Holiday shoppers: watch out for Grinch lurking in social media, warns BBB

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(WIVB) – Attention holiday shoppers the great bargain you found on social media might be a ripoff.

That’s the warning the Better Business Bureau has for shoppers – and they say that extra care can save you money and trouble.

Consumers using social media like never before – connecting with friends and relatives, checking their newsfeeds, and gift shopping.

The ripoffs, though, are turning up on the Better Business Bureau’s scam tracker – in the thousands.

“The first line of so many scam tracker reports is, ‘I saw this ad on Facebook, I saw this ad on Instagram,” said Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau for Upstate New York.

McGovern says we have all seen the pictures of choked product supply lines, empty store shelves, and prices surging out of control – a bonanza for scammers setting up shop on social media.

“Something that they are claiming is a designer product, or a high end product, and the price is really low, that is always a red flag,” she added. “If it is an item that is sold out everywhere but on this particular website, that is also a red flag.”

But she adds it is the casual users of social media that seem to get caught up the most in fraudulent ads – those who passively scroll through messages, both personal and commercial.

“Because we know that 83 percent of people who don’t do their research before purchasing online lose money to these scam websites,” McGovern said.

But some ripoffs can do more than damage to your bank account.

Mcgovern told us, if something looks too good to be real, it might be counterfeit. Often, fakes of new popular items – like a new magnetic putty for kids that is spawning imitations – and they can hurt you.

“Counterfeit merchandise is huge as well,” McGovern said. “It is not only illegal to buy it, some of the products may not be made up to U.S. Standards and there could be chemicals in them. So you really want to be careful with that as well.”

You can find the BBB’s guide for safe shopping on the Internet here.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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