mouse
Go to Homepage


Subscribe to free weekly newsletter

Mouse Print*
is a service of
Consumer World


Visit our sister site:

Consumer Reporters & Advocates in Media


Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

November 28, 2014

New Scam Emails Fake Order Confirmations to Shoppers

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 10:48 am

 (Boston) — Shoppers’ email inboxes have just started being flooded with a timely and potentially dangerous scam. Cybercrooks are sending out authentic-looking purchase confirmation emails that appear to be from Walmart, Target, and Costco, among others, to lure unsuspecting shoppers to their fake websites.

walmartscam

*MOUSE PRINT:

Upon clicking the link for more information about their supposed order, consumers are taken to a foreign website where a malware-infested .zip file is automatically downloaded to their computer.

“This is the perfect crime at the perfect time,” commented Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky. “Shoppers are busy placing orders between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so they would naturally expect to find these confirmations in their inbox. And even if they didn’t place an order with the particular retailer, they may believe that a mistake may have taken place and want to see the details.”

The subject line of the suspect emails typically says “Thank you for buying from (retailer name).”

Consumers who click the link in these emails are taken to various foreign websites hosted at these domains: alchem-asia.com (Walmart email), test.vcalink.be (Target email), and bwanatembosafaricamp.com (Costco email).

Consumer World recommends that shoppers hover their mouse over any link in a purchase confirmation email and note the exact website they will be taken to before they actually click it. The website address should be displayed either in a bubble above the link or in the status line of the email program.

Here are sample purchase confirmation emails that are made to appear to be from Target and Costco, claiming that the customer’s order is ready for pickup:

Target

Costco

• • •

November 17, 2014

Holy Ship, Toys-R-Us Changed the Delivery Address of my Order

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:11 am

  As we all begin our holiday shopping online, this word of caution: scrutinize everything on the screen, fine print or not, before finalizing your order. If not, you may be in store for an unexpected surprise.

Last week, MrConsumer decided to send a toy to a friend, Jami, in Colorado for her kids. Toys-R-Us had a crazy low price for an electronic version of Scrabble, so he proceeded to order it at their website. Here’s the shopping cart showing the item:

Cart

Since this order qualified for free two-day shipping through Shoprunner (hint: AMEX cardholders should sign up for a free account good at many retailers), MrConsumer clicked the Shoprunner button and entered the Colorado address that the toy should be shipped to.

shoprunner screen

Not wanting this purchase to go on his American Express card, MrConsumer dismissed that screen and clicked the regular checkout button knowing that free shipping would still apply even entering a different credit card number.

The final checkout screen all seemed to be in order with the gift going to Jami, so he clicked the submit order button.

A few days later, FEDEX sent a notification that the gift had been delivered. Checking with Jami, she said she never received it. Did someone steal it from her doorstep?

Checking back at the FEDEX site, there was a notation that the package was left on a porch in LINCOLN, NEBRASKA! What??? Lincoln is where Jami used to live. Could MrConsumer have been so absent-minded as to erroneously list her old address on the ToysRUs.com order?

Going back to retrace his steps on the Toys-R-Us website, MrConsumer created a test order for the same toy. And just as depicted above, when clicking the Shoprunner button, the Colorado address automatically appeared. However, when clicking the regular checkout button, it appears that Toys-R-Us changed the address to Lincoln, Nebraska because that is the address it had stored from previous orders.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Toys R Us

MrConsumer called Toys-R-Us and walked the agent through all the steps above so she could see the glitch in the system. They generously provided a merchandise credit, and said they would forward this issue to their tech people.

The lesson here is that you have to scrutinize every Internet order, big print and small print alike, before hitting the submit button. Is it the right item? Is the order for only one item and not two by mistake? Did all coupon codes get accepted and deducted? And surprisingly, is it going to the right place?

• • •

November 3, 2014

At Sears, “All” Does Not Always Mean “All”

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

  Last week, Sears advertised “lowest prices of the season” in certain product categories and offered some of the biggest discounts ever offered on Kenmore ovens and ranges.

sears

In addition to offering wall ovens for 50% off and Kenmore ranges for 35% off, the deal was particularly sweet because you could get an “extra 15% off ALL [emphasis added] appliances with Sears card.”

