Five tell-tale signs of a Social Media scam

We’ve all seen the ads on our Social Media feeds. Items that look too good to miss at prices that seem like real bargains. We resist the temptation to buy but then we keep seeing the ads appear again and again over the course of the next few days. Some may believe this is down to the Law of Attraction, a hypothesis that if our subconscious wants something, we will become more attuned to seeing that object in our daily lives. Alas, it’s not “fate”, “destiny” or some magic that conspiracy theorists will attribute to 5G. This relates to the complex algorithms that the social media networks are constantly developing where the constant objective is to match buyer demand (social media users) with seller products (advertisers). It is a classic economic model of supply in most markets will meet demand.

There is no doubt that the use of Social Media has been instrumental in the growth of a number of brands as well as our choice as a consumer. It has allowed small brands to be seen on the widest possible stage without the need for huge marketing budgets. I, like many of you, will have bought items via seeing ads on Social Media that are tailored to my interests – craft beer, wall art and football shirts, for instance. Every time I click on an ad that data is recorded and used by the Social Media networks with other advertisers to serve the most relevant ad to me, whether they offer genuine products or not.

So how can you tell whether an advert that we see on Social Media is a genuine bargain or a scam? Fraudsters use the same tactics to grab the attention of Social Media users as genuine brands do but in the vast majority of cases they are looking for a quick return on their investment in Social Media advertising campaign

Whilst there are a number of ways to determine the legitimacy of any offers or adverts on Social Media, the five most common signs that should raise a red flag are as follows:

  1. Poor spelling and grammar – I’m not sure why something so simple to correct is often the biggest giveaway that an ad is a scam. Just as luxury brands will never use words such as “bargain” or even “discount”, standard ads that have spelling errors and simple grammatical mistakes are a giveaway. “Their” rather than “They are” or “a loud” rather than “allowed”.
  2. Eye-catching pricing and deep discounts – “If it looks too good to be true”. The best way to grab a Social Media users attention is to promote products that appear to be amazing or are at amazing prices. I’m sure we have all seen the fantastic coffee tables that have a giant iPad surface or projectors the size of a matchbox that can beam an image on the side of a building. The images used in the adverts are often all identical computer generated ones, meaning that any logo can be added based on the users preference.
  3. Lack of standard contact details and overly positive reviews – On the website of the company look for the contact details. If it is simply a contact us form then you should be suspicious. Most reputable companies will have a phone number, email address or even live chat to address any questions or issues. Also, look at the address of the company (if there is one). Check if it is a legitimate address. Search the address via a Search Engine and see what the results are – if there are multiple companies listed there it could simply be a poste restante, an address a company hires to have any post delivered to. Also, look out for overly positive reviews
  4. Multiple adverts, offering the same product using different domain names – If you start seeing the same ad time and time again but the domain name being used is different every time then it is worth considering why? Few brands will use a different website to offer the same products and services – any SEO expert will tell you the dangers to search rankings of duplicate content. But for the advertisers, having multiple domain names gives them some protection against domain names being suspended or taken down.
  5. Domain security including SSL – One almost sure-fire way to see if a website is suspicious is the date when the domain name was registered, which you can check via a simple lookup through http://www.whois.com. Most organisations will register domain names many months in advance of a product or brand launch, building their web presence and social media marketing from there. However, most of the Social Media scams tend to be published on websites where domain names have been registered recently. In addition, any websites that requires personal or financial data need to be protected by SSL. Few of these websites have that – in the final image above you can see there is an SSL logo but that is all it is, it isn’t a real SSL.

There are more tell-tale signs that can be used to distinguish between ads for real products and the fakes or non-existent ones but these five are the most commonest and quickest to use to verify the legitimacy. And remember, if an ad looks too good to be true, it probably is.

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