Just recently I have noticed a rise in sponsored content on Facebook, appearing to depict massive savings on everything from top-end RC cars to expensive motorcycle helmets. I decided to take a look into it a little deeper and quickly realised I should probably remove my finger from the ‘buy it now’ button.
The website that I saw purported to sell ‘genuine’ AGV Pista GP-R helmets for £122.67! The recommended retail price for this helmet is getting on for £1000. ‘How can a website possibly be selling them for such a massive discount?’ I thought… simply put, they can’t. The manufacturing cost of that helmet is far above the £122.67 price tag alone. A new tinted visor for the Pista GP R is about £75! The worst part is that it only takes a few people to be sucked in by the slick looking site and ridiculously good price tag, and the people behind the site have won. And you can bet your bottom dollar that in a week this site, and any of the money that people have paid for their new helmet will be long gone too.
Okay so this site's advert appeared on Facebook the other night as sponsored content. That means that somebody somewhere in the world had paid Facebook to place this advert on my newsfeed. They target these adverts to appear on the newsfeed of people who 'like' similar activities as the targeted advert's subject matter - motorcycles, racing, trackdays and so on. Somebody was sharing the post within a trackday group I'm a member of and were asking if anyone had bought a lid from the site and what the delivery times were like. All pretty normal questions. The problem was that there were some people included in the thread that didn't seem to smell the preverbal rat, and seemed more than willing to take a punt on it and order a lid. Just to see what happened…
Well first of all, as my dad always said: ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it normally is.’
Secondly, investigate the site. Copy the URL and head to whois.domaintools.com.
Here, you can find out all sorts of information about the site in question, like:
Next look at the original post, does it look right? The picture at the top is a screen grab I took from the Facebook advert selling the cheap helmets. Look at the '46' logo on the chin bar. It's back to front! Look again at the top picture and check out the 'AGV' logo on the side of the lid. The Italian flag part of the logo is correct but the letters below the flag are missing. Would a legitimate online retailer run an image advertising a helmet that had these aspects missing...? I think not.
All of this can help you build up and understanding of whether or not the site you are looking at is legit. Once you have looked the potentially dodgy site info over, get the URL of a site that you know is 100% above board and do the same check. Play a game of spot the difference, it’s not fool proof but it can help to show you what to look out for. The website that I saw had only been live for four days. Four days is not a long time to build up a following big enough to warrant massively discounted prices, opening day sales are one thing, this is another.
Another thing I have noticed with these sites is that the Facebook pages that push the content onto our news feeds, often only have a small following of people who have ‘liked’ the page. Frequently they will have a profile picture and no other content on their pages. Do you would think a genuine Facebook page, that was pushing genuine deals and content onto users, would have just one picture on their Facebook, or a raft of previous content and interactions with happy customers, sponsors and partners.
I think the main thing to take from this is, don’t be hasty when you spot a bargain. Take your time, do your research and think: ‘Is this too good to be true?’
For more information on how to stay safe when buying online, head over to the Money Advice Service.