Online shopping can be convenient and fun, but it also comes with risks. We’ve all seen those tempting ads on social media promoting unbelievable deals on big-ticket items. A complete patio furniture set for 80% off! A $50,000 RV for just $5,000! A full set of high-end cookware for only $5!
While many of us would love to believe we’ve stumbled upon an incredible bargain, the reality is most super-low price deals seen on social media or random websites are complete scams designed to steal your money and personal information.
Savvy shoppers need to stay skeptical and be able to recognize the multiple red flags that signal a fake overstock or liquidation sale.
Common Traits of Overstock and Liquidation Sale Scams
Fake overstock or going-out-of-business sales aimed at tricking shoppers share many common traits that can help you identify and avoid them:
Scam Sites Are Often Recently Registered
One tell-tale sign of a scam website is that its domain was registered very recently, often just a month or few weeks before being advertised. This indicates the site was set up quickly just to run the scam then abandoned.
You can look up when a domain name was registered using a WHOIS search. Legitimate e-commerce businesses maintain websites long-term and don’t need to constantly set up new domains.
Website Looks Unprofessional
Scam overstock sites typically have an amateur, thrown-together look and feel. They lack the polished, professional design of reputable online retailers.
Site navigation may be wonky or confusing. There may be typos, grammatical errors or other obvious red flags signaling the site is not legit.
Contact Info Is Missing
Scam websites don’t want you to be able to contact them with questions or complaints. They often don’t provide an address, customer service phone number or any way to get in touch besides an online order form.
Reputable businesses list their contact info prominently so customers can reach them. Before providing any personal or payment information, verify how to contact the company.
Prices Are Insanely Low
The number one indicator of an overstock sale scam is prices that are ridiculously, unbelievably low. Like 70-90% discounts off retail prices of big-ticket merchandise.
Ask yourself – would a retailer really sell top-of-the-line patio furniture that normally costs $5,000 for only $1,000? Or high-end tools for 90% off retail prices? These prices are way too good to be true.
Pages Have Fake Reviews and Comments
To make their deals seem legit, scam sites will post bogus customer reviews and comments praising the sale. The reviews may feature fake names and stock images instead of real profile pictures.
Comments are often formatted identically and may have been copied from legitimate sites then pasted. Real testimonials have unique wording and details.
Sale Ends Soon! FOMO Pressure
Scam sites commonly claim only a limited number of discounted items remain or the sale ends very soon. This creates false urgency and pressure to buy before you “miss out.”
Legitimate businesses don’t need to resort to high-pressure “act now!” tactics. Savvy shoppers take time to research before making purchases.
Credit Cards Are the Only Payment Method
Watch out if a website insists on payment by credit or debit card and doesn’t accept alternate options like PayPal. This indicates they’re eager to obtain card numbers for fraudulent use.
Secure retailers offer multiple payment methods and don’t push customers into paying one specific way.
Real-Life Examples of Overstock & Liquidation Sale Scams
To highlight how these scams work, let’s examine some real-life examples reported by shoppers:
Scam Kitchenware Sets
A Facebook ad promoted an entire set of T-Fal non-stick pots and pans for only $3, claiming the cookware company was liquidating overstock from a shuttered warehouse.
The photos showed boxes of cookware stamped with a “Walmart $3” sign. However, clicking the ad led to a sketchy, amateur-looking website instead of Walmart. The domain was recently registered and had zero contact information.
This deal matched all the signs of a total scam. Quality cookware costs much more than $3 retail. And major brands like T-Fal would never liquidate valuable merchandise this way.
Scam Power Tool Kit
Another online ad offered a large set of Milwaukee power tools for “80% off!” priced at only $350. This seemed like an unbelievable bargain for pro-level tools worth over $2,000.
Again, the ad linked to a shady site littered with ridiculous claims like “going out of business!” and fake customer comments. The amateur layout was another red flag. 80% off makes no business sense, confirming this “deal” was a complete scam.
