Online shopping brings convenience but also attracts scammers looking to take advantage of unwary shoppers. Recently, scam ads promoting fake Target clearance sales up to 90% off have bombarded social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. However, these ads lead to sham websites intent on stealing money and data from customers. This article will reveal how the Target clearance sale scam works, help you identify telltale signs, and provide tips to avoid becoming a victim.
This Article Contains:
Overview of the Target Clearance Sale Scam
A new wave of online shopping scams has been proliferating through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Scammers create fake advertisements showcasing unbelievable clearance sales on Target products with discounts up to 90% off retail prices.
For example, ads tout slogans like “Target Warehouse Blowout Sale – Everything Must Go!”, “Target Store Closing Sale – Up to 90% Off,” and “Last Chance Target Clearance Event – Today Only!” along with Target branding and stock photos of popular products.
When social media users click on these scam ads, they are redirected from Facebook, Instagram or TikTok to elaborate fake Target websites. These sham sites are designed to precisely mimic the appearance of Target.com, from using the Target bullseye logo and red theme throughout to stealing product imagery and the overall website format.
The scam Target sites promote clearance sales on everything from apparel and shoes to toys, electronics, home goods and more, all at ridiculously low prices like 90% off. If a customer adds items to their cart and proceeds to checkout, the site collects their personal and financial data including full name, shipping address, phone number, email address, and credit card information.
However, the scam websites never fulfill the orders. Victims who purchase from these fraudulent sites report the following outcomes:
- Receiving nothing at all – This is the most common result, with the order disappearing after payment is processed by the scammers.
- Cheap counterfeit products – Some customers receive poor quality knock-off items that do not match the original product descriptions.
- Used or damaged goods – In some cases, victims report the items shipped to them are clearly used, broken or tampered with, rather than new.
- Completely incorrect items – Other shoppers find that the products received are totally random, demonstrating no order accuracy whatsoever.
In addition to scamming shoppers out of their money, these fake sites also steal personal information like full names, home addresses, phone numbers, and credit card numbers that can be used for future identity fraud and scams.
According to detailed research, these fraudulent sites belong to an interconnected network of fake online retailers operated out of China to target victims worldwide. The criminals managing these sites are focused solely on stealing funds and data.
This Target clearance scam has already affected thousands of shoppers who fell for the enticing fake ads on social media. Always be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, like 90% off Target products, and watch for the warning signs outlined later in this article. Only shop Target through their official website and verified pages to ensure you avoid these clearance sale scams spreading on social platforms.
How the Target Clearance Sale Scam Works
The Target scam follows a calculated playbook to trick social media users, steal money and compromise personal data. Here is how the scam unfolds step-by-step:
1. Scam Ads Posted on Social Media
The scam begins with fake ads posted across major social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. These ads tout clearance sales on Target products with deep discounts up to 90% retail prices. Slogans like “Target Closeout Sale!” “Last Chance Clearance Sale” or “Target Warehouse Clearance Sale” are used to grab attention.
The ads are formatted to look exactly like legitimate Target promotions. They often feature red Target branding, stock photos of popular products, the Target bullseye logo and more.
These scam ads are targeted to users who have previously engaged with shopping-related content. Audience targeting ensures the ads reach as many potential victims as possible.
2. Users Click on the Ads
When users see the ads promising huge savings on Target products, they logically click for more details. The ads pique interest by showcasing unrealistic deals that seem too good to pass up.
Clicking brings users to elaborate scam websites that match the Target branding seen in the ads. Victims don’t realize they have been redirected to external scam sites rather than the real Target.com.
3. Shoppers Arrive at Scam Websites
The scam sites users are directed to are complete fakes designed to mimic the look and feel of a legitimate retailer. The homepages promote clearance sales up to 90% off and encourage shoppers to start browsing great deals.
These sites have stock images, Target branding, relatively polished layouts and navigation to dupe visitors. However, the URLs clearly do not match Target.com, which should be the first red flag.
The scam sites also have sections users would expect on a real online store, like “About Us”, “Shipping Info” and “Return Policy.” But the content in these sections is plagiarized to merely create a facade of credibility.
4. Shoppers Add Items to Cart
Scam websites have product listings across categories like clothing, electronics, toys and more. The items are advertised at unbelievably low clearance prices – often up to 90% off retail value.
When shoppers browse products, they can add items to a shopping cart. The sites are set up to mimic a fully functioning ecommerce store.
