Lindsay Ferrier, a blogger and mother of two from Nashville, Tennessee, was tempted by great-looking clothes she spotted at low prices on Facebook, so she bought some. But when they arrived in the mail, she said, "Everything was just cheap. It was poorly made, it had strings hanging off it, holes in it."
The shirts and dresses were way too small, even though Ferrier had entered her exact measurements. And if she can be fooled, anyone can: Her husband is Dennis Ferrier, an investigative reporter for NBC affiliate WSMV-TV in Nashville.
"It looks legit because half the time you're seeing retailers that you totally recognize, so when you see ones that you don't, and it's a coat for 30 dollars, you can't help but be intrigued," Lindsay said.
There's a reason those clothes look so good in online: Some websites are literally taking photos from major retailers. For example, the Rossen Reports team found photos from Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus on a discount site.
"Some of these online sites that are based in other countries may not be as regulated as those we have in the States," said consumer retail expert Andrea Woroch.
Rossen Reports producer Jovanna Billington went online to order clothes for herself from DressLily.com and TBDress.com that she found via Facebook ads. She used an online sizing chart and ordered coats, sweaters and dresses in her size.
When the clothes arrived from China, a coat was already tearing at the seams. A blazer that looked stylish in the online photo turned out to be a flimsy sweater with strings hanging off, and the fit, Billington said, was "not even close." And a blue evening gown that looked elegant in the ad turned out to be "basically bathing suit material," Billington said.
NBC News reached out to DressLily.com and TBDress.com, but they did not comment. Facebook and Google told NBC News that misleading ads are against policy, and they have teams in place to remove them.
"These discount shopping sites are really tempting, but just remember: It's junk clothing and you're better off spending a little more for quality items," said Woroch.
Statement to NBC News from Google:
"We have policies in place to prevent against misleading advertising, and when we find an ad or advertiser that violates these policies we take immediate action to remove them."
Statement to NBC News from Facebook:
“This is an issue that most digital platforms deal with, especially those that provide self-service tools for businesses to build and run their own ads. That is why we're a member of trustinads.org, an industry organization that works to protect people from misleading ads across the Internet.
At Facebook, our guidelines prohibit misleading ads. We have teams as well as automated tools in place to enforce our policies and remove the vast majority of prohibited ads before they run. Our goal is to provide the best possible experience on our site, so we take enforcement seriously."