Sep 24, 2020
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How To Scam Millions With Facebook Ads, Shopify Stores, And Fake Products

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Fake fitness products including Bowflex advertised on Facebook and delivered via Shopify stores. JOHN KOETSIER It s been a bit challenging to get fitness equipment lately hasn t it? Scammers have noticed too. That s why there s been a proliferation of scammy-looking fitness product ads on Facebook lately. I ve personally seen literally dozens of ads for fake Bowflex products often from stores with unpronounceable names and obscure but extremely similar websites

 

Scammers are cashing in on Facebook s advertising options to advertise anything they are able to says Molly Borman Heymont a direct-to-consumer retail entrepreneur. Facebook would not seem to validate the legitimacy of their advertisers website or products so it s more of a buyer beware situation. After seeing 5 – 6 ads for fake Bowflex products in one day I decided to take action

 

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Why COVID-19 Is Hitting Black And Hispanic Children Especially Hard So I bought a couple from a shop with the unlikely name of GearsRice

 

I fully expected to get scammed and I used to be not disappointed. The price for the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells was $89 a fragment of what the adjustable dumbbells retail for. The SelectTech weights claim to fame is that they are able to be configured for as little as five pounds of weight to as much as 52

 

5 pounds meaning that you essentially have an entire rack filled with weights in one small package. Small relatively speaking. Each dumbbell is roughly the scale of a big toaster and weighs about 55 pounds with the mandatory base. They retail for around $400 which makes an $89 price point appealing. Very appealing like dropped-off-the-back-of-a-truck appealing

 

And not just was the hundred-plus-pound package selling for 75% off retail price. shipping was free. From China. I knew I used to be going to get scammed. So of course I used PayPal. I used PayPal to buy the fake products because I used to be pretty sure they’d never ship and PayPal

 

[+] JOHN KOETSIER Good thing too. I never received an email confirmation of the purchase and I never received another communication from the seller. Two months after initiating the purchase I finished up receiving a reimbursement from PayPal. The vendor was labeled as QINHUANGDAO inside the refund notification with an email address of kownfn6@163

 

com. The vendor didn t contest the refund or offer any explanation. But what I spotted as I explored not just this but multiple other scams was a growing similarity: a Facebook ad a Shopify store and an obviously underpriced product of some kind that was clearly in case you took the time to look prone to be fake

 

Experts say it is a repeating pattern. The vast majority of ads are automatically approved and run until they’re detected or flagged by multiple members of the Facebook (or Instagram) community says Larissa Lowthorp a tech CEO and previous architect of Best Buy s e-commerce platform. Shopify does have a form available where consumers can report suspected fraudulent stores but it’s not easy to find

 

And having the ability to run a shop on a platform like Shopify provides a degree of legitimacy that hasn t always been available Lowthorp says. Inside the old days fly-by-night ecommerce stores was once pretty easy to identify she adds. They’d poor design shoddy features and questionable product photos

 

Shopify offers a short and simple way for legitimate vendors and scammers alike to create beautiful sophisticated online shopping platforms in a comparatively short period of time. A pretend product ad on Facebook JOHN KOETSIER In some weeks I discovered a number of very similar ad and storefront combinations most with fairly odd names and a few just with web address from a URL-shortening service

 

(Most if not all are now not available now as they’ve since been caught and delisted. ) Effortring
Jacketdrums
Agtef. cn
GearsRice. top
bit. ly/2VfFLIQ
Wantcvut. com
Solitude. enjoy
Predictfuture
fixted. store
Geoghost. store
Cokeie. life
Entriesusers
Kknower In every case where I clicked on the ad and followed it to the actual store the path was the same: Facebook ad Shopify store

 

Not that there s anything specifically about Shopify that pulls scammers although Shopify has managed to create a very simple and usable on-ramp to internet commerce. That easy on-ramp attracts scammers as well as legitimate retailers but there s also other options experts say. The final consensus among SEO and SEM experts is that individuals will create fraudulent e-commerce websites on Wix Shopify and Squarespace around popular Amazon products and highly searched items says Yosef Solomon a 10-year e-commerce veteran who now runs his own online boutique

 

This offers them immediate traffic and higher conversion rates especially if the product is sold-out on Amazon. My fake Bowflex weights never came. But apparently that s not unique. Rather it s a way of generating much more income because many might either forget to contest the charge fail to do it in time or contest the charge after the funds have already been transferred

 

And by then the scammer possibly long gone. These companies sometimes don’t have any intention of fulfillment and are frequently built on fraudulent credit accounts Solomon says. Routinely these websites aren t based in the U. S. and don’t have any actual way of having through to any customer service representatives

 

Another fake ad for a pretend product from a pretend retailer. JOHN KOETSIER I saw so many of these sites that looked templated that I started to suspect that scammers and fraudsters were automatically generating fake Shopify stores: programmatically spinning up new stores as the old ones get discovered and taken down

 

Solomon says that s true and that unethical developers can auto-create retail sites on Wix Shopify and other e-commerce platforms programmatically. Once spun up a site can be loaded with content scraped from legitimate sites or injected from a template. Revealingly a number of the sites had the exact same text on their About Us pages

 

I reached out to Facebook in regards to the scammy ads but did not receive a reply. A Shopify representative did return my email with a form letter stating that false or deceptive promotion of listed products and value gouging are violations of Shopify s acceptable use policy and not aligned with our mission to make commerce better for everyone

 

Moreover the Shopify representative told me the company has internal tools to observe for fraudulent activity. which could account for the undeniable fact that many of the stores I saw the fake products on are actually closed. Add it all up however and you’ve got an atmosphere where scammers can shoot and scoot: established a retail ecosystem feed it with social media ads collect revenues for some weeks or months after which bolt to a new set of websites and ad accounts when someone catches on

 

So long as Facebook and e-commerce platforms enable this merry-go-round it s prone to continue. So what can consumers do? Taylor McCarthy Hansen an e-commerce executive provides six tips that make sense and would have revealed every single scam I encountered. Check the price isn t unrealistically good. (If the vendor can t earn money it s a scam

 

)
Check the domain name matches the name of the website. (Most scammers don t even bother doing this. )
Check the domain name isn t ridiculous. (If it has numbers or junk letters tagged in they’ve just gone for an inexpensive throw away domain name as they know they ll only have it a week

 

)
Check what other people say under the Facebook ad. Read the comments. When these sites get pulled so does the Facebook page they use to advertize. Check the Facebook page has existed and been posting for at least some months with positive comments under posts. (Almost all scams have under 3 posts with the exception of the advert

 

)
Most of these scammers forget to change the wording on their website privacy pages. Check the privacy page and spot if the company name matches the positioning name. Ultimately it s a hard thing for start-up independent businesses and retailers but knowing the emblem you re buying from is a huge boost in your quest to not getting scammed

 

Defaulting to Amazon or Walmart isn t great in your local economy but it can be safer. And if you want to support the little guy make double-sure it s a real company with real people and real products using the information above. Finally like I did use PayPal. PayPal is probably not perfect however it has an automated grievance process

 

It takes time to process but eventually you ll get your money back. After which you may spend it somewhere legitimate

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