Complaints of online shopping scam are skyrocketing on digital platforms such as Facebook Marketplace, Instagram, according to BBB
Not getting a product or buying something that looks significantly different from the ad? Whether it’s an online ad like Facebook Marketplace or a link you see on social media, consumer experts want you to slow down before you tap and buy.
“Well, it was a high-class vacuum cleaner, like a Roomba,” is what Elizabeth Savio and his wife Michelle say they were thinking of buying. The Round Lake couple say they saw these photos of a high-end robotic vacuum cleaner model on Facebook Marketplace. They bought two and paid $129 each.
Instead, they received two of what they describe as low-end models.
“I ended up with a toy,” Elizabeth said. “I can’t step on a carpet, I can’t step on anything other than a regular surface, a hard surface.”
The Savios say the cheaper model they ended up with was also announced, but that’s not what they clicked on.
“This one was in their ad, but this one was $39.95,” Michelle said. “It’s very light. I mean…literally, my sandwich today weighed more than that thing, to be honest.”
According to a thread with the vacuum company, the women asked to return the products for a full refund. The company offered to refund 20% of the price, or the women could send them back to China at their own expense for a full refund. Neither option satisfied the Savios. The I-Team contacted the company, but did not hear back. Seller’s website is now disabled.
“I wish I could go on Facebook and say, ‘Hey guys, you know, look out. We kind of got ripped off here,'” Michelle said.
The popular Facebook Marketplace is a modern update of other online classifieds. Most have little regulation on transactions. But Facebook claims that many products on the market are covered by Purchase Protection. You can see if you qualify at checkout. However, this plan does not cover transactions made if you click on third-party websites, such as the one used by Savios, or local transactions where you meet people in person.
Meta, Facebook’s parent company, told I-Team that they needed products and services to sell on their platforms, to comply with their “trade policies” and “community standardswhich include a ban on any “misleading, deceptive, or fraudulent” content. Meta says there are consequences, such as removal from listings, rejection of product labels, and termination of access to their platforms.
“In the Scam tracker complaints for 2021, about 40% of online purchases are about Facebook and Instagram,” Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Chicago and Northern Illinois Better Business Bureau, told I-Team.
Facebook and Instagram also have the most dominant social media presence, but complaints about online shopping are everywhere.
The same Better Business Bureau Study shows that all online shopping scams nearly doubled between 2019 and the start of the pandemic in 2020. Complaints included either “no product delivered” or “counterfeit received”.
“A scammer could create a fake profile pretty quickly and post something pretty quickly on Facebook,” Bernas said.
Meta says it has removed billions of fake profiles in recent years; still some buyers keep getting scammed.
“Look at their profile. See how long they’ve had this profile? Does it look like a fake profile? Do they look like they have pictures? Has it been established for a while, it was created a week ago?” Bernas warned.
The Savios say they have little confidence they will reach a resolution with the people who sold them a low-end vacuum instead of the high-end vacuum.
“I mean, we argued with them over and over again to no avail,” Elizabeth said. “The attitude was ‘well we sent you what we had, goodbye’.”
You can report suspicious ads to Facebook and it will eventually remove them. Also, if you are transacting locally, take precautions to stay safe. You should end up in a police station instead of going to a house or making sure you’re not alone.
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