We’ve all been there. Maybe you’re on Facebook or Instagram, scrolling through your newsfeed when an ad catches your eye. It’s perfectly targeted to your interests and location (hello, creepy digital marketing techniques of 2019). And, wow, it’s super affordable. Time to shop!
Not so fast.
How you land on ads like this is not actually the point. It’s where these ads lead you that matters – and many times, it’s to shady, phony and sometimes fraudulent websites.
BBB Northwest + Pacific is dealing with complaints about one such website right now: Gearow.com. Gearow is an online store that claims to operate out of Buffalo, New York. Gearow appears to specialize in outdoor equipment and accessories – perfect for most Oregonians who are known for their love of outdoor adventure. But complaints against the company suggest most consumers who place orders with Gearow never get their products.
In fact, there are complaints from 40 out of 50 states, including four recent complaints or negative reviews from Oregon consumers. One Hillsboro consumer stated that after receiving an initial email confirming his purchase, he never received the item. After three weeks, he tried to follow up.
“Needless to say, all of their contact information is fake or does not work,” he said.
And he was right. In December 2018, BBB of Upstate New York investigated and discovered that all the phone numbers associated with the company were disconnected. In addition, BBB found the address listed on the website is actually a storage facility in Buffalo.
Consumers who did eventually receive their order after months of waiting, determined the packages were coming from overseas, based on the postage.
I believe the word we’re looking for here is ‘sketchy’?
But, this doesn’t always mean them website is no longer luring customers. The website for Gearow is still up, which is why we want to warn and educate consumers and business owners.
I have learned the online shopping world is changing rapidly – it can be hard to distinguish who is a legitimate retailer and who is not. And in this digital age, it’s not uncommon for retailers to only be available by chat or email; so, we can’t assume just because there is no phone number, the company is phony or a scam.
To be sure your money is well spent – and your package will actually arrive – follow these tips:
- Be a savvy shopper. When shopping online, be sure to take your time, and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for the return policy. Some items cannot be returned; know before you buy.
- Beware of phishing. Phishing emails can look like a message from a well-known brand or even a friend but, clicking on unfamiliar links can place you at risk for malware and/or identity theft. It is easy for scammers to spoof an email to look like it’s coming from a legit source.
- Know the advertiser. Some of the best deals are only available online but, be careful. It’s easy for a fake site to mimic a famous retailer’s website. If you’re clicking on a website from social media ads, open another tab and search for the brand’s official website to make sure the URLs match.