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Misleading social media ads fool shoppers

Social media has become a place to find new products and services to purchase. Approximately a third of online shoppers (31 percent) say they are using social networks to peruse new items to buy.

In many cases shopping through social media is a positive experience, but the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has seen an increase in complaints from consumers who have had an unfavorable experience after making a purchase through an advertisement found on a social network.

Free trial offers: Many of these misleading advertisements tout celebrity endorsements and promise a trial of the hottest new skincare or nutritional supplement for the minimal investment of shipping fees. What consumers report is that once they agree to the terms and conditions of these offers, they realize they have agreed to multiple monthly shipments for products in excess of $70 to $100 each.

Before you sign up for these “limited time offers” research the company online, see if there are any other consumer complaints, read the terms and conditions you are agreeing to carefully, and if you can’t find any terms and conditions, that is a red flag. Watch out for pre-checked boxes and make sure that you know who and where the company is that you are purchasing from.

Counterfeit merchandise: Name brand goods are prime targets for unauthorized duplication, from sporting goods to designer apparel and handbags. If you purchase any of these products you may run the risk of not only receiving a poor quality product, but it may not meet environmental and safety regulations either.

Look out for red flags. This includes items that are priced significantly lower than what other retailers are charging, spelling and grammatical errors in the advertisements, and poor quality images.

Engaging ads, poor customer service: This covers a broad spectrum of complaints that BBB receives, from ads for beauty products to trendy clothing to kids’ toys. The advertisements look great and the products are often inexpensive. This means that consumers purchase without doing any research on the website or the company behind it. However, weeks pass and the products never arrive. When the buyers reach out to customer service, they get a vague answer or they don’t hear back at all.

Before buying, do a quick online search. Google the website name with the words “complaints”, “reviews”, and “scam” to see what other customers are saying. Check the “About Us” or “Contact Us” information on the company’s website to see if they contain actual contact details for the business. If the only way to contact the company is through a form this is a red flag.

Apps of unknown origin: While scrolling through your feed you may feel compelled to download the latest “free” app. Beware. By downloading this app, not only are you opening up your device to this unknown entities, you could possibly be signing up for recurring subscription fees. Victims report being charged fees as high as $99 every seven days.

Before you enter your username and password, read the reviews. Also read the description of the app carefully and look for spelling and grammatical errors.