MrConsumer encouraged a friend to go to Sears to get a Kenmore stove he had been admiring since the 35% off sale coupled with the extra 15% off would likely beat the prices that would be offered during the upcoming Friends & Family sale. When he approached a salesperson about getting the extra 15% off, the first thing he was told was that they needed to check the exclusions. Exclusions? What exclusions? Nothing could be simpler than the straight forward promise that ALL appliances were an extra 15% with the Sears card.

*MOUSE PRINT:

sears exclusion

What, no extra 15% on Kenmore ranges or ovens? Mouse Print* wrote to Sears’ PR folks about this last Monday and by the next morning the advertisement had been corrected after admitting it was an “inadvertent error”:

Sears

Great. Hats off to Sears for the quick corrective action.

A day or two later, however, Sears sent an email with a link exclusively for Sears card holders promising an extra 15% off “select” appliances. Were those Kenmore ovens for 50% off and other Kenmore ranges advertised for 35% off excluded. Nope.

Sears extra 15%

*MOUSE PRINT:

Extra percentage off cannot be combined with other Sears card discounts. Excludes Jenn-Air, Dacor, floor care, sewing machines, countertop microwaves, water heaters, water softeners, water filtration, air conditioners, air cleaners, fans, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, accessories, closeouts and everyday great price items. Excludes Sears Commercial One® accounts and Outlet Stores.

Of course, when trying to make a test purchase of one of the 35% off Kenmore ranges, there was zero extra discount when using the Sears card.

We wrote to Sears again asking what steps the company will take going forward to assure shoppers that advertised offers are accurate and will be honored as stated, and how they planned to compensate customers who sought to take advantage of the sale price AND the card discount but were denied.

Sears did not respond by our publishing deadline. Any update will be provided here.

• • •

October 13, 2014

What Would You Give Up in Exchange for Free Wi-Fi?

Filed under: Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:30 am

 When you are offered free Wi-Fi in a public area, you usually have to agree to some terms and conditions statement. Most people don’t read them, and simply scroll past the fine print to the “ok” or “I agree” button.

Some folks in London a few months ago were subjected to a little experiment where an unusual requirement was tucked into the fine print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

‘in return for free wi-fi access the recipient agrees to assign their first born child to us for the duration of eternity.’

Did anyone fall for it? Yep. Half a dozen people clicked the “I agree” button.

The Finnish company that organized the research said it will be returning the children to their rightful parents.

For more details, here is the experimenters’ report summary and full report.

• • •

September 29, 2014

FTC Warns Sellers to Make Disclosures “Clear and Conspicuous”

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:08 am

 For the past two weeks MrConsumer has been ranting about retailers that don’t disclose key information in their ads in a “clear and conspicuous” manner. Last Tuesday, the FTC must have heard his yelling and screaming, and sent letters to over 60 companies warning them to clean up their ads. (We asked the FTC for a copy of the letter, but they refused.)

From their blog, here (only slightly excerpted) is the FTC’s message to companies about their obligation to make disclosures in their ads “clear and conspicuous.”

If the disclosure of information is necessary to prevent an ad from being deceptive, the disclosure has to be clear and conspicuous. That shouldn’t be news to any advertiser and certainly not to the 60+ companies – including 20 of the 100 biggest advertisers in the U.S. – that received warning letters as a part of the FTC’s Operation Full Disclosure. But whether your company heard from us or not, there are lessons to learn from our latest effort to ensure advertisers abide by time-honored legal principles.

Operation Full Disclosure included TV ads, print ads, ads in Spanish, and ads for a wide range of products and services – food, drugs, household items, consumer electronics, personal care products, weight loss products. It ran the gamut. And here’s what we found: A lot of ads included potentially misleading statements that advertisers tried to “fix” with problematic fine print.

Some ads quoted prices, but didn’t adequately disclose the strings that were attached. Others showed optional accessories, but didn’t adequately disclose that people had to buy extras to get the advertised benefit. Still others featured best-case-scenario consumer testimonials, but didn’t adequately disclose the results people could generally expect to achieve. We also spotted ads that included on-camera demonstrations without adequately disclosing material alterations. And that’s just for starters.

