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Protect yourself from shady online stores.

Protect yourself from shady online stores.

As it gets closer to the biggest shopping days of the year, the online scammers come out to play — especially through online shopping ads —like on Facebook.

These predators LOVE to prey on those just like you who love to support small businesses (ugh!).

Okay — be honest — who here thought that we were scammers when you first saw one of our Facebook ads? We used to get questioned all. the. time. about the legitimacy of our business (ouch!) through comments on our ads.

Luckily, we don't have this issue as much anymore as we've taken steps to be as transparent as possible.

1. First, what is a sponsored Facebook ad?

Facebook ads are simply ads that companies pay for that run on Facebook. Sponsored ads are different than posts (which are what you and your friends write). Actual ads on Facebook have the word "Sponsored" directly underneath the company name on the ad (see below). Pretty much anyone can run a Facebook ad.

This is an example of one of our sponsored ads — notice the word "Sponsored" directly under our company name:

2. Scammers love to be vague.

Scammers don't want to be caught. They don't like to put a lot of information in their ad, website or social media (if they even have social media — more on this later). Whereas, most reputable companies really want to draw you in and engage with you by making you love the product and the company or creators behind it. They WANT you to know who they are, what they sell, and why.

3. Really take a good look at the text.

If an ad is usually only a few words, have spelling errors and/or is grammatically incorrect, I hear warning bells. Oftentimes there are a lot of emojis, exclamation marks, all caps, all title-case and a use of ">>". This doesn't mean that all ads that use these are bad. Here is a sample of a highly questionable ad that I saw on Facebook. The ad copy was the first thing that tipped me off.

4. Compare the company name with the website.

One of the first things to do is match the name of the company with the name of the website listed below the ad. Do they match? Do they look like they make sense together? Does the website contain typos or extra characters that just don't make sense? For instance (and this is completely made up) instead of having www.bookworm.com, the website is bookworrm.com (two r's). In my opinion, a company that has a reputable product is going to do everything in their power to market their company and product under their company and product name. Let's look at our sample ad again — notice that our circled company name and website name forgedflare.com match.

5. Read through comments on an ad.

The comments section is a great place to start your research. Good companies take the time to respond to comments. Comments will be full of potential customers asking questions, making statements and even may include both angry or happy existing customers.

Does the business respond to any comments? Check the grammar. Is it understandable? Does it seem to be answered by a bot?

Remember that questionable ad from earlier? Here is a sample of a comment and a response from the company. I noticed that ALL of the responses from the company on ALL customer comments were the exact same. This is a red flag. (Also, notice how the capitalization in the text is all over the place? Yikes.)

6. Let's check out their social media, shall we?

Companies that have a lot to hide... well, hide a lot. One of the first things I do is check out their Facebook page. You can do this by clicking on the company name at the very top of their ad (not the ad itself).

Is their account brand new? A lot of scam ads have Facebook pages that are brand new (or have been created within the last few weeks or months). 

Do they have a lot of followers? Do they even post or do they just run ads? Do they scrub their comments (meaning, do they remove people's comments)? Do they even respond to people's comments?

Scammers want quick money. Maximum return, least amount of effort. Scammers don't want to invest a lot of time or energy into fostering a brand — they do just enough to create an illusion.

On the account in question, I noticed a lot of removed comments from posts, very little engagement from customers, and the few customers who did comment or ask a question, had 0-zip-zilch responses from the company.

You can also see where a company is based. From the main page, you can scroll down a bit until you see a "••• See [Company Name's] About Info". This will open up a new page. Scroll until you see a section named "Page transparency". This will show countries where the page managers are based, which is helpful in case anyone is trying to represent themselves. Any additional ads that they are running also show here. Just something to be aware of.

Check to see if they have an Instagram account. Because Facebook owns Instagram, integrating the two and actually using the two is super simple for companies. If they don't have an Instagram account, that usually sets off alarm bells as well.

7. Do a little more research — let's check out the online shop itself.

You should feel comfortable about clicking on an actual sponsored ad on Facebook. Clicking on a sponsored Facebook ad should be ok, but if it's a bad site, be mindful of the website itself. 

When I got to the website itself, it LOOKS like a real website. It seems to function SIMILARLY to a real website... but there was just something about it that was... off.

The ENTIRE website was on sale. There were sales on top of sales. This isn't normal.

One of the first pages I go on a website is the About page. You can learn a lot from an About page. The page was very basic and had a story that seemingly drew you in... except that it didn't. The person never identified themself and the story itself could really be about anyone. It just seemed off. It also had typos. Several typos. And more than a few exclamation marks. 

Remember how I tried to find an Instagram account? Well, I was so excited to see their social media links on the page... except that NONE of them actually linked to anywhere. Oops.

At the end of the day...

Trust your instincts, and by all means, NEVER give away personal information, ever — if you have suspicions! Hold off on buying. Don't provide your credit card number. NEVER use a cash app or debit card.

Love a product? Maybe follow their social media account for a bit. Sign up for an email list if they have one. Not all companies that bear some of the warning signs are scammers — some are small businesses that just don't know any better. They are people who wear different hats and are just trying to live their dream of a better life.

After all, you most likely found us through a Facebook ad, amiright? :)

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