It’s touted as a “magic” Christmas tree in an ad on Facebook.
At the touch of a button the twinkling tree – with inbuilt lights – unfurls itself, saving owners from having to wrestle with branches.
Beth Call thought it was a pretty good deal at $60 and snapped up the bargain.
The only problem was, Call never received her tree.
What arrived at her Ohio home was a bafflingly small package – sent from China and not from Chicago as advertised.
When Call opened the package she found a small, compact mirror.
“I was really confused – and not to mention the mirror is so ugly,” she said.
Call then went onto the seller’s Facebook page, where she saw a barrage of negative reviews from angry customers.
“It’s so aggravating,” she said. “I started to see how many people had been ordering either the wreaths or the trees and were ending up with the same thing that I received in the mail,” Call said.
Isabel Denney-Rocha was going through the same dilemma after also buying the “magic” tree.
But, instead of a mirror, what arrived on her doorstop was a set of cheap, plastic toothbrushes.
“My reaction was, ‘I didn’t order these’, but I was still waiting and excited for my tree,” she said.
She said she finally realised it was a scam when she also spotted the reviews online.
Denney-Rocha said the sellers had ignored her messages and there was no other way to contact the seller.
Unable to get her money back, Denney-Rocha said she had learnt her lesson and would not be trusting sellers on social media again.
9news.com.au has contacted Meta, the owner of Facebook, for comment.
Scams where dodgy sellers offer cut-price bargains via sponsored ads on Facebook and Instagram have been popular for years.
They are sometimes known as “bait and switch” ads because of the strange items that are often sent out in the mail instead of the advertised goods.
Customers falling victim to the scams often find they are unable to contact the seller after they receive the wrong item, or they are asked to return it overseas at their own expense.
Australians lost $6.6 million to online shopping scams from January to the end of September this year, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch centre.
Scamwatch received almost 1900 reports of shopping scams originating on social media, with over $1.1 million in losses.
Some reports made to Scamwatch in the past have mentioned cases where “face masks” were dispatched instead of kitchenware, a “notepad” instead of an iPad and “sunglasses” instead of shoes.
How to protect yourself from shopping scams
- Online shopping scams involve scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers with fake websites, fake ads on genuine retailer sites, or through the use of social media platforms by creating fake stores or posting ads on social media.
- If a product is too good to be true, it probably is. Look out for sellers offering items at extremely low prices.
- Be suspicious of sellers that insist on immediate payment, or payment via bank transfer. Only pay for items using a secure payment service – look for a URL starting with “https” and a closed padlock symbol, or a payment provider such as PayPal.
- If you’ve bought something online and there is a problem, you should try to contact the retailer as there may be a legitimate reason for the problem.
- If you are not satisfied with the response and suspect you may have been scammed, you may be able to arrange a charge-back through your bank if you paid by credit card.
- You can also report a scam to the ACCC through the Scamwatch website.
- Tell your friends and family about the scam so you can help protect others.