A personalized item might seem like the perfect present; however, last-minute shoppers should look out for misleading ads on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok promoting customized gifts. BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports from people whose purchases ended up being far different from what they thought – if they arrived at all.  

How the scam works

While scrolling through social media, the 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 make the purchase with great anticipation.

However, when the order arrives (if it arrives at all), it’s not the quality that was expected nor imagined. 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 do speak with someone via phone or email, they assure you they will fix the issue—but never do. 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 5 days, I hadn’t received a shipping notification and got curious. Returning to the site, I used their tracking option to no result. 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 to 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 business 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 making purchases from shady companies. Source: BBB.org

If you’ve been the victim of a scam, share your experience at BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.