Scam Luxury Outdoor Furniture
A Facebook Marketplace ad showed a high-end patio furniture set with plush cushions, side tables and an umbrella for over $90% off retail price…just $299! Created to mimic a legitimate business ad, this scam also linked to a sketchy site with zero contact info besides an order form.
As expected, several victims who ordered the furniture never received anything. The scam pocketed their $299 payments then vanished. Remember, quality patio sets cost much more than $299. Discounts this huge are always scams.
Scamp Camper RV
Social media ads touted a 2022 luxury RV camper supposedly donated to charity, so it was being given away to anyone who paid a $50 “transfer fee.” People who paid this small fee were then told they also needed to pay $2,000 shipping to receive the free camper.
Of course, victims who paid the $2,000 never received the promised RV. The backstory about donated RVs and giveaways makes no sense. Legit charities don’t operate this way. But scam ads keep using this fabricated story to trick hopeful RV buyers.
Safely Buying Discounted Merchandise Online
While scam liquidation and overstock sales remain rampant online, you can find some legitimate deals through trusted retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Home Depot. Here are tips for safely buying discounted merchandise online:
✅ Stick to well-known national retailers: Avoid sketchy sites you’ve never heard of, especially ones recently registered. Scams advertise on social media because it’s cheap and easy.
✅ Research regular prices: Know the normal retail cost of items so you can better gauge if a sale discount seems realistic. 40-50% off might be plausible, 75-90% is likely a scam.
✅ Compare deals across sites: A true “lowest price” sale would be offered widely, not just on one obscure site. Search Google Shopping to compare.
✅ Read reviews: Check third-party review sites like TrustPilot and the Better Business Bureau to see if other customers report fraud complaints.
✅ Pay securely: Use a credit card when possible for added fraud protection. Never pay suspicious sellers by wire transfer, gift card, cryptocurrency or other irreversible methods.
✅ Beware FOMO: “Fear of missing out” Scammers create false urgency to pressure you into buying before verifying legitimacy. Take time to thoroughly validate discounted offers before purchasing.
The bottom line is if an overstock or liquidation sale seems too good to be true, trust your instincts that it likely is. Follow the tips above to verify legitimacy and only buy from trusted retailers with a proven reputation.
Outlandishly low prices from random websites are almost guaranteed scams. Smart shopping requires always being skeptical of “unbelievable” bargains pushed online.
How Fake Review Websites Add False Credibility to Scams
Scammers are very sneaky when it comes to making their bogus deals appear credible to trick more victims. A common technique they use is creating entire fake review websites dedicated to verifying the scam company as “legit”.
For example, the power tool scam mentioned earlier is bolstered by a phony review site called “PowerToolPros.com.” This site looks reasonably professional at first glance and features posts like:
- “Handyman Power Tools – Why This New Company Beats Amazon Prices”
- “Is Handyman Power Tools a Scam? Our Investigation Reveals The Truth”
- “How Handyman Power Tools Can Save You 90% Off Retail Prices”
The detailed, well-written articles claim to have thoroughly researched Handyman Power Tools and deemed it a trusted retailer with amazing deals. However, PowerToolPros.com was registered at the exact same time as the scam power tool site it endorses. It’s essentially a fake PR front to lend credibility to the scam.
Nearly every scam company has a fake review site mirroring this strategy. The sites may also contain bogus customer comments like:
“I was skeptical of Home Patio Deals at first but ordered the patio set after reading PowerToolPros’ review and I’m so glad I did! The quality is amazing and I saved 90% off what I would’ve paid at Lowes or Home Depot for the same set!”
Obviously, these endorsements and comments are completely fabricated. But to an unaware person, all the positive proof gives the illusion of legitimacy. This nearly always hooks more victims into the trap.
Learning to recognize these fraudulent review sites is a key step in avoiding online scams. No matter how authentic a site seems, search reviews for the exact company name + “scam” to uncover the real truth.
