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Don't Let a Social Media Ad Ever Mislead You Again

by Keylen Villagrana | Nov 29, 2021 9:47:49 AM

Social media ads have blended so seamlessly into our newsfeeds that it’s often hard to notice when they appear. Unless tweaks are made to privacy settings, social media ads connected to any identified interests, activities, and demographics follow consumers everywhere they visit online.

Being the subject of so much targeting may appear to make shopping easier, but the cons may ultimately outweigh any pros.

Social media ads can serve as a helping hand for finding interesting or essential products, especially when snags in the supply chain make popular items harder to come by. Consumers are forced to take a more proactive approach to purchase presents this year. So, what easier way to shop for loved ones than scrolling through your social media feed?

While the ads that pop up on those platforms are convenient, they often send you to external sites to continue shopping and then complete the transaction. It’s important to know, though, that not all those sites are secure. Online purchase scams accounted for nearly 40% of all scams reported to BBB, according to the 2020 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report. Shopping safely online not only requires knowledge of how to spot a secure website, but also an ability to identify a trustworthy company.

Building credibility and a positive reputation takes time. Companies that have been operating long enough to leave a track record are easier to research to determine their trustworthiness.

Get a sense of the company’s reputation

If you stumble across a brand you don’t recognize, it’s always best to look it up on trusted websites. Search the company’s reputation on BBB.org to find any potential consumer alerts, business ratings, number of complaints filed, common issues consumers are facing, how they are responding to their customers’ concerns and their BBB Accreditation status.

Look for suspicious social media accounts

Click on the company’s social media account. When was the page created? If it was recent, does the account have a suspiciously high number of followers? Have they been posting original content and doing it consistently? Are they responding to comments and engaging with their audience? Are there traces of deleted comments (number of comments displayed on the post not matching up with the comment section)? If a social media account was recently created and doesn’t have sufficient information, look them up on trusted sources for additional information to make an informed decision.

Verify the information on their website

Look for potentially false claims on their website. Where are they based? How long have they been operating? Rogue sites may claim to be operating for a certain number of years or lie about their location to appear more legitimate or prevent consumers from feeling hesitant to order from their site. For example, companies based outside of the United States may use a false address to mislead consumers. Since international packages are much more prone to experience delays, it’s tempting for these companies to use a false or alternate address.

Sites such as who.is or ICANN will provide information of when the site was created and its origin. You can also lookup the address that’s advertised to make sure it coincides with the business. Look for reviews from trusted sources to check whether consumers are experiencing significant delays or whether they’ve received their items at all.

Go straight to the “influencer source”

Shortages are likely to make popular gifts much more difficult to find, thus increasing the likelihood of counterfeit items. Not to mention items that are of much poorer quality than what’s advertised. The good thing is there are a few tactics consumers can use to ensure they don’t receive a knockoff.

Social media ads often feature clips of influencers raving about a recent purchase to boost sales. However, it’s important to verify the brand the influencer is referring to and that the clip hasn’t been used out of context. Competitors selling a similar item may steal the clip to give the appearance the positive reviews are about them. Or they take one small clip of the influencer describing the item but leave out the final verdict.

This can be easily verified by looking up the influencer on YouTube or looking up the brand name of the product. You’ll likely recognize the clip/influencer based on the thumbnail and can determine how truthful or misleading the social media ad may be. This will also allow you the opportunity to look for general reviews of the item as well as compare it to others to make a more confident decision.

Keep an eye out for stolen images

Misleading websites often steal aesthetically pleasing images from established companies and mark down the price to lure consumers in – especially on trendy merchandise. Consumers think they’re getting a great deal on a trendy clothing item, for example, but receive low-quality merchandise once it’s delivered. If a website happens to have inconsistent images throughout its pages, that’s a potential red flag.

A reverse image search on Google will give you a good idea of whether the images were stolen. If the same image appears on more than one site, it’s likely being used to deceive consumers. Even the smallest businesses try to use original images of their products and merchandise, not steal them.

Look for a transparent and thorough return policy.

A trustworthy business will set clear expectations for the shopper before making a purchase to help achieve a satisfactory experience. Setting clear expectations means a business cares about honoring its promises. Furthermore, make sure there are multiple methods for contacting them in case any issues arise and there’s a legitimate registered address.

The key is to be proactive. Take the time to compare items, look for reviews on multiple platforms, learn how to spot a fake review and know who to contact in case any issues arise after placing an order.

BBB is here to help every step of the way. Lean on us to look up a company before you start shopping or submit a complaint to help reach a resolution after you make a purchase.


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