I consider myself to be pretty careful when it comes to browsing the terrifying void that is the interwebs. I always ensure that my phone searching is set to “private”, so my history and personal information cannot be saved when I visit sites that might try to loot me of my data. Nothing detrimental has happened to me before, but you can never be too safe, right?
Actually, there was a situation where I almost got myself tied up in a fraudulent internet extortion. And that’s what I’m here to talk about today, the time I almost metaphorically threw $200 into a burning trash can. Like I said, I tend to be pretty careful when I use the internet, so the fact that I almost got tricked by this shady website is marginally concerning.
Basically, here’s the story from start to finish. I was browsing on Google or Amazon, as I so often am, and a clothing store advertisement popped up on the sidebar of my screen. I was used to seeing advertisements like this before- that is how companies track our spending habits and sell to us, after all- but I’d seen this exact company advertising to me at least 5-6 times in the past. In my naive stupidity, which I have subsequently learned from, I decided that it was unlikely a powerful company like Google would let a blatant scam slide through as one of its advertisers. They have to have some control as to who they let advertise, right?
That was pretty much the primary catalyst for me to just look at the site, which is called BerryLook. I wasn’t going in with the intention of purchasing anything, I just wanted to see what this advertisement Google was shoving down my throat was all about. And if it looked reliable enough, well, I could go from there and decide if it was worth it.
There are red flags to look for when determining if a site is fraudulent, but unfortunately, BerryLook is cunningly smart in covering their tracks. First and foremost, the site itself is arranged and laid out to look extremely professional and high-end. You have to really look hard to find any spelling errors or discrepancies, the photographs are all professionally shot, and even the site reviews are all extremely positive. On the evening I was contemplating ordering some clothes, the site was having a huge blowout sale, and I’m not surprised to see that (yet again!) the site is holding another sale on all clothing. It’s just another marketing technique to make the clothes look more expensive than they actually are, so you really think you’re getting a great deal when you shop. And, like I said, each and every product I looked at on the site had at least a four star review. Fantastic!
I think I started dropping items into my cart (it might have been my payday), and whilst I was in the middle of punching in my card, I started to feel…a little off. And that was when I decided to look at some external reviews from other websites, causing me to gasp loudly and essentially save my $200 from being thrown into the abyss.
Probably goes without saying, I emptied that damn cart and deleted all my card information faster than you could say “scam”. And, immediately afterwards, I found myself kicking myself in the midst of my relief. How the hell could I have almost let that happen? Why is this legal? WHY WOULD GOOGLE HARASS ME WITH THESE ADS?!
There’s way too many fingers we can point in this situation, but from a consumer perspective, I’m just here to warn other ladies and gents from similar situations. Because BerryLook is actually a Chinese company (not from the US, like they claim on the website), there’s nothing the FTC can actually do to stop this scam. Trust me, I’ve tried reaching out before, in my ravenous outrage after realizing I almost got scammed out of two hundred hard-earned bucks.
I can’t explain to you how these fraudulent advertisements made their way to me (and tens of thousands of other poor suckers), but I’m happy to show you some actual, authentic reviews! (In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, the reviews on the actual BerryLook site are generated by computer bots. Another crafty marketing tactic, might I add).
Hilariously, the paid accounts and bots that we see on the BerryLook app have also tried to peep up on actual authentic review sites, like TrustPilot and Sitejabber. Trust me, I could spend HOURS just watching these bots get attacked by the angry scammed customers. It’s live entertainment at its finest.
On several of these negative reviews, BerryLook responds with the same old automatic message with irrelevant links to nonexistent tracking numbers. Even if you didn’t order anything, and you’re just posting a review to shit all over the company (like I did), you’ll still get an automated bot message asking you for your tracking number. It’s actually hysterical.
I’m very happy to report that BerryLook is getting the negative exposure it deserves through these negative reviews and Facebook pages dedicated to denouncing the brand, but BerryLook is just one of many fraudulent companies. Because these companies are overseas, there isn’t much we can do as consumers besides just continue to expose them. The legal action we can take is just not really up-to-par yet, even though Google is the one referring us to these fraudulent companies…
What I can do, however, is offer some tips and advice on how you can avoid a similar situation. First and foremost, the reviews you read on the site are not always reliable, and you should take them with a grain of salt. My personal favorite sites for reliable reviews are TrustPilot and Sitejabber, like I said, but I also visit Scam Finance and Knoji. Read up on the company as much as possible so you know your money and card information is safe, especially if it’s a brand you’ve never heard of. Keep a sharp eye out for grammar mistakes and constant sitewide sales, as these can usually be signs of fraudulent foreign sites. And, above all, listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, especially when it comes to spending your money, it probably isn’t.
If you’ve experienced a similar situation, of if you’ve actually been scammed by BerryLook yourself, let me know in the comments! I’m quite shocked at the lack of media coverage this issue is getting, considering the fact that thousands of people have been ripped off by this company alone.
Coming up next: #WCW: Anne Shirley from Book to Television