By trade, I am a technical writer, mostly for IT companies. I create a vast array of documentation for hardware and software.
Everyone loves a good deal on something that has been on their list for some time but was just too expensive. So, you're scrolling on Facebook and come across one of many LCD TV ads for LG, Samsung, and others. You look at the ad and see that everything must be sold because the exports to Russia have stopped, or there was a business catastrophe that is forcing them to sell at dirt cheap prices of not more than $99.
We are talking of some higher-end TVs in sizes of 50" to 75" screens in UHD or 4K resolution. They usually cost over $300. You know all this and yet, you think maybe it is legit! Maybe these are overstocked 2020 models...
Suspicious as you are, you look for signs of fraud. But, these TV ads all have sponsors, meaning they paid FB for the ad, which makes it seems more valid. The ad has a photo display of LCDs that looks like a Walmart offering. At the bottom of the ad you see a real web address but it is rather odd, like BedandBreakfastcastle.com. So, just to be sure, you enter the URL into the search field. It appears and is slick with all the TVs, etc. There is an oddity, though, because it looks like Walmart but it spelled 'Waimart' or something. Maybe just a typo?
On the surface, it seems real—but if it sounds to good to be true, it usually is. But you really want one of these TVs for just $99. And what is $99? How often have you wasted that amount in your life for something worth far less? In the back of your head, a little voice is saying "scam alert." Ignoring it, you go ahead and take your chance and buy one.
You quickly get your email receipt, which promises your item will ship within a week. However, you notice (since you used Paypal) the actual recipient of your money is some guy, not the website name. Now you think—okay, red flag.
To Find the Truth
Finding the truth about a website ad can be done by several means. If you know HTML code, you can easily turn the website listed in the ad into code. You can scroll through it looking for clues like I did with the aforementioned website. In the code, the source for the ad is not the named website but another one, Shopline.com. The code is in English like all code, however, there are some Chinese characters within it. Also, within the code, in English, the target time zone is not USA but Shanghai, China. Other references show another website, cdn.myshopline.com, for images used in the BedandBreakfastcastle.com (which actually is Shopline.com).
These clues are significant, especially after I look up the domain on WhoIs.com. This reveals that the owner of the item is Alibaba, the Chinese equivalent of Amazon. The website used to connect the FB ad was created in March 2021 and has very little traffic.
It becomes quite clear that this FB ad is displayed frequently with the same photo but different sponsors and website addresses that trace back to Chinese scams. Even though you can report them to FB when you encounter them (just click on the (...) for the dropdown and report it), there are so many that FB cannot keep up. The other issue is that the sponsor has paid FB for the post, so FB is reluctant to take it down.
If you are suspicious of an ad and its website, go to the scam-detector link and enter the website address. It will screen and evaluate the source. With BedandBreakfastcastle.com, they reported it to be questionable.
But you instinctively knew that, didn't you? And yet....you still hoped it was not a scam.
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