How Scammers Leverage Social Media to Spread Fakes Ads
In the past, scammers were limited to spamming sketchy ads via email or on shady websites. It required a bit more savvy for consumers to uncover these scams. But today, social media has given scammers a thriving new playground to instantly reach millions with cleverly designed fake sales campaigns.
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok allow scammers to cheaply create professional-looking ads then target users most likely to engage. They know social media users tend to blindly trust ads run by legit platforms.
Once an ad gains traction, scam sites also leverage social proof with fake comments like:
“OMG! My husband ordered this patio set for us as an anniversary gift…he paid only $299 and I can’t believe the amazing quality for that price!!”
“I’ve been eyeing Milwaukee tools for months but could never afford them. I just bought the 15-piece set from Handyman Power Tools for only $349. Absolute best deal on the web and they shipped fast too!”
These compelling testimonials combined with social media’s inherent psychology of trust enables scammers to reel in much larger pools of victims than ever before.
Many social media users posters on groups asking “Has anyone tried this sale before? The deal looks too good to pass up!” without realizing most positive replies are part of the scam.
The core lesson here is to never trust advertised sales on social media at face value, no matter how legitimate they appear. There are zero barriers to scammers making polished, enticing ads filled with fake claims. Always independently verify advertised deals rather than believing what social media shows you.
Red Flags to Watch For in Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist Ads
Social platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist make it easy for individuals to sell locally to others in their community. Most sellers are honest people looking to declutter or earn extra cash. But these sites also attract scammers aiming to take advantage of trust between neighbors.
Common scam product ads may tout:
- A high-end RV or camper “needing quick sale today” at an insanely low price
- Luxury furniture like large sectionals on sale due to “urgent move”
- Pallets of appliances or electronics for 10-20% of retail cost
These and similar scenarios should always raise red flags. Ask yourself:
- Why is the seller offering deep discounts on valuable items instead of market rates?
- Does the backstory make logical sense for the low price?
- Do the seller’s profile, friends and photos seem realistic?
Too many eager buyers overlook the warning signs and get scammed. Here are some top red flags to watch for on social marketplace ads:
🚩 Recently created profile – Scam accounts often have almost no history. Check profile creation date.
🚩 No profile photo – Most real people display a profile photo of themselves. Blank or logo icons can signal a fake ad.
🚩 No friends or posts – The account may have zero friends and no posts or interactions. Another sign of a fake seller.
🚩 Stock or stolen photos – Listing photos may be generic stock images, not actual photos of the item. Or photos stolen from other listings online.
🚩 Foreign location – Check where the seller is located. Scammers often pretend to be in your city or country.
🚩 Poor grammar and spelling – Scam listings often contain many typos, another sign of someone from overseas.
🚩 Sense of urgency – Scammers commonly claim they need to sell urgently due to a sudden move, emergency, or other fabricated story.
Always proceed with maximum caution when responding to improbable bargains on peer-to-peer sales platforms. Demand more proof like video calls and verifying via social media before sending money or agreeing to meet locally. If something seems the least bit fishy, move on to real sellers.
How Puppy Scams Exploit Emotions on Social Media and Classifieds
One of the most heartbreaking online scams is the “puppy scam” where victims are fooled into paying huge sums for a dog or puppy they never receive. Scammers exploit people’s emotions and desire to add a furry friend to their family.
The schemes typically start with an ad posted on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or even pet adoption forums. The scammer pretends to be a breeder or owner urgently needing to rehome a puppy due to an emergency or sudden change in circumstances.
Listing photos show adorable puppies described as AKC registered Purebreds like French Bulldogs, Pugs, Golden Retrievers, English Bulldogs and more. These puppies normally sell for $1,500 – $5,000+ but the scammer claims they’re asking just a few hundred dollars to find a caring new home fast.
If you engage with the seller, they have answers ready for every question and claim you can even visit the puppy. But then last minute emergencies continually prevent the meeting. Once the victim is completely emotionally invested in getting this puppy, the scammer requests payment to finalize delivery of the dog.
But as soon as money is sent, the seller becomes impossible to contact. The puppy never arrives, and the breeder’s online profiles and info all disappear.
