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ENC BBB: Take precautions when shopping on TikTok

A hand signal popularized on TikTok led authorities to rescue an underage girl.
Kiichiro Sato
If you’ve bought something from TikTok recently, you aren’t alone. Officials with the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern North Carolina say 49% of users reported purchasing something they saw on the app.

If you’ve bought something from TikTok recently, you aren’t alone.

According to one study, officials with the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern North Carolina say 49% of users reported purchasing something they saw on the app. The social platform began offering in-app shopping last year and is now expanding to “Live Shopping,” allowing creators and brands to sell goods directly through videos.

The BBB says while TikTok may be a good way to snag a deal promoted by a popular influencer, phony products, less-than-scrupulous sellers, and outright scams are also common.

They recommend shoppers avoid impulse buys and research the seller first; check out consumer reviews for the quality of the product and the company’s customer service; and watch out for scams – keeping in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“As with all shopping, especially online shopping, it’s best to think critically before making a purchase,” said Mallory Wojciechowski, BBB president and CEO. “Try not to buy things on a whim, and don’t let sellers pressure you into making purchases you aren’t sure about.”

Tips for shopping on TikTok:

Avoid impulse buys. With TikTok and many other social media platforms, making a purchase can be as simple as clicking on the product and clicking “buy.” Before you buy something based on a 30-second video, think it through. Some experts recommend waiting 48 hours between adding an item to your cart and checking out. In addition, you can use the extra time to research the product and seller and make sure the purchase won’t throw off your budget.

Always research the seller. Make sure the seller has plenty of account engagement, which means they have followers who comment on their posts and review their products. If the seller has a website, visit it and look for the red flags of a scam website. Do an online search of the company name and the words “complaint” or “scam.” Adding those keywords can bring any reports of suspicious behavior to your attention.

Pay close attention to consumer reviews. Reviews can help you determine the quality of the product and how well the business handles customer service. Read reviews on TikTok, on the company or individual’s website, and on sites like to make sure what you read is impartial and comes from real buyers.

Keep an eye on product descriptions. Some sellers might offer what appears to be a great deal on a name brand or viral product, but don’t forget to read the fine print. The Federal Trade Commission reminds consumers that if the product description contains words like “refurbished,” “vintage,” or “close-out,” you might be getting a second-hand or imperfect item.

Watch out for scams. You may find high-dollar items for sale on TikTok for highly reduced prices, but these offers could indicate an outright scam. Some TikTok users have reported purchasing a product only to receive a fake product in the mail. Remember that too-good-to-be-true deals usually are. Besides unusually low prices, grammatical errors and missing contact information could also indicate you’re looking at a scammer’s social media shop.

Understand return policies and keep good records. Before you make a purchase, get to know the seller’s return and refund policies. Keep records of your transactions in case you need them to get a refund or to hold the seller accountable.

Unhappy with a purchase? Act quickly. According to TikTok terms of service, buyers have six days from when a product is marked as “delivered” to make a return or refund request. After that, shoppers need to directly communicate with the seller or email for customer support. Learn more about the TikTok shopping guidelines.

Pay by credit card. Using your credit card for online purchases is always a good idea. It’s much easier to contest a fraudulent charge and get your money back on a credit card than with a debit card.