3 lessons from the Facebook counterfeit product investigation

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Truth be told, I am the very last person who should have been ripped off by a fake product on Facebook. I have been in law enforcement most of my adult life. I have worked with federal agencies and practiced as a private investigator for a long time, with over a dozen years of experience in cybersecurity issues.

Nonetheless, I was the victim of one of these scams and now I am committed to making sure that doesn’t happen to you.

The “falsity” of Facebook

Over the past few years, we’ve all been inundated with information about Facebook’s refusal to filter bogus political ads. After all, this “free” social network has got to be making money somehow and ad revenue – whatever the source – is a big deal.

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Besides political ads, however, there is a dark and dangerous form of fake advertising that affects every user, even if they are not paying attention to politics. I’m talking about the daily bombardment of product ads that you see as you scroll through your news feed. Don’t kid yourself. These announcements are intended just for you. Facebook closely monitors your profile, interests, and interactions before deciding exactly which advertisers will reach your screen.

My advertising flow

Given my background, it’s no surprise that Facebook presented me with ads from a company selling specialty pants used to conceal guns. One day, while I was browsing the latest “news”, I was presented with an ad like this one. As someone who often has to carry a concealed weapon for work, I was immediately interested. I took the time to watch the company video and quickly ordered two items. Or, at least, I thought I did.

After entering my credit card information to pay for the items, I sat down and excitedly waited for them to arrive. Two months passed and I still had not received anything. Finally, I contacted my credit card company and filed a formal complaint to get my money back. I was steaming, of course, and it made me think about what could have gone wrong with my order.

An investigation ensues

Word to the wise: you should never rip off a private investigator. Still in shock, I began my own investigation of the company that made such big promises in their Facebook ad. I quickly determined that despite the fact that the company took my money and never delivered a product, it was still actively advertising on Facebook and Pinterest.

Upon digging a little deeper (which admittedly I should have done in the first place), I learned that the company had numerous complaints filed against it with the Better Business Bureau. In addition, there were several 1 star reviews filed with Google. After reading these reviews, it became very clear that the company had a habit of raising money without ever delivering any product.

In reality, complaints on the non-delivery of this company date back to at least 2013.

Fake products on Facebook: who is this fictitious organization?

The company that advertised on Facebook is a Florida company called “Strykr Tactical Gear, Inc.” (FEIN # 46-1121485). Stryker has been registered as a company since 2012 and has a purported office at 2000 E 12th Ave # 3492, Tampa, FL 33605. Its registered agent and CEO is a guy named Matthew Ratto.

Not being the type to let sleeping dogs lie, I decided to look into Mr. Ratto’s story. His LinkedIn profile is available here. According to his bio, “STRYKR Covert Carry Systems provides concealment solutions for Federal Agents and Special Operations Forces conducting ‘low visibility operations’ missions. STRYKR Covert Carry is an ideal solution to traditional methods of concealment, as long as its one-handed, one-motion, snag-resistant pull is patent pending, incorporated into clothing and accessories. The STRYKR system gives operators the ability to transport more firepower and concealment shells without drawing attention to themselves… or the mission.

He then listed the company’s website: http://www.strykrusa.com.

Here’s what else we know about Mr. Ratto:

His full name is Matthew Perry Ratto. He was born on December 19, 1970, which makes him just under 50 years old. It has other companies, among which: Basecamp Branding (no longer active) and Covert Tactical Systems, Inc. All of its companies were formed between 2016 and 2019.

Mr. Ratto has a Florida driver’s license. He also owns an 1,800 square foot, 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom home located on Shipwatch Circle in Tampa, Florida. Zillow describes the home as “upscale” and “on the water,” with a value of $ 572,685. Apparently, despite his inability to fulfill the orders he was paid for, Mr. Ratto isn’t doing too badly for himself.

Like other consumers who have complained about Strykr online, I tried calling the company on the number 888-366-6299. Each time, I receive a pre-recorded message. To date, no one has returned my messages to deal with my complaints or to remedy the non-delivery of my items.

3 lessons to learn from my experience with fake products on Facebook

Unfortunately, there is no real benefit to all of the investigation that I have conducted regarding Strykr and its CEO, Matthew Ratto. Ultimately, my experience serves as a good reminder to always remember these three things when ordering products from a Facebook ad or other online site:

# 1: You should always check product and company reviews before ordering anything online. If possible, look for reviews outside of the website you’re ordering from (for example, if you’re looking to order directly from a Facebook ad, look for reviews on other websites like Amazon or Google).

# 2: Remember that Facebook is notorious for allowing the sale of counterfeit products on its site. It basically allows any advertising in exchange for advertising dollars. So, buyer, beware!

# 3: Whenever you buy a product online, you have to pay with a credit or debit card that allows you to dispute the purchase and get a refund.

Unfortunately, my experience with ordering products from Strykr was not unusual. If you have had similar experiences with online shopping, we would love to know more.

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About Leona A. Yow

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