While puppy scams have always existed, social media gives criminals exponentially greater reach to find vulnerable targets. On neighborhood Facebook Groups alone, a scammer can blanket thousands of nearby families vs. just a handful on Craigslist.
The SPCA estimates over 10,000 people per year fall victim to puppy scams, with losses averaging $750 per person. That’s over $7 million stolen annually in the U.S. alone through these emotional social media schemes.
Protect yourself by digging deeper into puppy or pet sales ads before getting invested:
- Research the breeder online for any negative reports
- Call vets or kennels local to them to verify if they are known
- Insist on video calls and visiting the puppy in-person before paying
- Don’t pay for a pet you haven’t met, even if they appeal to emotions with a sad story
- Be extra wary of purebred puppies advertised far under market value
The harsh reality is that purebred puppies are not being given away for cheap by the million. When a deal seems too good to be true, it nearly always is. Tread with extreme caution before wiring money to strangers for pets.
Is Craigslist Safe? How to Spot Job and Apartment Rental Scams
In terms of risk, Craigslist occupies a space somewhere between mainstream websites and the dark web. There are absolutely legitimate sellers and deals to be found on Craigslist if you’re cautious. However, criminals also leverage it heavily to advertise fake opportunities.
Some common examples include:
Fake job offers – Scammers create convincing job ads for positions like personal assistant, delivery driver, warehouse worker, etc. The pitch is you’ll earn great pay for easy remote or local work. But they’re ultimately trying to steal your identity info or money.
Bogus apartment rentals – Crooks steal photos of legitimate rental units then repost them as available in your area at below-market prices. They’ll say they need to process your security deposit ASAP to hold it. In reality, they have zero connection to the property.
The bottom line is that by design, there is limited identity verification on Craigslist. This makes it relatively easy for anyone to post any type of fake ad. Without proper due diligence, it’s risky to engage with job, housing and other high-stakes posts there.
Here are some tips for spotting scams on Craigslist:
- Search online to verify the job, company, property, etc. exist outside of Craigslist
- Call businesses at their real published numbers to confirm if they authorized the job ad
- Insist on speaking first by phone before sharing your email or other info
- Never provide your Social Security number, bank account details, or credit card info
- Require live video tours before putting down any rental deposits
- Research the average pay range for that type of job in your area
- Contact the property owner directly to confirm if a unit is truly available at that price
- Try to meet any prospective employer or landlord in-person at their claimed office
- Trust your gut instincts – if anything seems fake or off, move on
There are absolutely real opportunities on Craigslist from honest individuals. But you need to thoroughly vet posts and be willing to walk away instead of taking risks. If something is urgent or pressuring you to act fast, that’s often the scammer panicking after being questioned.
Top Tips for Spotting Fake Amazon Sellers and Listings
Amazon Marketplace is filled with third-party sellers, many of whom are legitimate small businesses. However, scammers are also constantly trying to take advantage of Amazon’s reputation to lend credibility to their fake listings and stores.
Some common Amazon scams include:
🚩 Counterfeit products – Scammers list cheap knock-offs of popular brands while pretending they’re genuine. For example, a $500 Dyson vacuum sold for $200.
🚩 Used sold as new – Sellers will buy used products then relist them as new-in-box to fetch higher prices.
🚩 Inauthentic reviews – Fake reviews are purchased to boost product ratings. Reviews may even be for different products copied onto an item’s listing.
🚩 Bait-and-switch – Shoppers receive a completely different product from what was pictured and described. Cheap generic toys instead of a brand-name drone for instance.
🚩 Fake tracking records – Sellers send a bogus tracking number that shows delivered, but the customer never receives the item.
Amazon has policies to protect shoppers, but scammers still slip through cracks in the system. Here are some top signs of a potentially fraudulent Amazon seller:
🚩 No seller photo – Legitimate sellers have an owner photo or logo. Blank icons can signal an inauthentic account.
🚩 Recent launch date – Established stores have been selling for years. New accounts are higher risk.
