The internet is a way of life in the modern world, and with that, online shopping has grown immensely. However, with this added popularity comes a dark side – scammers abuse the internet, looking for new ways to get you to part with your life savings – like convincing you to buy a low-quality product for lots of money, or get you trapped into “signing” a monthly subscription fee, by creating fake ads and promotions. But, not all online shopping experiences are fueled by scams – so how do you know if it’s a fake ad you’re clicking, and how do you protect yourself from these scammers?
Some Of The Fake Ads Out There
Generally speaking, you can find fake ads, promotions, or marketing almost anywhere on the internet today – from the most popular social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, to websites that you may trust and visit regularly:
Facebook Fake Ads
We all think we know what a Facebook ad from a legitimate company looks like – their page has many followers, they have a pinned post or video at the top of their page, they have a reviews section, and everything is above board for the most part – but tall this can also be faked. So how do you spot the scammer accounts?
If you click on the search button above your Facebook news feed and type in the name of the company and there appears to be many different pages of that company, chances are one of them is a fake – your best bet is to click on the page with the most followers – that should be your first indication that the page is real. You should do this especially if you see an attractive promotion from a not-so-popular business, or one that you’ve never heard of before. For popular companies, we know what their logo looks like and the general feel of the company, but if you see a promotion from a business selling seemingly amazing products at a discount rate or giving away x number of products to the first 100 people who sign up somewhere by “clicking here”, do your research on the company first. Type in the company name followed by reviews, and that should take you to the place where you need to be. If its fake, there will be lots of complaints and even warnings that the offer is fake, or that you get no-name low quality products that don’t match the amount you spent on them.
Instagram Fake Ads
Instagram fake ads generally operate similar to that of Facebook fake ads. They will also have a huge band of followers – probably generated by using fake or old accounts or by paying for fake followers. Spotting a fake business account follows similar steps as above – search the company name and reviews on Google. If it’s a company that has affected a lot of people, there will even be information and reports warning consumers about the “business”. Usually on Instagram you will see high quality products and brands being sold at ridiculously low prices – but of course for a limited time only. These products may include watches, caps, shoes, and bags. What the scammers generally do is use stock images that they find over the internet and place them on their virtual store. These are not the products you will get when you purchase the item though – you will receive generic, low quality brands made in China for example. These people use great images of products to lure you into buying other products from manufacturers you don’t know. If you click on the website and you purchase a product, you also stand the risk of being stuck in a monthly mailing fee, for offers being sent to you on a monthly basis, or even buying the products at low cost, but paying exorbitant shipping costs – your purchase price may be low, but your shipping costs on your credit card statement will be high. Make sure you read the fine print on these ads, and if you don’t see any, do another Google search! The basic rule of thumb is that if something seems too good to be true… it is!
Fake Website Ads
Websites are another source of fake ad traps. If you didn’t search for something but it pops up constantly while you are surfing different websites, chances are it’s trying to sell you something you’ll never get. Once you click on “sweet deal”, it often opens a new page, where there’ll be another ad. Sometimes clicking the escape button just opens up more ads and you will find yourself stuck in a very persistent advertisement loop. There are fake adverts however that aren’t so obvious, and it’s here where you should use your gut instinct and discretion. If you searched for something specific from a specific company, but other companies pop up selling the same thing but at seriously discounted prices, they are probably just trying to trick you.
Download fraud is another one of the biggest website scams. This is when you think you are downloading what you wanted, but you unknowingly clicked on the wrong button because it was the most prominent or it popped up aggressively. These scammy guys get you to download software that you really didn’t need or wanted, and ask you for your credit card details to ensure monthly subscriptions are paid. Another telltale sign of this scam is if you searched for software company x but you were taken to software company y (who you didn’t search for) stop and do research of company first. Again, the reviews will give good indication of the reputation of the company and its business practices.
The bottom line is if people start asking for your credit card details online, take a step back and re-evaluate. Remember, an ad or company doesn’t need to rip you off to be fake – they can also trick you into buying something you didn’t want by way of false advertising, or you thought the product was something else. Look out for bad or cheesy picture quality and grammar errors on the website. Always do your research first and be extremely careful with your credit card details.