Don’t Be Fooled By This Surfboard Scam!
Dive in for who is trying to steal your hard earned coin!
If you’ve spent time on social media lately you’ve likely come across a couple advertisements for unbelievable deals on surfboards. Brand new sleds from premium brands, such as …Lost and Channel Islands, going for less than a hundred bucks.
It may seem too good to be true. Because it absolutely, totally, one hundred percent is.
Founded in 1984, Surf Station is a St Augustine institution which recently found itself the vehicle for a phishing scam targeting the bargain minded. It’s a fairly straightforward, but very effective, method in which the scammers registered multiple similar domain names, scraped images from the shop’s site, and added discounts large enough to tempt the unwary into divulging their credit card information.
The sites are nearly identical and the similarity in domain names is clearly calculated to cause confusion. The legit site is at surfstationstore.com, while the imposters grabbed URLs ending in ‘shop’ and ‘stores,’ among others.
It’s caused massive problems, for both the retailer and those who have had their credit information compromised. To find out more I spoke with Antonio Berrocal, Surf Station’s General Manager.
Stab: How’d you guys find out about this?
It was first brought to our attention by either a Facebook message or email. I don’t really remember, but it was on Wednesday and by the time Friday had rolled around it was full-on. Like, people were calling the shop nonstop. We probably had over a hundred phone calls. We’ve had hundreds of emails about this whole deal.
It was a mix of people calling to tell us, “Hey, you are getting scammed. Just want to bring this to your attention.” Which is super awesome, that people would go out of their way to let us know that.
We also had people wanting to know, “Hey, is this legit? I’m ready to check out.” There was one guy who had $3000 in his checkout cart, ready to throw in his credit card info and buy a surf shop worth of boards.
And then there were people who called who had already been scammed. It was a mix of those three.
Have you had to deal with any irate customers yet? Has anyone blamed you?
It’s been nice because no one is really mad at us. And at the end of the day it’s not our fault. A lot of times it’s just been a guy who’s like, “Dang… I knew it was too good to be true.”
There was one little kid who called the other day who used his parents’ credit card to buy a board. That was pretty funny. He was kind of freaking out, like, “What do I do?” So, you know, he’s probably a grounded grom right now.
Any idea where it’s coming from and why they targeted you?
Why were targeted, I don’t really know. We were just unlucky, I guess. We do know that it started off as one website and there’s now, to our knowledge, five.
One thing that we fixed, that probably could have prevented this, you can’t go on our website anymore and you can’t copy and paste things. Before this whole thing you could copy and paste an image and take it. Maybe the ease in doing that and ripping a lot of our inventory and images might have made us an easy target, in a sense.
We have an app that’s we’re paying for that will prevent that now.
What are you doing to stop it?
We have several web developers and they’ve all been killer in trying to tackle this. Eddie Toy, who’s our main web developer, has submitted reports to GoDaddy, where the domains were purchased. He’s submitted reports to Facebook, to the FBI. It’s gnarly.
It’s very aggressive and one thing we can see is that it’s based out of China. Whoever is doing it has purchased 3000 domain names in the past year and we know they’re doing the same thing in other industries. Bicycling was one.
This isn’t a cheap scam to pull off. Because you’ve gotta purchase domain names, you’ve gotta purchase the ads. This is a scam that they’re running that’s making a lot of money. I can see that first hand.
It’s a bit surprising it works so well, given that the prices are well below the cost of materials, alone.
I think a big part of it is, people see that dramatic drop [in price] and I don’t think they understand the cost building a surfboard and the margins that a surf shop works with. Which is not a lot of money.
Any advice for people looking to find surfboards online?
If it looks too good to be true, don’t go for it. We have our number on our website, call us. We’re happy to talk to you, we’ll explain the situation. We’ll let you know if it’s one of our boards or not.
One more thing that I’d like to hit on is Facebook. Facebook and Instagram allowed this to happen. That’s [the scammers’] only platform for advertising. Facebook needs to work on their controls.
One guy, Mike Delaney, he took a screenshot of these boards being listed 87% off and said, which really got me thinking about it, “Anyone else getting this paid-for ad on their insta feed? Come on, Instagram and Facebook. You instantly pull down a post of some woman showing her nipple but you can’t stop this blatant scam?”
I think that’s a good point. They’ll be adamant on one thing but then they’ll let this kind of scam go on.
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