BBB Scam Alert: Beware of misleading advertising and counterfeit products for Valentine’s Day gifts

With consumers expected to spend nearly $26 billion on Valentine’s Day purchases this year, according to the National Retail Federation, Better Business Bureau (BBB) is reminding shoppers to be wary of counterfeit items and misleading advertising as they shop online for gifts.

Customized products are a great way to add a personal message to your significant other. However, reports to BBB detail how some purchasers are receiving items whose quality is noticeably less than advertised. From engravings that spread into full-blown cracks to words on clothing items that flake away after the first wash, or jewels made of glass rather than real diamonds, many consumers become frustrated when a romantic gift’s quality doesn’t last or is overstated in the advertisement. Unresponsive sellers and refund refusals only compound the issue, leaving buyers few options to recover the money spent.

Additionally, a 2021 BBB study found jewelry, apparel and handbags are some of the most counterfeited products with Tiffany, NFL, Louis Vuitton and Gucci among the most frequently used brands. Consumers are encouraged to exercise caution when purchasing name-brand products online that are advertised at prices significantly lower than what is typically found at official retailers, especially on social media from a private seller.

To avoid deceptive advertising and counterfeit products this Valentine’s Day, BBB recommends:

Research the company before making a purchase. Before entering any personal information into a website, research the company on Examine the website. Poor quality images, images found on other websites, and spelling and grammatical errors are all red flags. A real business should have valid contact information (i.e., a working phone number and customer service email address). If the company has a physical address, research it on Google or Apple Maps.

Look up reviews on other websites. Read as many reviews as possible from websites besides the product’s company. Keep a close eye out for customer complaints. Search the business name in a trusted search engine along with the word “scam” to see if others have reported the business as a fake. Remember that customer reviews may be fabricated on the business’s official website; it is always a good idea to search out reviews on other platforms.

Use secure payment methods. BBB recommends paying for all online purchases using a credit card when possible. Credit cards offer additional protections from fraud than a debit card or wire transfer and a greater likelihood of getting your money back in case of a purchase from a fraudulent seller. If the seller insists on using abnormal payment methods, such as mobile banking apps or gift cards, it may be best to walk away from the transaction.

Consumers expect quality from things like shoes, clothing and jewelry. When searching for a name-brand or popular luxury item, pay close attention to its price and check with official retailers to determine the likelihood of it being offered at the advertised price. If a product is listed at significantly higher prices at authorized retailers or its website than is shown, it is more than likely not authentic.

Read the website and look for grammatical errors. Typographical errors indicate the site was put together quickly and may not reflect the typical brand messaging you would expect. Grammatical mistakes in public-facing communications are rare for brand-name items that typically have the resources to employ extensive marketing departments.

For more information on how to shop safely this Valentine’s Day, visit