HOUSTON — There’s an online scam targeting the tech savvy people who think they know better than to fall for it.

The scams come up on social media sites, like Instagram, as sponsored advertisements.

Leah Napoliello, senior director of investigative services at The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas, calls them purchase scams and says more young people are being duped.

“It’s a big problem nowadays,” Napoliello said. “Instagram has sponsored ads where businesses can purchase ads on the site, and legitimate businesses do this but unfortunately, scammers are purchasing those types of ads as well.

“People try to purchase an item and they never get the item, or sometimes they purchase it, and it’s not the actual item that they wanted. Then they have a difficulty reaching the company and can’t get a refund or a response in many cases.”

The scam looks real to people who think they know better. There is often a website, reviews and customer service contacts, but it’s all fake.

“We are getting calls from younger people now, noticing and being the victims of this type of scam," Napoliello said.

The FTC says 20- and 30-somethings are more vulnerable to online fraud now than seniors.

Here’s what Napoliello recommends:

  • Fight the urge to buy on the spot.
  • Check around online to see what others are selling the desired item for. If it seems that the price is too good to be true it probably is.
  • Look the company up with the BBB and see if an online search reveals negative reviews.
  • If the company doesn’t come up at all, that can be a bad sign, too, as scam companies often change its name often to avoid getting caught.
  • When purchasing online, pay with a credit card so charges can be disputed if necessary.
  • If you fall victim to a purchase scam, flag the social media site where the advertisement was posted so it can be investigated and removed.

In a statement to CBS News, Instagram says, "Maintaining a positive experience for people on Instagram is our top priority. Counterfeit goods and fraudulent activity hurt our entire community and have no place on Instagram. We have various systems in place that help us catch and remove suspicious activity before it gets to consumers – it is an ongoing effort that we're committed to continuously improving over time. We've also built new features that give people the power to manage their experience with ads on Instagram and take action when they see something suspicious."


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