June 15, 2024

Melanie Duquesnel found herself disappointed with her online purchase of a pair of sequined trousers from Old Navy, intended for a fancy fundraiser in Detroit. The pants, although returned easily to a nearby store, didn’t meet her expectations once she had the opportunity to examine them in person. This holiday season, not everyone will have a similarly simple resolution for their online shopping woes.

Challenges for Online Shoppers During the Holidays

Internet scams can range from counterfeit goods to items that never arrive. There are also fraudulent online sellers who vanish when there are issues with a purchase. As Melissa advises, it’s essential to research who you’re purchasing items from, their return policy, and the contingency plan for potential issues. This need for due diligence applies even when seeing deals on social media platforms. Scammers often target popular brands such as Apple, Nike, Louis Vuitton, or Tiffany, using faked advertisements and false deals.

To avoid falling prey to scams, verify that the company is genuine. You can Google the website name along with words like “complaints,” “reviews,” and “scam.” Check for the “About Us” or “Contact Us” section on the company’s website and ensure it lists real contact information. If the only listed contact is through a digital form, it’s a significant red flag.

Online shopping is a continuously booming sector, especially after the change in consumer behaviors driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. This continuous growth also attracts fraudulent activities. Scammers use methods such as creating imposter websites, selling counterfeit goods, and inducing fear by implying there is a problem with a shipment or order.

Don’t Get Tricked by Fake Ads

Consumers must be cautious of unrealistic gift ideas, elusive items, and unbelievable deals circulating on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram. The BBB Scam Tracker has reported thousands of complaints about deceiving ads on these platforms. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that “Scammers are hiding in plain sight on social media platforms”.

Approximately one-fourth of fraud victims in 2021 reported their unfortunate incidents initiated on social media. The losses due to scams on social media amounted to $2.7 billion. This number far exceeds losses from scams conducted through other communication methods. Online shopping scams and investment scams are included. In the first half of 2023, more than 50% of reported fraudulent money losses on social media were related to fraudulent investments. Younger consumers, especially those in their late teens and 20s, are among the most vulnerable to these types of scams.

Scammers frequently create impressive ads and counterfeit websites for big brand names to offer items that won’t be delivered. Even though the item price may seem like a bargain, the buyer might receive an item that’s completely different from what they ordered.

How Scammers Exploit Holiday Shopping

Scammers start planning scams a lot earlier than serious shoppers. Consumers should be extremely skeptical about ads seen on Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook. It isn’t hard for scammers to pose as merchants on social media platforms. They disappear as soon as they have stolen your money.

#### Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How can I tell if an online deal is genuine or not?

Before making a purchase, conduct a quick Google search of the website name along with keywords such as “scam,” “review,” and “complaints.” Pay special attention to their contact information. It’s a significant red flag if the only listed contact method is via digital form.

What types of scams are most commonly seen during the holiday season?

Common scams include creating enticing and realistic ads for high-demand or designer products. These can include gaming consoles, designer handbags, jewelry, and other popular items. The imposter websites used by scammers often seem convincing, causing buyers to rush to make purchases.

What can I do if I’ve fallen victim to an online shopping scam?

Firstly, if you’ve used a credit card, reach out to your bank or credit card company immediately. You may be able to dispute unauthorized charges or get protection from your bank’s policies. In addition, report the incident to websites such as the FTC or BBB Scam Tracker to prevent others from falling into the same trap.

Online scammers are taking advantage of innocent people, particularly those who shop on social media platforms. A common scamming practice involves imitating famous fashion brands, enticing consumers with heavily discounted deals, only for them to receive a counterfeit item or nothing at all.

Some scams involve the guise of charity, with sellers claiming a portion of every sale will go towards a good cause. However, according to the BBB, victims of these scams often fail to receive the product they ordered and are unable to contact the seller. The warning from BBB states that [these products never existed](https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/20678-scam-alert-think-twice-before-buying-from-these-social-media-ads) in the first place.

A key sign of these scams can be the incredibly low prices. Known as fake goods, they can be sold online for 30% to 50% less than the genuine item. Some consumers have reported being disappointed with damaged goods or counterfeits after being lured into false [sales of 90% off last year’s stock](https://consumer.ftc.gov/consumer-alerts/2023/10/halloween-dont-get-ghosted-scammers).

According to Kari Hammel, Director of Michigan State University’s Center for Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection, any branded product can be counterfeited. From toys and clothing to electronics, these fake goods present a risk to consumers due to substandard manufacturing processes. Hammel advocates for stricter regulations to deter harmful counterfeit online sales in the [Senate’s Shop Safe Act hearings](https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/committee-activity/hearings/back-to-school-with-the-shop-safe-act-protecting-our-families-from-unsafe-online-counterfeits).

In the era of online shopping, the number of third-party sellers has surged. These are outsiders not producing the product themselves. It’s crucial that consumers know who they’re buying from, as some sellers could be selling counterfeit goods without meeting the manufacturer’s standards.

In case of receiving counterfeit goods, consumers should notify the online marketplace and the FTC. If it’s a counterfeit or knockoff product, it should be reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at [SaferProducts.gov](https://www.saferproducts.gov/) or call 800-638-2772. If counterfeit medications, food or FDA-regulated products are involved, they should be reported to the [FDA](https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/email/oc/oci/contact.cfm).

#### Frequently Asked Questions

**What are online scams related to social media shopping?**

Online scams related to social media shopping involve false advertisements, counterfeit products, and non-delivery of products after purchase. Scammers may imitate famous brands to entice consumers or pretend to be small businesses claiming to donate to charitable causes.

**What are signs of a counterfeit online sale?**

Lower prices that seem too good to be true, identical pictures used on multiple websites, and undisclosed third-party sellers are all potential indicators of counterfeit sales. If a product is priced significantly lower than its usual retail price, it might be a fake or counterfeit item.

**What should I do if I receive counterfeit goods?**

If you receive counterfeit goods, report it to the Federal Trade Commission, alert the online marketplace where you purchased the item, and submit a report to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission if the counterfeit is a knockoff product. If counterfeit food, medications, or FDA-regulated products are involved, report the issue to the Food and Drug Administration.