CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Raise your hand if you shop for your clothes online.
Billions of dollars were made last year, thanks to you and me, shopping for outfits on the web. Many people are baited into a purchase through their own social media feeds, where not all companies are made equal.
You've been there. You're scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed, then pops up an adorable dress for a whopping $12.99. It's from a company you probably never heard of or don't follow on social media, but who cares it's a steal!!
"They run them constantly and the majority of all the pictures that they have on there are stolen," says Kenya Mills.
Mills is the owner of KMills Collection based in Texas. She designs custom-made, sophisticated clothing for women. She says a company named LinkShe was stealing pictures of her designs from her website and using them as their own to sell knockoffs at a fraction of the price. Kenya says it's making her company look bad!
"I had a lady actually send me a picture of what she got because she was upset. She thought it was mine. She sent me a picture and the denim dress they stole was made out of polyester," Mills explains.
I'm actually familiar with Kenya's clothing line. I ordered a piece from her before and got exactly what I paid for. But click on an ad from those random companies appearing in your timeline and you'll find many of them are not based in the United States.
I asked Mills if she knew anything about the business in question, LinkShe. She replied, "All I know is they're in China."
"Trying to get any relief or recovery from any of those companies that ripped you off is very difficult if not impossible," says Tom Bartholomy at the Charlotte Better Business Bureau.
The Charlotte BBB says these companies change their name and contact info constantly so they're harder to trace. A 2016 Buzz Feed investigation identified these China-based companies being linked to female consumers losing thousands of dollars: Zaful, SammyDress, DressLily, RoseGal, RoseWe, TideBuy, Choies, and RomWe.
"If the prices are just so exceptionally great compared to what you have been able to find that same item elsewhere, that should start bells ringing in your head that something might be amiss," says Bartholomy.
"Then also if you see any type of pictures with their heads cut off and all of them are like that? That's a clear indication that most of those pictures are stolen," says Mills.