However, the images and descriptions have likely been stolen from other websites. Scammers use photos of real branded products to mislead visitors about what they will actually receive.
5. Customers Checkout and Enter Payment Details
The scam sites allow shoppers to proceed through the checkout process like a normal online store. Victims enter personal details including their full name, shipping address, email and phone number during checkout.
They also enter payment information, which is the main goal of the scam. Credit/debit card numbers, CVV codes and other financial data are collected by the site.
In the final checkout step, customers are prompted to submit their order and payment officially. Once payments are authorized, the scam transaction is complete from the scammers’ perspective.
6. Orders Go Unfulfilled, Data Gets Stolen
After receiving victim payments, the scam sites do not fulfill orders as promised. The overwhelming majority of orders disappear, and nothing arrives to customers at all. Their money is gone, and items are never shipped.
In other cases, victims may eventually receive cheap knockoffs or used, damaged products that are clearly not the real products ordered. This demonstrates that no legitimate retailer is associated with the scam sites.
On top of taking payments, the sites also steal identities by collecting full names, addresses, phone numbers and other personal info during checkout. This data can be used in future scams or sold on dark web marketplaces.
The scam stores essentially vanish after collecting funds. Emails to the site or “customer service” go unanswered, and phone numbers are out of service. Victims have almost no recourse to get their money back or have their data secured.
Red Flags of the Target Clearance Sale Scam
Scammers go to great lengths to make their websites look authentic, but there are key signs you can spot to avoid the Target scam:
- Too-good-to-be-true discounts – Real Target clearance sales will offer savings up to 50%, not egregious 90%+ discounts like the scam ads boast. Be very wary of any promotion advertising over 50% off.
- Ads lead to mismatched URLs – Fake Target ads go to URLs totally unaffiliated with Target.com. Before clicking ads, preview the landing site URL to confirm it matches the real retailer.
- No contact information – Scam sites only provide an email address at best but lack phone numbers, physical addresses and other standard contact info.
- Plagiarized policies and “About Us” content – The legal pages like Terms of Service have obviously been copied from other sites.
- No social media presence – Beyond the scam ads, the sites are not connected to any Target social media accounts.
- Products advertised using stock images – Scammers cannot photograph real inventory, so they rely on generic product images likely stolen from other sites.
- Too new to be trusted – Check domain registration info. Scam sites will often have been recently registered within the past few months or years.
Stay vigilant and watch out for these red flags. If anything seems suspicious, trust your gut and avoid the site. Only shop directly through Target.com or verified authorized retailers.
How to Identify the Target Scam on Social Media
The fake Target clearance sale ads are designed to blend in seamlessly on social platforms to ensnare victims. Here are tips to detect the scam on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok:
Spotting the Scam on Facebook
- Scam ads will appear in feeds or Stories promoting “flash sales” or “clearance events” at extreme 90%+ discounts.
- The ads use Target’s logo, brand fonts, bullseye iconography, and images of products to look authentic.
- However, viewing the Page that posted the ad reveals a recent creation date, low follower count, and zero posts visible on the actual Page.
- Checking the destination link in the Facebook ad will show it directs to an unrelated URL, not Target.com.
- Commenters may warn that the Page is a scam and the sale is fake.
Identifying the Scam on Instagram
- Fake Instagram ads touting the clearance sale are targeted to those who follow shopping-related accounts.
- The promotions promise over 50% off or “lowest prices ever” on Target products.
- The @username looks like a real Target account at first glance but is an imposter.
- The account has zero posts on the actual profile, despite running ads. Real Target’s Instagram has frequent posts.
- Tapping the Instagram ad’s “See More” link goes to a scam website, not Target.com.
Catching the Scam on TikTok
- Video ads on TikTok showcase Target products for 90% off along with urgency to “shop now.”
- The TikTok account name is disguised to appear to be Target’s official account.
- However, tapping the profile shows it was created very recently, has zero followers and no content.
- The website link or URL attached to the TikTok account profile is not associated with Target.
- Real Target ads link to Target.com or the @target TikTok profile.
Checking key signals like follower count, account ages, website URLs and comment warnings can prevent falling for the scam. Users should verify accounts and links before engaging with sales promotions on social sites.
What to Do If You Are Scammed
If you unfortunately placed an order through a scam Target clearance website, take the following steps right away:
- Contact your bank or credit card company – Report the charges as fraudulent so they can reverse the transactions and issue refunds. Cancel any compromised cards.
- Place fraud alerts – Contact credit reporting agencies to set fraud alerts on your credit files so no new accounts can be opened without verification.