🚩 Low prices – Far below market rate for a new, name-brand product indicates it may be counterfeit or used.
🚩 Poor grammar/English – Many scammers operate overseas so listings often have typos and broken English.
🚩 Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) – Avoid sellers using FBA, as product authenticity can’t be verified. Opt for direct fulfillment.
🚩 No refund address – Scam stores won’t list a real address for returns to avoid getting caught.
🚩 99%+ positive feedback – Near-perfect scores should be looked at critically. Sellers may purchase fake reviews.
Before buying big-ticket items on Amazon, thoroughly vet sellers to minimize scam risk. Price alone isn’t enough – the cheapest option often comes from untrustworthy sources. Taking time to detect fraudulent listings gives peace of mind you’ll receive the genuine product as described.
How to Report Scams and Fraudulent Sites
If you uncover a clear scam, it’s important to report it to help prevent others from being victimized. Depending on where the scam occurs, here are top places to file reports:
✔️ Google Ads – Report scam websites, fake merchants and fraudulent Google Ads at https://support.google.com/google-ads/contact/vio_other_aw_policy
✔️ Facebook Ads – Report deceptive Facebook ads and posts at https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/634636770043106
✔️ Craigslist Scams – Notify Craigslist about fraudulent posts via https://www.craigslist.org/contact
✔️ Amazon Sellers – File a complaint about counterfeit Amazon sellers at https://www.amazon.com/report/infringement
✔️ IC3 Complaints – Report all online scams to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at https://www.ic3.gov/
✔️ BBB Scam Tracker – Report scams to the Better Business Bureau’s scam database at https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us
✔️ FTC Complaints – Report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/
The more people who take a few minutes to report shady websites, fake social media posts, and online sellers, the faster these scams can be shut down to protect consumers. Do your part by speaking out whenever you encounter an obvious scam attempt.
How to Get Money Back After Being Scammed Online
If you fall victim to an online shopping scam and lose money, don’t panic. There are steps you can take to potentially get fully or partially reimbursed:
✅ Call your bank – If you paid by debit or credit card, immediately notify your bank and request the charges be reversed for suspected fraud. Provide details on how the merchant is scamming customers.
✅ File chargebacks – If the bank won’t voluntarily refund your money, formally dispute the charges as fraudulent through the chargeback process. This tells payment processors to reverse the charges.
✅ Use chargeback reason codes – When filing disputes, use chargeback reason codes like “Services not provided or merchandise not received” to explain it’s a scam.
✅ Gather evidence – The more proof you have, the stronger your case. Compile screenshots of the scam website, emails sent, delivery confirmation showing no arrival, etc.
✅ Contact website host – If you can identify the web host, contact their abuse team to report the fraudulent site that should be taken down immediately.
✅ Leave negative reviews – Post detailed reviews about the scam on TrustPilot, BBB, and anywhere else to spread awareness.
✅ Report the fraud – File formal complaints with the FTC, IC3, your state attorney general, and other antibfraud agencies.
✅ Consider small claims court – If other methods fail, take the seller to small claims court and present evidence of the scam committed.
✅ Watch for recurring charges – Scammers may have your payment info and continue charging you. Get a new card number if needed.
Don’t let scammers get away with your hard-earned money. With persistence and by reporting them through proper channels, you have a strong chance of seeing justice served and fraudulent charges fully reversed.
Online shopping scams aimed at tricking bargain hunters are constantly growing in sophistication. But armed with awareness of common red flags, smart consumers can protect themselves and their wallets.
When you encounter unbelievable deals that seem too good to be true, slow down and take time to thoroughly validate them before making purchases. Follow scam spotting best practices like:
- Researching real costs of items elsewhere
- Performing WHOIS domain lookups
- Calling listed business numbers for verification
- Digging into seller/site reputations and reviews
Applying skepticism instead of blindly trusting advertised sales saves people endless headaches and financial loss each year. With vigilance and caution, we can all shop smarter online while denying these criminal operations their ill-gotten gains.