Facebook launches reporting tool to clamp down on scam adverts in the UK

Facebook has created a reporting tool for scam adverts and donated £3m to Citizens Advice for an anti-scan project called Scams Action. 

The project was launched by Facebook after they agreed to treat the matter seriously after Martin Lewis, the consumer champion, dropped a lawsuit of defamation against them, for the many scam ads appearing on Facebook that were featuring his image with the endorsement that he was backing financial schemes and to click through on the fake ad. 

Scam adverts are often posted by fake companies that don't own, hold or dispatch what they are advertising and often use celebrity images to endorse false products like mobile phones, miracle medical breakthroughs, free trial offers, miracle face creams diet pills and 'get rich quick' bitcoin trading schemes.

As many Social Media platforms push advertising content and Facebook still does not allow users to deny advertising uploads of their personal data to Facebook, it has become easy for scammers to reach a broader audience. The UK faces an epidemic of online scam ads, yet there isn't a law or regulation to prevent them. Usually, these criminal scammers are based outside of the EU. 

Thousands of people have fallen victim to these ad scams and they have devastating effects on those that have been conned out of thousands of pounds and serious affects on their health if they have actually received the 'miracle new drug that replaces insulin'. 

The social media company's new scam ads reporting tool will involve a specially trained team investigating alerts raised by users, reviewing reports and taking down violating posts to clamp down on potentially misleading adverts. 

Citizens Advice project Scams Action (casa) will help those that have been impacted by scammers (it is estimated that 20,000 people are year are scammed) but also raise awareness of how to avoid scams, too. 

Many ad scams are obvious to lots of people but there are many that don't recognise them as scams and they are left vulnerable because when an advertisement appears on Facebook, they may feel that it is to be trusted; that Facebook would have vetted the company to protect its users, surely? Match that advert with a celebrity's face that is thought to be an opinion leader saying that they use the product or have invested in the company and now life is so wonderful and that is where the dangers lie. It is a ripe area for scammers and it is right that Facebook are doing something about protecting their users because it isn't just an issue with the ad scammers now. It is an issue for legitimate UK advertisers trying to get their brand message across. The ad scam issue dilutes trust.  

There are a few obvious things to look out for in spotting an ad scam:
  • The price is too good to be true - cheaper than it could be bought elsewhere
  • It's a too good to be true Miracle cream that gets rid of every wrinkle
  • Being asked to pay quickly and for any other personal information
  • The http address at the start of the URL should have an s at the end of http: https. This means that the website has a security certificate and that if you are paying by credit card, your card is encrypted. 
  • Check if there is an option of paying by Paypal which would give you added security. If there isn't an option, this should ring alarm bells. 
  • Spelling, grammar, poor images and no contact address on the page.

Facebook have also made updates in its Ad Preference menu to provide users with more information about businesses and third parties, including their email and phone numbers and other data. 

Yet, Facebook is still not letting their users deny advertiser uploads of their personal data to Facebook via Facebook itself. Users have to go through and contact each and every one individually and of course, how many people would do that? So, these users are still bombarded with all types of manipulative advertisements, which leaves them extremely vulnerable to ad scams. 

Social Media companies provide a vehicle to carry fake news and fake ads across the world. The reach is global and unquantifiable. It's collection of data has made it easy for these criminals that are creating these fake ads to manipulate the users on the social media platforms. 

Martin Lewis sued Facebook for defamation because his reputation was being ruined on their platform. 

Will the big tech giants understand the damage that their negligent behaviour can cause?

Global companies are the key to spreading better policing on the internet.

Online defamation refers to any untrue statement (and in this case an untrue endorsement) posted in an online context that causes or is likely to cause serious harm to someone's reputation or business. 

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