How To Avoid Online Shopping Scams & Ripoffs
From Instagram & Facebook ads to ‘sale’ sites, here’s how to avoid getting scammed and ripped off.
If you spend any time at all on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll have noticed slick video product ads for products. If you’ve clicked to buy them, you might have noticed that the websites they take you to don’t look super professional. That’s because there’s a new social media shopping scam in town.
Unethical Chinese companies are setting up websites listing loads of products and advertising them on social media. Except when you buy the product, they send you a box of garbage. Literally.
They make money because most people don’t remember that they didn’t get the product, or they will be too busy or lazy to bother with doing a return or filing a credit card dispute.
I learned this the hard way when I sent a link I got from an Instagram ad to a bunch of friends and we all ordered self-scooping cat litter boxes that never arrived (instead, we all ended up with boxes of trash from China.) Turns out the video and images of the product were stolen from Kickstarter.
Why doesn’t Instagram and Facebook do anything about this? The same reason they don’t police political ads. For one, they’re making a lot of money on the ads. For two, it would cost a lot of money to staff a department dedicated to figuring out which ads are legit versus fake, and the Chinese scammers can create new websites and ads as fast as social would remove them.
PayPal is a bad-guy in all this too. In what I can only assume is a way to help scammers so they get to keep their commission, PayPal requires you to go to the post office and ship the garbage back to China on your own dime to get a refund.
Here’s how you can avoid getting scammed:
Search for the product on Amazon and/or reverse image search using right-click –> ‘search Google for image’. If you can find it, then order it on Amazon (where it’s usually cheaper anyway). For products that you can’t find on an online store like Amazon (one you know for sure is legit), then realize it’s a scam and don’t buy it. Or do, and just know that you’re most likely just going to donate money to a scammer.
How to get your money back if you got scammed:
Firstly, when making a purchase online always pay via credit card, but only if you can verify that the checkout page is secure and a legit payment processor (if you can’t, that’s a bad sign!) or use credit card with PayPal as the intermediary.
If you don’t get what you ordered, then file a dispute with PayPal, who will tell you to return whatever you were sent at your own expense. This is when you can ignore PayPal and call to your credit card and tell them that you want to initiate a dispute. They’ll ask if you tried to resolve it first with the merchant, and you can tell them that PayPal will only refund you if you spend more money and time to return the box of garbage the seller mailed you. Since you didn’t receive what you paid for, your credit card company should refund you without asking you to return anything. NB: PayPal’s dispute process takes several weeks, then the credit card dispute will take several more weeks to go through this whole process.
More online shopping scams to be aware of:
This video will show you a few more Instagram and Facebook ad scams to watch out for: