Protect Yourself From Facebook and Instagram Ad Fraud

Shopping on social media carries a lot of risk as the pandemic escalates. Online shopping scams have accounted for nearly half of all complaints on the Better Business Bureau’s fraud tracking system since last year, with many of these complaints pointing to questionable Instagram and Facebook ads. Here’s how you can protect yourself.

What’s happening?

The flexible nature of online sales has allowed ephemera to set up fake offices, sell large volumes of product using deceptive advertisements, and then disappear. They will either sell things that never arrive, or they may sell things that are absurdly incongruous with what they advertise.Examples include a “snowblower” which eventually becomes an ice crusher and a “motorized surfboard” which is nothing more than cheap foam. In another example, hundreds of parents ordered what they believed to be a huge unicorn for their children, but instead received a small inflatable toy.

How to spot fake social media ads

  • Be skeptical of offers that are too good to be true, or otherwise seductive to keep you on your guard, such as claims that some of the proceeds from a sale will go to “charity.”
  • Google the name of the company followed by “verification”, “complaints” or “scam”. If you see a lot of results, walk away.
  • Find a seller on the BBB website to make sure it’s legit and see what letter grade it gets (A through F).
  • Make sure the company has a real address. In one case, a woman found the address of a fictitious luxury goods company and found it to be an abandoned house.
  • Be aware that product photos can be stolen from anywhere, so what you see may not be what you get, even if it looks like the actual product.
  • Check if the company has a legitimate website with proper details to contact us and customer support. If not, be careful.
  • Search the site for the Google Trust Seal or PayPal.

Finally, even for legitimate purchases, use your credit card for maximum consumer protection and avoid paying online with a prepaid gift card, CashApp, Zelle, Venmo, or bank transfer. If you are a victim of a scam, you can file a complaint at or report it to BBB Scam Tracker at


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