A public service warning to shoppers out there ready to do a lot of online shopping this holiday season.
Be very wary of ordering anything you see advertised on Facebook! A safe, innocuous, friendly looking ad you might see pop up on Facebook – or any social media platform – could very well be a trap laid out by scammers to lure you into a false sense of security, ready to steal your money and leave you as another victim of an online scam.
I don’t normally write about stuff like this, but earlier in the year I wrote a post about one scam ad in particular, along with the large growing crop of these endless scam ads on Facebook and was shocked by how much attention it got. Many, many victims of these scam ads found my post and shared their stories of being ripped off.
And the scam ads continue to appear on Facebook with no indication that there has been any effort of cracking down on them and saving potential victims.
This is how it works:
An item is advertised on Facebook. The consumer buys it via Paypal. Item arrives, but is nothing like as described. The consumer files a complaint to Paypal. The consumer is instructed to ship the item back before a refund can be issued. The shipping cost (back to its place of origin, typically China) is more than the expected refund. The consumer has lost money and has been scammed.
Let’s break down how this scamming operation works: You’re scrolling through Facebook and an ad pops up of some item that catches your eye. It’s a really great sounding deal, the item looks very nice, the ‘soon-to-be-scammed’ decides to make a purchase.
Typically the scam ads link to fraudulent websites that appear to a nice, comfy and secure online shop. They have friendly pictures and saccharine uplifting mottos and have the appearance of a safe ’boutique’ type of online store. Usually they’ll have some homey, silly, ‘mom and pop’ store style name too.
IT’S ALL A FRAUD!
Quite often the ad that is running on Facebook by these scammers has been stolen from an actual reputable company. They use video and images they’ve stolen and present them as their own to advertise a product they do not have. It will most likely be an expensive looking product that is being offered for a really great deal.
The victim buys said product on the scam website and the scammers have just added another victim to their roster.
Victims are given a tracking number and it’s most likely then when the red flags will start waving when they discover the package is coming from China.
Yep, that’s where most of these scammers are based. They pose as American based companies and attempt to give all indication that’s where you’re ordering from. If you read closely the text they often use on their websites it can be a tip off with a lot of broken English and odd translations that this is not some online shop based in middle America.
Yet, you are given a tracking number for a package that is shipping to you. So the victim waits. And waits. And waits. The tracking information can either be stolen or just an old tracking number for a package that had already been shipped and arrived to its destination to give the illusion that they shipped the victim something.
The scammers like to use the website 17track.net, rather than the USPS, UPS, FedEx. They can manipulate the information on 17track.net much easier to dupe the consumer into a false sense of security and buy some added time from the victim to wait.
Many instances, the victim will receive something – but nothing that remotely resembles what they purchased and saw in that ad on Facebook. It’s usually a very cheap product. Like, you might have thought you were ordering a king sized bed and you’ll end up receiving a bed for a dollhouse.
And that’s not much of an exaggeration. There are Facebook pages dedicated to warning others about the scam ads that flood Facebook and some victims who fell for these scams share images of what they thought they were buying and what they actually received. Folks have ordered laptops and shipped a used face mask. It’s almost comical, if it weren’t so sad.
Now this is where Paypal comes in to really seal the deal and cements this fraud leaving the victim truly helpless.
Shoppers might feel secure using Paypal. After all, they tout they have a ‘Buyer Purchase Protection’ policy for it’s users. Surely, they’ll understand and offer you assistance with this problem. All you have to do is file a dispute about this transaction and you’ll get your money back right?
Not so fast!
Paypal will often actually side with the scammer in these type of disputes. Since the scammer provided a tracking number and there’s a record that the victim was shipped something – whether it was complete junk or not – Paypal will not refund the money the victim had stolen through this transaction.
The victim was often instructed they would have to pay the cost of shipping the item back to its place of origin (China) in order to receive a refund. Many times, the cost of shipping a package to China eclipses the money that they already had stolen for them and it’s not worth it. They give up, leaving them out of the money they lost and becoming the latest victim of this scam
I’ve learned Paypal recently changed their policy regarding this ‘buyer pays for the shipping cost’ that caused countless headaches for victims and that shipping cost is now the ‘sellers’ i.e. the scammers responsibility. I’m not sure if this policy change has helped many victims of these scammers, but my suspicion says not much and consumers are still getting ripped off by these online scams with little assistance from Paypal.
Just pay a visit to Paypal’s Facebook page and read the countless comments of angry customers it has on its hands. Everything from the lack of customer service, to yes being the victim of scammers and given no help by Paypal.
Facebook has become notoriously known as being absolutely filled with these scam ads, along with other social media outlets like Instagram. They are not reputable sellers in any way and are awaiting you to be lured in by their ‘safe’ appearance to steal your money leaving you with nothing.
There are indeed legitimate advertisements on Facebook from safe sellers, but because of the proliferation of these scam ads, I wouldn’t trust any ad I see on Facebook and would never buy anything I saw advertised on there.
It’s still amazing to me that after all this time and so many victims who’ve had their money stolen from these online shopping scam ads more hasn’t been done to eliminate them and protect consumers.
Facebook apparently doesn’t care since they get revenue from the paid advertisements. Whether the ads they’re paid to run are selling a legitimate product or have been created solely to try to steal money from users is not their concern. Facebook still gets money.
Paypal MUST KNOW of this scamming crime that is taking place and how their payment method and rules are being manipulated to steal money from their customers. But I guess it’s not much of a concern for them. They still get their three percent kickbacks from all the transactions, so why would they care whether those transactions are legitimate, if their customers are satisfied with the sale or if their customers have just been victims of a fraud.
It’s become a continuous circle of – Scam ads on Facebook, payment via Paypal, receiving a junk product, and little to no help from Paypal to the victim to get their money back.
Until this fraud is cracked down on these scams will continue to proliferate and sadly rack up more victims. So, this is a warning to all you online shoppers out there. If you plan on buying anything you see advertised on Facebook, or any social media platform, THINK AGAIN ABOUT IT! They very well might not be legit. Don’t be another victim of these scams.
Here’s a very interesting video detailing this type of online shopping scam and what you think you’re ordering and what you really will get