Today I was motoring around Facebook, clicking status and taking names, when one of those sidebar ads caught my attention. They did it by appealing to my man gene. There are three ways to appeal to someone’s man gene. You can show him a woman in a seductive pose, you can show him a frosty mug of beer, or you can show him a BBQ Grill the size of a Chevy with wheels and tires and enough gleaming stainless steel to blind low-flying birds. That last one is what they used on me. Just below the picture of Grillasarus Rex was the following text.
Click here to see how our unique website can get you your dream BBQ Grill at up to 95% off retail price. No joke.
Wow. Ninety-five percent? That’s a lot, isn’t it? With my man gene fully stimulated, I clicked on the ad. I was directed to a website named Swipebids.com. Brightly colored pictures of vast warehouses of items, one of which just HAD to be Grillasarus Rex, were plastered across the page, and bold type proclaimed that they offered fantastic prices on brand new items because they bought from warehouse closeouts and overstocks. Furthermore, the text assured me, I could trust this because it’s been COVERED ON THE NEWS. (This, dear imaginary reader, is where my man gene was wrestled to the ground by my suspicion gene, tied up, and stuffed in to a burlap sack closed with duct tape.)
There was a prodigious array of logos from major news outlets across the top, and right dead center of it all was an embedded video showing some generic local newscast (I think I figured out it was from the Atlanta area) covering auctions. Only, it was covering auctions of police seizures and repossessions, and didn’t mention a single thing about closeouts or overstocks. The point was made during the report that the items were NOT new, they were just LIKE new, which again differed from the Swipebids.com text.
(Here’s a note to all you would-be scammers. When you slap up a video that has nothing to do with what you’re advertising, it’s counterproductive. We will notice.)
So now, I scroll down further and see a panel of auctions that just closed (allegedly), showing me screen names that had bought a Honda Civic for $1700 and change, a Macbook Pro for $120 and change, etc., etc. Pretty impressive stuff, if it was true at all. Under that were some more auctions that were just about to close. For the same sort of items, at the same sort of price. Clearly the pressure was on. Bid, damn you, BID!
Luckily my man gene’s muffled screams could not be heard through the burlap sack. I scroll down a bit further and see two things of interest. I’ll tell you about the second one, first. At the very bottom of the screen was the now-standard disclaimer of all Internet scam websites that vouch for their products by saying the news media has covered them. We have no affiliation with the companies identified by the logos above. They did not publish anything about our specific service. However, the subject of penny auctions was featured.
So, let me get this straight. I can trust you because the news media has covered you, only…they haven’t? Charming. Right above this disclaimer from hell was a list of names and beside each one it said “Name Goes Here invested $159 and won auctions worth $SomeHugeAmount.” Aha! The scam shows itself in the light of day!
Here’s how these penny auction scams work. They get your credit card and tell you that you’re “buying bids.” Get that? You’re not bidding on items, you’re not buying items, you’re buying bids. Once you’ve bought some bids, the auction site will bid for you on items, bumping the price up a few pennies at a time. What they SAY will happen is, as soon as there is no available bid for a given item, the auction closes and the last person who entered a bid on that item, wins it. The problem is, you have no control over what item you’re bidding on, and you have no control over how long the auction goes on. It’s not time limited, as legitimate sites like eBay are, it continues to run until it runs out of bids.
You could win something you don’t care about at all (a number of people complaining about Swipebids.com on scam alert websites said they “won” gift cards worth between $4 and $10), or you could pay the regular retail price for an item if the bids continued to come in. It’s all very vague.
The one thing that’s NOT vague is that YOUR credit card will be charged $159 for a supply of “bids.”
There are two lessons for us to learn here. First, always be skeptical. Look over the entire site first, and scroll down to the bottom where the disclaimers live. Any time an auction website wants money before you can bid, that’s a bad sign.
Second, just because the ads are repackaged into friendly little Facebook sidebar nuggets that look just like the official bits that come from Facebook itself means precisely nothing. Those ads are PACKED with scammers who want a piece of Facebook’s 500+ million users.
Make sure one of them isn’t you, okay?