How to spot online shopping scams

This week, newly published data from Lloyds Bank revealed that over two-thirds of online shopping scams begin on Instagram and Facebook.

This alarming figure signifies how savvy fraudsters are using social media to prey on unsuspecting shoppers, who are in search of a deal. There has been a rise in online scammers creating fake business pages, social media ads, and even fake online stores. 

It can be very easy to make a fraudulent business page appear legitimate, which is why so many people fall victim to these scams. 

In conjunction with Nick Drewe, Retail Expert at online discounts platform Wethrift, we’ve compiled a list of key things that can help you spot a purchase scam on social media.

Is the ‘deal’ too good to be true?

If a ‘deal’ you see circulating around social media looks too good to be true, that means it probably is. A product or service being advertised on social media for what seems an excessively low price can be a sure indicator of a potential purchase scam. Always trust your gut and use logic for whether a deal is legitimate or not. 

Is the business page new? 

Fraudsters are getting savvy when it comes to replicating a brand’s social media pages, or creating an entirely fake retailer, so it’s important to check out the page itself. 

Does the page seem new with a lack of posts and a low number of followers/likes, and engagement? This could indicate that the page is fake and merely attempting to replicate an established business or a new division of a business. 

Is the branding correct?

Often, when scammers are replicating a brand’s page, they can get a little sloppy when it comes to the branding. Low quality images and logos, poorly photoshopped designs, or using outdated branding are key things to look out for on a brand’s social media page. 

Does the URL look suspicious?

Hover your cursor over the URL, which the post or ad is asking you to click through to, but don’t click it until you’re sure it’s safe. Do a quick Google search for the brand name and check that the URL matches the official site. 

Often, social media purchase scammers will create a URL that is a close resemblance, but there will often be subtle differences that could easily be missed. 

Are you being asked to pay via bank transfer?

The majority of purchase scams on social media will ask for unsuspecting shoppers to pay for items via bank transfer. No legitimate retailer will ask for you to do this, so this is a sure sign of a scam. 

Always shop on social media with a retailer who facilitates paying through secure methods such as credit card or PayPal, which has buyer protection.

A secure website URL that you see on social media will always have ‘https’ and a closed padlock symbol at the beginning of the URL, which means it is safe to purchase goods through.

Don’t be fooled just because it’s a paid advertisement

Often, many shoppers can be tricked into believing a retailer is legit due to them using paid social media ads. Remember, any business page can create an ad on Facebook and Instagram, so don’t automatically assume that a paid ad is safe to click-through and purchase goods from. 

Look for reviews 

No reviews is a sure sign that a business page on social media is fake – look at the reviews section on the Facebook page, as well as doing a quick Google search for “[brand name] reviews”.

Check with the company directly 

If you are still unsure, it’s always better to be safe than sorry – contact the brand directly through their official channels to ensure that a deal you see promoted on social media is legitimate and safe. 

Online shop deals that have been promoted from official channels 

The rise of online purchase scams on social media signifies how important it is to only shop deals that come from official channels, such as signing up to your favourite brands mailing lists to access deals. 

This is why the team at Wethrift conducted a study into which retailers are promoting the most deals and discounts to their mailing lists. Fashion giant Shein took the top spot, with analysis revealing that the fast fashion brand was dedicating 100% of its emails to promoting discount codes.

In second place was health and beauty retailer, Boots, with 86% of their emails containing discount codes. 

Interestingly, pet retailer Pets at Home took third place, dedicating 80% of their promotional emails to promoting discount codes. 

Brands offering most discount codes in marketing emails 

Brand % of Discount Emails
Shein 100%
Boots 86%
Pets at Home 80%
Asos 75%
Currys 75%
Game 75%
Wilko 59%
PrettyLittleThing 52%
Adidas 50%
B&Q 44%




Chris Price