Social media advertising is an effective way for small businesses to get the word out about their products. Unfortunately, the same goes for scams. BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker) is getting reports of Facebook and Instagram ads that take advantage of shoppers’ goodwill by claiming to give proceeds to charity.
How the Scam Works
As you scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed, you see an ad from a small business selling adorable jewelry, t-shirts, or other merchandise. The best part? Some of the proceeds from the sale will go to a charity that helps rescue animals, foster children, or support another worthy cause. Some consumers even report getting direct messages from sellers promoting the products and asking them to spread the word to friends and family.
You make your purchase and feel great! You’ll receive a product you love, and you’ve done a good deed. But as the days turn into weeks and your merchandise never gets delivered, the doubts start to build. After a while, you contact the company to inquire about your merchandise and they are suddenly unreachable or reply with an autoresponder. In reality, the product never existed. It was all a ploy to get your money.
How to Protect Yourself from Social Media Scams
- Do your research. Before making a purchase, do a quick search for the business in question. Do they have valid contact information? Don’t be fooled by professional photography or consumer reviews on their website. These can be lifted from other sites. Check BBB Scam Tracker to see if others have been duped (org/ScamTracker).
- Search for previous complaints. Do a Google search of the business name followed by “complaints”, “reviews”, or “scam” and see what pops up. If you find other people have been cheated by this business, steer clear.
- Use good judgment. Many con artists play on consumers’ desire to help those in need. Keep this in mind and use your head, not just your heart, when supporting charitable causes. Go to Give.org to research organizations before giving.
For More Information
If you’ve been the victim of a social media charity scam, share your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report could help other consumers avoid falling victim to similar scams.