Internet and Social Media Shopping Scams

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Miranda Pomiecko, (216) 698-2546; 

CLEVELAND – The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs is alerting County residents about internet and social media-based shopping scams ahead of the holiday buying season.

The Department and its partners have received complaints from consumers about sites that:
  • Lure consumers with low prices but deliver cheaply made clothing, beauty or other products that are far below the quality advertised.
  • Put so many conditions on returns that a consumer may have difficulty returning an unsatisfactory item.
  • Ignore customer complaints.
  • Create burdensome policies that require consumers to ship returns overseas—an expensive chore that could discourage consumers from returning items.

“It's always better to take five minutes to research before you buy rather than spending hours afterward fighting to get your money back,” said Sheryl Harris, Cuyahoga County Director of Consumer Affairs.

Consumers can save themselves money, time and stress by doing the following before ordering online from a site new to them:
  • Don’t mistake a Pinterest, Instagram or other social media “like” for a review of the company’s performance. Some companies pay individuals to hype products, and some consumers who share or like product photos may not have made purchases.
  • Avoid companies that treat customers badly. Two quick ways to check—and consumers should try both—are to look at the company’s Better Business Bureau rating and history ( and to conduct a web search of the company or product name with the word “complain.”
  • Read the return policy carefully before buying. Watch out for return policies that are vague, involve complicated steps, require consumers to get “permission” to return items or that require returns be sent overseas at the customer’s expense.
  • Use credit cards—not debit cards—when shopping at sites new to them. Credit cards provide fraud protections that debit cards do not.

“It's not a bargain if you're stuck paying for worthless products you can't use or return,” Harris said.

The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs mediates consumer complaints against businesses, investigates scams and enforces the County’s Consumer Protection Ordinance. You can reach the department at 216-443-7035 or file a complaint online at