Social media sites are filled with ads, luring us with great deals on clothing, electronics, and outdoor items.
But too often, those ads turn out to be fake, and the great deals turn out to be scams to take your money.
Mark and Kathy Fisher were looking for a new patio set for their summer get-togethers.
However, prices were high in stores, so they scrolled Facebook Marketplace for better deals.
They spotted a great deal from Home Depot.
"It says they had a clearance on unclaimed furniture, returned furniture, in the warehouse, that they must move," Mark Fisher said.
"I believe it was normally $175," Kathy said. "And it was for sale for $39."
The ad had many photos, dimensions, and details, so the Fishers figured it was "extremely legitimate because it had Home Depot's logo all over it."
So they placed the order but got a PayPal response in a foreign language.
No patio set ever showed up. And when they emailed to inquire about their order, they received no response.
Scammers use well-known logos, photos of real merchandise
It turns out it wasn't Home Depot that had posted the ad.
Someone had copied the store's logo and pictures of the patio set and posted it all on Facebook Marketplace, looking to lure a victim.
And suspicious ads from other stores are also on the site, offering too-good-to-be-true deals.
Home Depot says it is aware of these fake ads and offered these tips on what to do if you come upon a scam using its name:
- If you’re not sure if an email is actually from a retailer or something looks suspicious, call the retailer’s customer service team to directly verify the offer.
- Never click links in suspicious emails, and never provide personal or financial information over email like credit card numbers or banking information.
- The FTC is also a great resource for data on scams like this and tips on what to watch for – see this resource here [ftc.gov].
"We continue to look for ways to combat crimes like this and regularly work with social media platforms to take down scams," Home Depot said.
The Better Business Bureau's Sarah Wetzel says online purchase scams are expected, with thousands of complaints to the BBB each year.
"Impersonation is one of the key factors of what scammers love to do," Wetzel said. "They love to impersonate those well-known companies because they already have a foot in the door with the consumers."
Before clicking a social media ad, Wetzel says to take a close look at the URL on the website to make sure it's a legitimate business.
"They may just change one letter in there," she said. "M's and N's look very closely alike."
She also added that you make sure that there is an "S" in the URL: HTTPS. The S means the site is secured. "Sometimes the fake websites don't have that," Wetzel said.
She says an ad may be a scam if...
- Items are advertised at a much lower price than in the store (and you can't find that same deal on the store's website).
- You find spelling or grammatical errors.
- The business address seems wrong (for instance, Home Depot is based in Atlanta, and Walmart is based in Bentonville, Arkansas).
If you make an online purchase, Wetzel says always pay with a credit card, not gift cards, Zelle, or Venmo, which are untraceable.
That way, you have a shot at getting your money back if the item doesn't show up.
"This was a real eye-opener for us," Kathy Fisher said.
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