Online shopping complaints soaring on Facebook, Instagram: BBB

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Facebook Marketplace and other digital shopping options have been wildly popular during the pandemic. However, the ABC7 I-Team is finding that online shopping complaints are soaring and some consumers may not get answers if they have a problem.

Not getting a product or buying something that looks far different than the ad? Whether its an online classified like Facebook Marketplace, or a link you see on social media, consumer experts want you to slow down before you tap and buy.

"Well, it was a high-class looking vacuum, like a Roomba," that's what Elizabeth Savio and her wife Michelle say they thought they were buying. The Round Lake couple say they saw these pictures of a high-end model robotic vacuum on Facebook Marketplace. They bought two and paid $129 each.

Instead, they received two of what they describe as lower-end models.

"I ended up with a toy," Elizabeth said. "I cannot go over any carpeting, I cannot go over really anything other than just a regular surface, hard surface."

The Savios say the cheaper model they ended up with, was also advertised, but that's not what they clicked on.

"This one was in their ad, but this one was $39.95," Michelle said. "It's very lightweight. I mean... literally my sandwich today weighed more than this thing, to be honest."

According to an email thread with the vacuum company, the women asked to return the products for a full refund. The company offered to return of 20% of the price, or the women could ship them back to China at their own expense for a full refund. Neither option satisfied the Savios. The I-Team reached out to the company, but has not heard back. The seller's website is now disabled.

"I would like to be able to go to Facebook and say, 'Hey, guys, you know, heads up. We kind of got ripped off here,'" Michelle said.

The popular Facebook Marketplace is a modern update to other online classifieds. Most have little regulation on transactions. But Facebook says many products on the marketplace are covered by Purchase Protection. You can see if you qualify at checkout. However, that plan does not cover transactions made if you click on third-party websites, like the one the Savios used, or local transactions where you meet people in person.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, told the I-Team they require products and services for sale on their platforms, to comply with their "Commerce Policies" and "Community Standards" that include a ban of any "misleading, deceptive or fraudulent" content. Meta says there are consequences, such as the removal of listings, rejection of product tags and termination of access to their platforms.

"In the ScamTracker complaints for 2021, about 40% of the online purchases are regarding Facebook and Instagram," Steve Bernas, president & chief executive officer of the Chicago and Northern Illinois Better Business Bureau, told the I-Team.

Facebook and Instagram also have the most dominant social media presence, but online shopping complaints are everywhere.

The same Better Business Bureau study shows that all online shopping scams nearly doubled from 2019 to when the pandemic began in 2020. Complaints included either "no product delivered" or a "counterfeit received."

"A scammer could pretty quickly create a fake profile and put something up rather quickly on Facebook," Bernas said.

Meta says it has removed billions of fake profiles in recent years; still some buyers continue to get ripped off.

"Look at their profile. See how long they had that profile? Does it look like a fake profile? Does it look like they have pictures? Has it been established for a while it was just created a week ago?" Bernas warned.

The Savios say they have little faith that they'll come to a resolution with the people who sold them a low-end vacuum instead of the higher-end vacuum.

"I mean, we argued with them over and over to no avail," Elizabeth said. "The attitude was 'well, we sent you what we had, goodbye'."

You can report suspicious ads to Facebook and it will possibly remove them. Also, if you are conducting a local transaction, take precautions to stay safe. You should meet up at a police station instead of going to a home or make sure you're not alone.
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