Every day, European consumers encounter targeted ads that present tempting offers on social media. Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites are fast, effective means of reaching consumers with irresistible deals. However, some companies take advantage of this to catch consumers in subscription traps or to phish money and data from them. 

Across the EU, Norway and Iceland, the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net) assists consumers caught in traps set for them on social media by unscrupulous companies.

According to a recent study by the European Commission, 56 percent of the European consumers have experienced fraud in the last two years. The type of scams most often found on social media are the so-called “buying scams”, where consumers are tricked into subscriptions or purchasing products that are fake or don’t exist.

In February, the ECC-Net as well as ECC Luxembourg will be focusing on this issue. The campaign is part of the 15-year anniversary of the ECC-Net, which is celebrated by raising awareness of 12 key consumer issues over the year – a new one each month.

Ads – and the evidence – disappear without a trace

With this campaign, ECC Luxembourg encourages consumers to take a deep breath and a screenshot before clicking on an ad on social media. The reason is that it can be difficult to track down the traps, as the ads disappear after the consumer has clicked on them. This in turn means that you do not have the evidence on your side:

“One problem is that when consumers turn to us for help, the evidence of any violation is often missing. The ads have disappeared. This is what we aim to focus on with this campaign,” says Karin Basenach, director of ECC Luxembourg.

Social media sites are often the go-to channel for reaching consumers with offers that prove “too good to be true”.

Consumers fall victim to psychological cues that cause them to act impulsively and without thinking things through. On social media, it is often competitions or free trial offers that seem particularly tempting.

“When we scroll down our news on social media, we’re typically in a rush and doing something else at the time. This means that we sometimes forget to stop and critically assess the offers presented to us,” says director Karin Basenach.