Are social media advertisements a scam?

Buying into fake websites is the same as directly handing the scam artists your money.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Buying into fake websites is the same as directly handing the scam artists your money.

Social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook are notorious for ads that promote products and brands. Most of the time the ads on social media are big brands like Nike, Under Armor and Walmart, although it is not uncommon for small businesses to have sponsorships on social media platforms.

It is a well known belief that social media advertisements are fine tuned for each individuals taste, style, and interest, but how exactly do they get the information to appeal to each user?

Many believe that phones and other electronic devices listen to conversations and produce product advertisements that are incredibly similar or identical to the subject you were just talking about.

Even though this concept may seem far fetched, Junior Kylie Cosman has experienced this phenomenon, she stated, “It is so weird, I will be talking about a store with my family or friends, and I will go on Instagram and all of a sudden an advertisement for the store is the first thing that pops up. It is not even like it happened once, it happens all the time.”

When it comes to conspiracy theories as to why this happens, it is left up to speculation. It has been occurrences of scammers posing “small businesses.” Most of the time, scammers choose to pray upon those who would be susceptible to ads that would interest them because of how social media is set to fit your taste. One way they do this is by keeping track of the brands you follow and your liked posts, then they show you ads for small, lesser known businesses with similar products. Most of the time, the websites they advertise are either extremely expensive or incredibly cheap.

In today’s world, it is imperative to be weary when committing to a purchase on any of these sites. Sophomore Alina Bernal-Clark has fallen victim to a scam website in the past, she stated, “Last May I was online looking for swimsuits because summer was right around the corner. I saw an ad on Instagram for swimsuits that were very inexpensive, and I ordered a few of them and they never came. When I called the customer service number on the website it went to voicemail immediately each time.”

Bernal-Clark is only one of many victims of online scamming, there are millions of others with similar stories. Freshman Abby Melito has shared her experience with fake websites in the past, she stated, “When I was trying to online shop for Christmas presents for my family, I was using a website from an ad I saw and I put in my credit card information and paid. I waited months and ordered far in advance so that everything would be to me by Christmas. The stuff I ordered never came and I never got a confirmation e-mail or anything.”

Spotting whether a website is a scam or not may be difficult for some, although there are many ways to tell if the site is reliable or not. One way is to make sure their contact information is legitimate can be done by contacting them before you commit to a purchase. Another way is to check the reviews online from real people to see if anybody had problems with the website.

Social media is a hot spot for online scammers to find naïve shoppers and take advantage of them. When these platforms tweak the products displayed for people to see, it makes the process of finding easy targets much simpler. This can make it difficult to support small businesses when you do not know if they are real or not.

Staying informed and taking the necessary precautions to be sure that no scammers can thrive off of whim purchases is a great tactic in order to ensure that hard earned money is not going to waste.