Here’s a practical way to think of it. If a disclosure is truly clear and conspicuous, consumers don’t have to hunt for it. It reaches out and grabs their attention. One mnemonic we use – The 4Ps – can help sharpen advertisers’ focus on four key considerations:

Prominence. Is the disclosure big enough for consumers to read easily? The fine-print “disclosure” and its TV cousin, the fleeting super, have long been the subjects of FTC law enforcement. Consumers shouldn’t have to scan an ad with a magnifying glass to pick up on material details of the deal. TV advertisers face the additional wild card of varying screen sizes. Regardless of whether a person is looking at the ad on a home theater system or a handheld device, small type can be easy to overlook. Furthermore, consumers shouldn’t have to be speed readers to grasp the message. FTC cases have challenged supers that flashed for just a brief period, lines of fine print on a single screen, and hard-to-read sentences over multiple screens. Consider contrast, too. White text on a light or variegated background isn’t likely to be noticed. Nor will a fine-print statement that has to compete with a dynamic and distracting image.

Presentation. Is the disclosure worded in a way that consumers can easily understand? Using legalese or technical terminology reduces the likelihood that consumers will get the message. Burying important information in a dense block of text is another common tactic that signals “don’t read me.” In one FTC settlement, for example, material information about the terms of the transaction appeared after an advertiser’s long litany of trademark information. In another case, a company used an intricately embellished all-caps font. That may be fine for the logo of a heavy metal band, but it’s not a presentation designed to convey critical information to consumers.

Placement. Geography matters. Is the disclosure where consumers are likely to look? An FTC settlement challenged as ineffective a key disclosure that ran down the side of a print ad perpendicular to the main text. Another case dealt with information conveyed in small type in the upper left corner of a full-page newspaper ad. And given all the talk about footnotes, the bottom of the page or screen isn’t a place most consumers will look.

Proximity. Is the disclosure close to the claim it modifies? Tiny type aside, another problem with footnotes is their distance from the prominent headline or splashy text designed to draw the consumer in. If you need to include key qualifications or conditions, remember this maxim: What the headline giveth, the footnote cannot taketh away. And don’t think an asterisk will always solve the problem. There’s a reason it’s called an aste-risk.

Now for the nitty-gritty. So just how big does a disclosure have to be? 4 point, 8 point, 12 point? What’s better: Times New Roman? Helvetica? How many seconds does it have to be on the screen? We get those questions all the time. But there are three reasons why advertisers who focus on the details may be missing the big picture.

“Clear and conspicuous” is a performance standard, not a font size. A disclosure is clear and conspicuous if consumers notice it, read it, and understand it. Do you really want the FTC staff dictating the specifics of your ad campaign? We didn’t think so. Aside from a few rules that mandate detailed disclosure standards, the “clear and conspicuous” ball is in the advertiser’s court. As long as consumers looking at the ad come away with an accurate understanding, companies have substantial leeway in how they communicate their marketing message. That’s why we think it would be a mistake to impose a one-size-fits-all approach.

Who knows better than advertisers how to convey information clearly and conspicuously? The “clear and conspicuous” standard allows advertisers to use their limitless creativity to integrate important information into the overall campaign. Even so, we often hear them say “But we don’t know how to make a disclosure clear and conspicuous.” Our response: Really? Really? Advertisers’ stock in trade is the ability to use the tools at their fingertips – text, sound, visuals, contrast, or color, to name just a few – to convey information effectively. One practical observation: Consider looking at it from another perspective. How would you send the message if you really wanted to, rather than because you think you have to? Approaching the disclosure as a key piece of information you want to convey may make it easier to ensure it’s clear and conspicuous.

When in doubt, rethink your ad claim. If you find yourself struggling with how to craft an effective disclosure, why not take a step back and consider what the need for a disclosure may be telling you. Perhaps it’s pointing to a potential for underlying deception in your ad claim. Sometimes all it takes is a slight wording change to make a disclosure unnecessary in the first place. And just think how refreshing consumers would find an ad free of fine print.

• • •
« Previous PageNext Page »
Powered by: WordPressPrivacy Policy
Copyright © 2006-2015. All rights reserved. Advertisements are copyrighted by their respective owners.