BBB says Buyer Beware when Clicking on Facebook Ads.
BBB is advising social networkers to read the fine print when
responding to ads on Facebook or other social networking sites
because the large print doesn't always tell the whole story. Ubiquitous
ads for weight loss products, work-at-home opportunities and offers
for "free" computers can cost shoppers more than they bargained for
in the long run.
According to Nielsen Online, social networking sites were more
popular than e-mail in 2008. Facebook's 108.3 million members spent
20.5 billion minutes on the site last year alone. Advertisers are going
where the people are and eMarketer estimates that $1.3 billion will be
spent on social networking advertising in 2009.
People need to use extreme caution and read the fine print before
handing over their credit card information. Just because an ad
appears on a Web site they trust, doesn't mean they can always trust
the advertisers. Following are just a few examples of common ads on
social networking sites and what the fine print reveals:
The Pitch: Lose 4 Dress Sizes
In January, BBB issued a warning to consumers about online ads and
Web sites that use Oprah's name to sell acai berry supplements as
weight-loss miracles. Despite the warning, these ads are still common
on Facebook and MySpace and link to fake blogs such as
www.jennylosesweight.com that are designed to look like testimonials
of women who lost weight on the acai supplements. Recent research
by the Center for Science in the Public Interest identified more than
75 phony blogs that led to Web sites touting acai-berry supplements
as a weight loss miracle.
The Fine Print: The phony blogs link to Web sites that offer a free
trial of an acai supplement, and while the customer may think they
only have to pay shipping, they could get billed as much as $87.13
every month if they don't cancel before the trial period ends. The fine
print also explains that the trial period begins from the moment the
customer orders the supplements and not after they receive the
BBB Warns: Not only do health experts question the legitimacy of
the weight loss claims linked to the acai berry, BBB has received
thousands of complaints from consumers against such acai
supplement companies because many were billed despite never
receiving their free trial or were billed every month despite numerous
attempts to cancel.
The Pitch: Learn How I Make $67,000 a Year Being a Stay-at-Home Mom!
There are many ads on Facebook that advertise ways to make easy money from home. Similar
to the acai berry ads, the ads link to blogs that were supposedly created by people who made
money through a work-at-home program. One such blog written by a "Sarah Roberts" claims
that she added "$67,000 a year to her family's income working 10 hours a week (that's over
$128 an hour!)" by creating Web sites that host Google ads. Another, www.jasongetsrich.com,
is ostensibly written by the newly married Jason who makes " around $5,500 to $7,000 a month
The Fine Print: The blogs direct readers to Web sites for programs such as Internet Money
Machine and Easy Google Cash where they can sign up for a seven-day trial access to
information on how to make money from home. While the free trial supposedly only costs
$1.95-$2.95, the individual will be charged $69.90 every month if they don't cancel seven days
from signing up. The fine print also states that the company does not give refunds.
BBB Warns: Use extreme caution when signing up for a work-at-home job or money-making
opportunity online. In 2008 alone, BBB received more than 3,500 complaints from people who
signed up for offers to learn how to work from home but were ultimately disappointed. Job
hunters should also be aware that while some work-at-home opportunities have the word
"Google" in their name and use Google's logo on their Web sites, they are not actually affiliated
The Pitch: Get a Free Purple [Red, Pink, Green, Black,] MacBook.
Also common on Facebook are ads to get a free MacBook Air claiming that the company is
seeking laptop testers. The ads lead to an incentive marketing program at
www.colormyrewards.com where participants must sign up for various products and services in
order to earn their free laptop.
The Fine Print: Customers must complete two options from each of the three tiers, Top, Prime
and Premium before receiving their "free" MacBook. Example offers listed in the Top and Prime
tiers include signing up for credit cards or trial offers for subscription services such as for
vitamin supplements or DVD rental services. In some cases, the participant will need to pay for
shipping, and if they aren't vigilant about canceling the trial offers they signed up for, they'll
begin being billed every month.
Examples of the Premium offers listed on the Web site that must be met in order to get the
MacBook are much more expensive and include paying as much as $1,500 for furniture or
purchasing a travel package with a minimum value of $899.00 per person.
BBB Warns: Incentive programs can be extremely costly in the long run and the fine print
shows that the customer might have to pay a significant amount of money in order to get their
"Free" items. It is also a red flag that Apple does not even make MacBook Air in purple, red,
pink, or green.
Not all ads on social networking sites are misleading and misleading ads aren't confined to
Facebook or MySpace. The point is, is that it's important for people to always read the fine print
carefully before giving their credit card information online.
For more consumer tips, go to www.bbb.org.