Beware of fake ads for the products you are viewing
A coworker called me the other day to share a warning.
We’ve all gotten used to phishing emails and texts – scammers trying to make you think there’s something wrong with your account or that they just need to verify one thing for you. can click and share personal information.
I’ve also recently written about other scam calls and solicitations where crooks hope you multitask or don’t give your full attention and fall for them.
After: Betty Lin-Fisher: don’t let multitasking or isolation make you a victim of scams
Another growing scam is bogus advertising which will lead you to a bogus website that mirrors a business’s real website. In fact, if you don’t do separate research to find the real site, you could very easily fall into the trap.
My colleague, a fellow journalist, is looking for a tandem kayak to use with his wife since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many other outdoor activity items, used kayaks and bikes were hard to find. He bought a single kayak on Facebook Marketplace from a private seller in Stark County and was looking for a tandem.
He had done some research online for kayaks, so he wasn’t surprised when he saw a targeted Pelican ad on Facebook for a kayak. The price was really good, so he decided to go.
He was about to enter his credit card information when his power went out.
It actually saved him, he said.
When he reconnected to his computer after powering it back on and went to History to find the website address while telling his adult daughter about kayaking, he realized that the website looked suspicious. This was on cutitfifi.com, although the website looks exactly like the real Pelican website, www.pelicansport.com, which he found while doing a search.
A few other bogus sites, with addresses like pelican-boats.us and pelican-outdoor.us also looked exactly like the real website. If you didn’t know they were fake, you’d be really hard pressed to figure it out since crooks copy and paste the exact same pages, right down to the “story” of the business. But for one of the sites, I noticed that if you try to click on their social media accounts, they’ll send you straight to Facebook or Twitter without going straight to a business page.
But again, who is going to check this closely?
Fake social media ads are on the rise
Data released in October 2020 by the Federal Trade Commission has shown that there have been an increase in reports of people saying they have lost money to a scam that started on social media, including a spike in such complaints in the spring during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data released by the FTC shows that the number of complaints about scams that started on social media has more than tripled in the past year. People reported losing more than $ 117 million to this type of scam in the first six months of 2020 alone, up from $ 134 million for all of 2019, according to the latest Consumer Protection Data Spotlight from the FTC.
Online shopping is at the top of the list of complaints from consumers who have reported a scam to the FTC from social media. Many of those consumers responded to an ad they saw on social media and reported that the item they ordered never arrived. Most consumers (94%) who identified the social media service in their complaint cited Facebook or Instagram as the platform they used.
The other main consumer complaints about scams that started on social media were about romance scams or economic relief or income opportunities, which often target people who have lost their jobs or other income due to the pandemic. . About half of all FTC romance scam reports since 2019 involve social media, typically Facebook or Instagram.
Real business responds
A spokesperson for Pelican said the Quebec-based company was aware of the scam websites and encouraged me to write about the scam to let more people know about it.
“We get messages from our customers asking for order tracking or just whether these sites are legitimate,” said Vanessa Leger. “Customers appreciate our quick response to inform them that these sites are fraudulent and to take immediate action with their bank. They are not crazy, but more worried and want to be sure that we are aware of the situation. ”
Leger said “yes, they copy all the visuals from our site, but there are a few flaws that can allow consumers to understand that they are not on our site.”
This includes the social media deviations I mentioned above.
“If you believe you made a purchase from a fraudulent website, we strongly recommend that you contact your bank immediately,” she said.
Facebook did not respond in time for my deadline when I asked for comments or advice on how to avoid bogus ads on their platform or what they are doing to protect consumers.
Tips for avoiding fraud
The Federal Trade Commission Offers This Advice on how to avoid social media scams, which can also include romance scams where someone lashes out at another person through a dating app:
- Before buying based on an ad or article, consult with the company. Type its name into a search engine with words like or “scam” or “complaint”.
- Never send money to a lover you haven’t met in person.
- If you get a message from a friend about a way to get financial relief, call them. Did they pass it on to you? If not, tell them that their account may have been hacked. If so, check it before you act.
- Before participating in any “opportunity” to make money, check out www.ftc.gov/mlm.
- Don’t allow scammers to easily target you: Check your social media privacy settings to limit what you share publicly.
- If you spot a scam, report it to the social media site and the FTC at www.ftc.gov/plainte.
Beacon Journal reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected] Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or at www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ. To see her most recent stories and columns, visit www.tinyurl.com/bettylinfisher.