With Many Retailers Offering Online Sales, Phony Sites Blend In

Stacie Odeneal, a 43-year-old child-welfare lawyer in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., and mother of three, does most of her shopping on Instagram and Facebook because she finds it convenient. Late on the night of Thanksgiving, she came across a Facebook ad offering discounts on Bombas socks. She had heard good things about the brand, and she wanted to hurry and buy before the sale disappeared.

But when she saw an unfamiliar charge on her credit card from a company that appeared to be based in Asia, she knew something was wrong. She soon learned that a neighbor had made a similar purchase, and they realized they had been duped. When she went to report the fake ad to Facebook, she stumbled across even more of them.

“I felt a sense of awareness that it’s easier than ever to fall prey to disingenuous people or companies seeking to capitalize on folks,” Ms. Odeneal said.

Mr. Heath said he thought Bombas was often targeted by scammers because it is a large online retailer, the decision to purchase socks online is often made quickly and much of the company’s marketing is done on social media.

For e-commerce retailers, especially those that rely on customers coming to them through ads on social media, dealing with these sites can feel like a never-ending task. As soon as one site is flagged and shut down, another one pops up promising a new, eye-popping discount.

In 2022, Bombas documented more than 9,000 instances in which customers encountered impostor sites, said Mr. Heath, the chief executive. It found 900 different sites claiming to be Bombas, many of them offering discounts.

Some of the fake sites completely mirror Bombas. In at least one instance, an impostor site for the luxury brand Paul Smith listed marked-down copycat Bombas socks. On TikTok, an account called @BOMBASS pushed a 50 percent discount for Cyber Monday. Some shoppers have received texts about flash sales with discounts of 80 percent.

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