumers wouldn’t notice the difference.
In one particular case, the legitimate MauiJim sunglass site reappeared as MauiJiim (notice the double “i”), a domain name spelling difference most consumers wouldn’t catch, and that’s what scammers depend on. This, as well as other online purchase problems include ordering and paying for an item and then receiving a cheap knockoff, an entirely different product, or simply not receiving anything at all. It’s no wonder the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker finds 64% of complaints involved online purchase cons and the FTC reports these scams are the number one fraud in every age group. Other top social media consumer scam complaints involve economic relief and opportunity, as well as romance scams.
Common sense tells you that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it is.
Avoid clicking on ads and instead type the website name in yourself and check the spelling carefully…and then check it again. Not only can these ads take you to a scam website, but they can also install malware on a device.
Use a credit card or online payment platform like PayPal for purchases. Most credit card companies will refund a fraudulent purchase, and PayPal insists they work with duped customers to eventually refund their loss. Some PayPal users claim it may take some time, effort, and patience on their part to receive the refund, but it does happen. Just hang in there.
Instagram Not To Be Left Out Of The Scam Game
Some celebrities and other high profile Instagram users are also putting up warnings about scams involving others impersonating them on Instagram. Celebrity chef Alton Brown posted a warning of imposters on his account claiming to be his personal manager asking to connect with his followers. Others have noted there are a lot of accounts impersonating them and sending out direct messages. Remember, high profile users of Instagram are verified and have a blue checkmark by their names.
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