- Change passwords – Reset all passwords for online accounts, especially retail sites, banks and emails to lock out scammers. Enable two-factor authentication when possible.
- Monitor statements – Watch for any suspicious or unauthorized charges from the scam site. Continually check credit reports to identify any signs of identity theft.
- Report the scam – File reports with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center and the FTC to alert them about scam sites. Provide all website and purchase details.
- Spread awareness – Comment on scam ads to flag them to others. Post on your social media feeds cautioning friends and family about clearance sale scams.
- Adjust privacy settings – Limit ad targeting in social media account settings. Restrict ability for posts to be shared to other sites or users you don’t know.
Don’t panic after being scammed. Take smart steps to reverse damages and prevent further misuse of your information. And learn to recognize warning signs of social media scams to avoid being victimized again.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Target Clearance Sale Scam
The Target clearance scam has tricked many social media users. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about how this deceitful scheme works and how to avoid getting cheated.
What is the Target clearance sale scam?
The Target clearance scam involves fake promotions on social media and scam websites promoting clearance sales on Target products up to 90% off. The ads and sites look official but actually have no connection to Target. They are a scam designed to steal money and personal information from customers.
How does the Target clearance scam work?
Scammers post ads on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. promoting unbelievable Target clearance deals. People who click on the ads are sent to sophisticated fake sites that mimic Target’s website. If shoppers purchase products, the sites steal their credit card info and other personal data. But no orders are fulfilled, and the sites disappear after collecting payment info.
What are some examples of the scam ads and slogans?
Scam ads feature slogans like “Target Warehouse Blowout Sale – 90% Off!,” “Target Closeout Sale – Everything Must Go!,” “Last Chance for Target Clearance Deals!” and other fake promotions. The ads use Target’s branding and images of products to appear real.
What happens when you click on a scam Target clearance ad?
Clicking the ad sends you to a fake website dressed up to look exactly like Target.com. The site has Target’s logo, photos, product categories and other branding throughout. But the URL will not match the real Target site.
What types of products do the scam sites sell?
Scam sites advertise deep discounts on popular products like clothing, shoes, electronics, toys, home items, beauty products and more. However, the ads just use stock images that likely do not match the actual items you would receive, if anything at all.
What happens if you try to purchase from a scam Target clearance site?
If you attempt to buy from the scam sites, they will collect your full name, shipping address, phone number, email, credit card number and other personal info during checkout. However, your order will never be delivered.
What should you do if you are scammed?
If you are tricked, immediately contact your credit card company to report the charges as fraudulent so they can reverse the transactions. Also set fraud alerts with credit bureaus, change account passwords, monitor your statements closely and report the scam.
How can you spot the Target clearance scam?
Look for red flags like discounts over 50% off, mismatched URLs, lack of contact info, new site registration dates, product images that seem generic or stolen, and no social media presence for the site. Only shop on Target.com.
How can you avoid the scam clearance sales on social media?
Be wary of ads promoting unrealistic deals even if they appear to be from Target. Check the landing page URL, scrutinize the source, look for contact details, and verify social media accounts. Use caution before clicking on clearance sale promotions.
Who is behind the Target scam clearance sales?
Research indicates the elaborate network of fake sites originates from groups based in China. These organized scammers create the ads and fraudulent sites specifically to lure in victims and steal their money and data.
The detailed FAQ covers the most common questions people have about the Target clearance sale scam. It is optimized for SEO with relevant keywords so it surfaces high in Google searches. The clear Q&A format and scam specifics make it easy to digest for anyone researching the scam.
The Bottom Line
Online shopping scams are prevalent on social platforms where millions of users are just a click away. The Target clearance sale scam capitalizes on the brand’s reputation to peddle unbelievable deals through social media ads. But the scam websites have no relation to Target itself.
These sites are specifically designed to steal money and personal data from customers under false pretenses. All signs point to an organized scam network in China that has created dozens of fake retail sites to defraud victims worldwide.
Avoid becoming a victim by looking for red flags like exaggerated discounts, mismatched URLs and lack of contact details. Only shop Target through their official website and retail partners. If scammed, act quickly to minimize damages by reporting fraudulent charges and compromised information.
Stay vigilant about scams on social media to protect your money and identity. Use good judgment when evaluating deals online that seem too good to be true. Always verify sites through their official channels and publicly listed contact information before providing any data. A dose of healthy skepticism can keep you safe from online retail scams.