BBB Scam Alert: Misleading Ads Trick Online Shoppers Into Buying Phony Vintage Goods


Second-hand shopping used to mean scouring your local thrift stores. But online options have made finding vintage clothes and accessories easier than ever. However, BBB Scam Tracker has gotten reports from shoppers who thought they bought legitimate vintage goods only to receive knock offs, or nothing at all.

How the Scam Works

You find a one-of-a-kind vintage item online that is in great shape and selling for a reasonable price. Often, this kind of scam originates with an ad on social media. You visit the website and everything looks normal, so you make the purchase.

In a best-case scenario, your package arrives but the item isn’t anything like what you’ve ordered. It may be completely different, or it might be a knock off instead of the real-deal vintage product you were promised. In a worst-case scenario, your package never arrives at all and any attempts you make to contact the company are left unanswered.

One consumer told BBB Scam Tracker that she bought what she thought was a vintage Chanel necklace. But what she received was totally different. “I can tell it’s fake because the pendant is plastic and… the necklace made my whole neck and chest green.” When she contacted support, she received an “unprofessional email stating the owner has never had a problem before, and so there’s nothing they could do.”

How to protect yourself from vintage shopping scams


  • Avoid impulse buying, especially on social media. Keep in mind that scammers know how to target consumers based on their buying history. Even if an item seems perfect, try not to make an emotional decision to purchase. Scammers will try to make you feel like the item you are considering – especially vintage items – will get snapped up by someone else. Always take the time to research the item and the seller before you click “buy. 
  • Scrutinize the website before you purchase. Check and find the company’s business rating and BBB accreditation status. Carefully review consumer reviews outside of the company’s website. Do an internet search of the company along with the word “scam.” If others have had a poor experience or been scammed by the company, don’t do business with them.
  • Check for valid contact information. If a business doesn’t have a U.S. or Canadian phone number, consider it a red flag. Keep in mind that scammers may use Google Voice numbers or use a Gmail or Yahoo business email address to appear legitimate. Trustworthy businesses should have a working phone number and preferably, a physical address that checks out too.
  • Pay with your credit card. Credit cards offer more protection for buyers than other payment methods.
  • Keep good records. Write down where you ordered the items and take a screenshot of the website and the item listing in case it disappears later. This will make disputing the charges easier if it becomes necessary.

For More Information

Read up on how to identify social media ad scams and review BBB’s tips for smart shopping online regularly to help you spot a scam.

If you’ve been the victim of a scam, whether you lost money or not, share your experience at BBB Scam Tracker to help others stay alert.

Stay up to date on the latest scams by subscribing to BBB’s weekly Scam Alerts email.


Information courtesy of the Better Business Bureau