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Be On The Lookout For Phony Personalized Products

Were you looking for the perfect present? A gift with the recipient’s name or monogram makes someone feel special. But wait! BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports from people whose purchases were far different from what they thought – if they arrived.

“A personalized item might seem like the perfect gift,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB in Central East Texas, said. “Just remember, many promotions on social media channels aren’t what they claim to be.”

How the scam works

While scrolling through social media, an ad comes up for the cutest personalized product. It could be a clothing item with a loved one’s name on it, a keychain with a favorite pet’s face, or a paint-by-numbers kit made from a provided photograph. Whatever the case, you click the link to the company’s website. Everything looks legitimate, so you purchase with great anticipation.

However, when the order arrives (if it arrives at all), it’s not the quality that was expected or imagined. For example, the personalization might contain errors, or the product may be completely different from what the website described.

The contact for customer service doesn’t respond, or if you speak with someone via phone or email, they assure you they will fix the issue—but never do. So, in the end, you are left with an undesirable product or no product at all and no way to get your money back.

One shopper reported this experience buying a custom hoodie online: “After five days, I hadn’t received a shipping notification and got curious. Returning to the site, I used their tracking option to no result. So I called the phone number listed on the site, and it connected to a garage door company.”

How to avoid social media ad scams

  • Research the company before making a purchase. Before entering any personal information into a website, research the company thoroughly. Examine the website. Poor quality images, images found on other websites, and spelling and grammatical errors are all red flags. A real business should have valid contact information (i.e., a working phone number and customer service email address). If the company has a physical address, research it on Google or Apple Maps. Look to see if they have a profile on BBB.org.
  • Look up reviews on other websites. Read as many reviews as possible from websites besides the company selling the product. Keep a close eye out for customer complaints. Search the business name in a trusted search engine along with the word “scam” to see if others have reported the business as a fake.
  • Pay with a credit card. Ideally, use a credit card instead of a debit card since it’s easier to dispute fraudulent charges with a credit card, and there is a better chance of getting a refund.\\

 For more information

Read more about a tracking code trick that scammers use to dupe online shoppers and how to identify social media ad scams. See BBB’s tips for smart shopping online to avoid purchasing from shady companies.

Please report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices to BBB Scam Tracker. Remember, great businesses are out there. Always look for the BBB seal; it’s the Sign of a Better BusinessSM. Start with companies you can trust by going to bbb.org.

If you’ve been the victim of a scam, share your experience at BBB Scam Tracker.

About BBB: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. In addition, BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more details. Founded in 1985, BBB Central East Texas serves 19 counties.