Facebook, Instagram ads offer dirt-cheap hot tubs in a deal that's too good to be true

FAIRFIELD, Calif. (KGO) -- Wouldn't it be nice to have a new hot tub in your back yard? Wouldn't it be even nicer if the hot tub was dirt cheap?

An offer like that has been floating on the internet. The hot tub was marked as being made by a respected manufacturer. The ads were placed on the biggest social media sites. What could go wrong?

We first heard about this hot tub when Lia Pennington of Fairfield posted on my Facebook page.

"Did we just get scammed?" she asked.

Lia had seen an ad on Instagram for an adult sized inflatable hot tub marked down from $399 to $20. When she saw the ad, she thought it would be perfect for her kids.

"I was like 'Oh, this is kind of cool to have it,' and I was, 'Oh they're having a deal. Let me just take advantage of it," she told me. "I've purchased stuff on Instagram before and Facebook before."

"You know when I air this report," I told Lia, "People are going to say 'Did she really think she was getting a hot tub for $20?'"

Lia answered, "No of course not. I am not an idiot."

But she decided to chance it. The ad was on Instagram, it looked safe with logos for McAfee, Shopify, Norton, and others.

We asked Consumer Action's Joe Ridout for his take and he told us, "There are things such as price mistakes, there are close-out sales, there are some companies that are trying to get off the ground and offer products for very low prices far below their costs."

We checked with Coleman since its name is prominent in some of the photos. "Thank you for your message," the company answered, "We have reported this fraudulent website to our legal team so they can address it. This website is not affiliated with Coleman..."

Lia found a Reddit thread where posters complained about not getting the hot tub. She found similar complaints on eBay. I checked the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker, it has the $20 hot tub listed, too.

The hot tub was listed as being available on sites like "Harpers Collections." There is little information on the sites that I could find. I reached out to two emails that seemed to be part of the operation. I have not heard back.

"This is just a flat out scam, evidently," Joe Ridout told me, "since no one has been receiving these $20 hot tubs."

Now Lia, personally, is not out any money. She paid through PayPal, so she filed a complaint and got her money back. "My husband thinks I'm crazy. He's like, why are you wasting so much time on this. I just feel really bad and I feel bad for everyone. I just can't believe a company like this exists."

"Then I told my dad about it," she says, "and he was like you should ask Michael Finney, he's helped so many other people before and see if there is anything we can do as consumers."

So she did -- and I contacted Facebook and Instagram, and things started moving.

"These types of scammy ads have no place on Facebook," the company answered. "We want to help people discover new products and services while preventing scams or deception, which is why we have removed these ads, as well as several Pages, for violating our policies."

So, because of Lia, and her Dad, these ads are gone for good, and so are those affiliated pages.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Copyright © 2019 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.