/ Technology

Why isn’t Facebook doing more to stop scams?

In April 2018, Martin Lewis felt he had no choice but to sue Facebook for libel. We explain why, and ask why Facebook isn’t doing more to prevent scams.

Martin Lewis’s details were being used to promote fraudulent, get-rich-quick schemes on Facebook – and Facebook wasn’t doing enough to prevent it. 

Martin’s not the only celebrity to feature in these scams. We recently found a Facebook ad fraudulently using celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey to promote a dodgy bitcoin scheme.

Facebook isn’t alone when it comes to scams on social media platforms, but it is by far the UK’s most widely used. 

Martin has been incredibly vocal in his outrage at these scams appearing on Facebook and other social media, and last year took legal action in a bid to get Facebook to take scams more seriously. 

He eventually settled the lawsuit after Facebook agreed to some key scam prevention measures. Here’s what he told us in May 2019, and why our investigation indicates there’s still much more to be done.

Martin’s story

Martin told us that he first found out about his details being used to promote fraudulent, get-rich-quick schemes a couple of years ago, after people who’d seen the scams or fallen victim started getting in touch. 

He said: “My eyes were properly opened when someone who’d fallen for a scam investment ad contacted me and demanded his money back – he genuinely believed I’d backed the scheme.

I contacted Facebook and other social media sites, but got very little back.

We reported 75 scams, but they often took weeks to be taken down, and were usually instantly replaced.

We later found out that more than a thousand such ads had been published on Facebook – but because we never saw most of them personally, we couldn’t report them.

People were losing life-changing sums of money, but Facebook and other social media sites weren’t doing anything about it.

Existing law and regulation simply isn’t good enough to make them take action to protect people – there isn’t a regulator that takes overall responsibility for scams. I’ve been campaigning to the government to sort this out.

Eventually a lawsuit was my only course of action, so I sued Facebook for libel – the only law that I could use. All I could do was sue for damage to my reputation, rather than the fact these ads were on the site in the first place.

Finally this got the attention of Facebook’s ‘top table’ people, and I settled the lawsuit after it agreed to key measures”

Taking action against scams on Facebook

The ‘key measures’ mentioned by Martin include a new scam ads reporting tool on Facebook, supported by a dedicated internal operations team, and its donation of £3 million to Citizens Advice to deliver a new UK Scam Action Programme.

Neither of these were live as we published this story. 

It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not perfect. For now, Facebook has only agreed to launch the scam-reporting button in the UK, rather than worldwide – though it says it looks to roll out best practice worldwide where relevant.

And while scammers use devious and ever-evolving tactics to sidle through the review process, we feel more could be done to stop them appearing in the first place.

Our investigation has found that scam ads are still appearing on Facebook.

It’s not just celebrity endorsement scams we’ve come across – we’ve also seen ads for fake voucher giveaways, and heard from people whose accounts have been hacked and used to target Facebook friends directly with scams.  

We’ve already successfully campaigned for banks to take responsibility for refunding blameless victims of bank transfer scams – now it’s time for social media websites and other tech giants to do more to stamp them out.

Have you spotted a Facebook ad using a celebrity’s image to commit fraud, or any other type of scam? What do you think Facebook should do to prevent this happening on its platform?

Comments

I see there being 2 reasons why facebook don’t do more, 1) the amount of money they make and 2 ) I found a post which implies facebook believe their users should take more responsibility when interacting with posts/ads it was posted by a facebook admin a few years ago.

If facebook expects users by evaluating ads for authenticity and scams, then users should be paid for the work they do for facebook which never is going to happen and never going to be fool proof.
It is typical for these digital companies such as uber, etc, privatized profits, socialized losses.

Here is a YouTube video by Martin Lewis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxv0izTxrjg

I appreciate all the work that Martin Lewis does, but my approach is to avoid any money saving promotions unless I have used a company before. I have also never looked at anything to do with money on Facebook.

I appreciate that nothing online is safe and I use Twitter and Whatsapp, but for security reasons I stopped using Facebook and Linkedin a long time ago. Facebook in particular seems to be in the news the most often regarding security breaches, and the unsavoury rest. See eg https://www.independent.co.uk/topic/Facebook

The new reporting tool as a result of Martins lawsuit is already over a month late. And I guess on average I’m reporting about 8 scam ads a day. Whether they be cryto-currency (not sure how you managed to get yours blocked) , ads for fake lego , branded shoes, false advertising for PPI claims. The list is almost endless. And I’ve lost count of the number porn related people that facebook keep insisting I should be friends with. Maybe I shouldn’t see the profile pic think , that person needs reporting, view the profile to make sure only to then see what shouldn’t be on facebook at all. It’s a vicious circle. Facebook directors really need a good name and shaming exercise before they’ll improve. I there still no facility to upload images?

Hi William – You can put in a link to an image that is online or to one that is on an image sharing site. Imgur was once suggested. It might be delayed due to moderation but I hope you are excused this after all the years you have been posting. Your fox and parcel photo must have been the first personal image to appear on Which? Convo if we exclude the staff.