Thanks to the internet, our lives are easier than ever before. We can do everything from planning vacations to shopping for groceries without ever leaving the house. But, just as the internet has made our lives more convenient, it has also made the jobs of crooks and scammers that much simpler as well. The only minor inconvenience they face is the speed at which information, and awareness, now travels. To continue catching flies in their virtual web they must constantly evolve their tactics to stay one step ahead of both the authorities and savvy consumers. Throughout the year we comb through our vast store of incoming consumer data looking for trends that indicate changes in the way these criminals execute their schemes to help you avoid falling victim to them. Once a year we take a look back at the scams our consumer data point to as the most prevalent or impactful and here are our findings for 2017:
The days of going to a travel agent are long gone and now finding great travel deals and booking the trip for yourself only takes a few clicks. However, the shady business practices of some companies may have you regretting booking with them online. Sitejabber’s reviewers have informed us of everything from missing hotel reservations when you arrive at your destination to airplane tickets that don’t exist. Sometimes a travel site lures you in with promises of cheap travel, yet you never see the rates you were quoted. “Unfortunately we didn’t read up on them before booking our tickets. We have already spent at least 20 hours on the phone with them, trying to work out mistakes and accomplish simple tasks. They will not honor prices or information that they have given you.” – Joshua C
We have collected over 56K reviews on travel related scams and problems in 2017. For more information on how to avoid online travel scams, read: 3 Travel Scams That Will Make You Reconsider How You Plan Your Next Trip.
Fake News Sites
After the 2016 presidential election, it became more widely known that there are news sites out there created solely to spread false information. Not only did fake news sites have a major influence on the election, but they also helped scammers sell fake goods to consumers. Sitejabber received almost 5K reviews linking online scams to fake news sites in 2017. Social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook and search engines like Google and Bing, have pledged to do more to curb the visibility of these sites but you should never trust their efforts completely. The best thing you can do is to be wary of news from unrecognized sources and if you are going to consider making a purchase from a recommendation via an unfamiliar source, do some research on what others are saying about both brands.
Online Ticket Sales
Many online shoppers are desperate to find that next to impossible to come by concert ticket or land the absolute best deal on seats to see their favorite team play. This passion, and the shift from scalpers selling overpriced tickets for the previous day’s event outside the arena to businesses hocking the same wares online, can often lead to disaster. In 2017, Sitejabber received over 50K reviews on online ticket purchases. With complaints ranging from receiving tickets to the wrong event, getting seats in a less desirable section or simply being sold counterfeit tickets, online ticket sale scams are rampant. One of the most commonly used tactics is advertising premium seat tickets for sold-out events and fulfilling those purchases with low cost, easier to come by seats, a situation Matt S found himself in, “Tickets were not as advertised. Ended up with nose bleeds when we purchased box seats. Customer service is non existent.”
For more information on how to avoid ticket scams, read: Concert & Sports Ticket Scams: What to Look Out For & How to Stay Safe.
Wedding and Prom Dresses
Buying dresses for special occasions online can lead to considerable savings but those deals don’t come without risk. Sitejabber community members have reported experiences buying dresses online ranging from being completely the wrong size to not even resembling the dress they thought they were purchasing. Hannah P wrote, “This dress was the ugliest piece of fabric I have ever laid eyes on. Not AT ALL what was pictured in the photo. The quality was horrible.”
Over 80K reviews were published in the wedding and prom dress categories leaving thousands of women disappointed and feeling duped on their special day. We cover how to avoid wedding dress scams in more detail here: Wedding Dress Scams: Dream Dresses & Wedding Nightmares.
Shopping for jewelry offline can be a very costly endeavor. Buying online can frequently save buyers thousands of dollars, but the risks can also be great. We have received over 26K reviews this year documenting various scams and problems buying jewelry from online retailers. Issues including being sold fake diamonds and gems falling out of their setting are a couple of the most common. Debbie K wrote, “An engagement ring is meant to be worn everyday and should not have missing stones after just 18 months of wearing it!!”
Chinese Wholesale Clothing
Much has been written about women being duped on Facebook, buying trendy outfits at rock-bottom prices, only to receive poor quality items with little resemblance to the product advertised. More often than not, these ads are placed by Chinese wholesalers built specifically to take advantage of the unsuspecting. Buzzfeed details how these retailers operate using stolen images from legitimate fashion sites and ship cheaply constructed replicas of the product advertised. You can read the full story here. This year, we saw over 14K reviews detailing experiences with almost all of the companies that the BuzzFeed article mentions. The reviews play like a broken record and almost always goes something like, “What you will receive in the mail, a month after the intended and paid for delivery date, is a mockery of what you ordered. Some aspects may be similar but it will never be the same product. Different waist cuts and sleeve lengths are the usual fare but it gets worse. To top it all off there is absolutely no consistency in sizes. If you order three medium shirts, I guarantee one will fit OK, one will be too small and one won’t even make it over your chest.” – Savannah J
Students everywhere are turning to the internet to get help with their homework and essays. A large number of online services offer to do a student’s homework and promise to earn an A on the assignment for them. They even offer entire research papers claiming it will be written by a writer with a PhD. What students normally get back are essays written by non-English speakers, homework that isn’t done on time, and likely a failing grade. Sites in this fast-growing arena tend to be scams and have generated over 35K reviews on Sitejabber in 2017.
To learn more about how to avoid homework scams and alternative online strategies for getting help with school, read: Homework Outsourcing Leaves Students High and Dry
Sharing Economy Woes
While, generally speaking, companies that are part of the “sharing economy” (Uber, Lyft, airBNB, Taskrabbit, Care.com, etc.) are not designed to scam consumers, they have been fraught with complaints and lawsuits. Everything from inviting dangerous people into your homes to getting charged fees that you didn’t know about before you signed up. Not to mention the lack of government regulation on new companies that are popping up virtually overnight. We have received 2K complaints about sharing economy sites in 2017. Here is a typical user complaint, “I posted a nanny position and got numerous “applicants” who were actually scammers. I would almost always respond and never get replies back. Also, the very few real applicants were garbage. Extremely rude and unprofessional.” – Olivia H
Small Business Owner Scams
Small business owners are always trying to find the best deals online to decrease overhead and to generate the highest profit possible to compete against big corporations. From bad legal service to poor quality online printers, lots of sites target business owners who are looking for cheap deals. In 2017, we received 53K reviews on complaints within the business category.
Subscription Service Woes
From Netflix to meal delivery companies, it feels like almost everyone is offering a subscription service. You can get monthly underwear, razors, and even products for your pets online. The problem with subscription companies is that they do not want you to unsubscribe and often these businesses make it very challenging to do so. They also often ship the the wrong items and sometimes provide low quality products. In 2017, we saw over 26K complaints about subscription services.
If you are aware of other prominent scams in 2017, please let us know in the comments below.