Thumbs up as Face­book launches anti-scam tool

Llanelli Star - - TECH NOW -

THERE can’t be many peo­ple out there who haven’t been tar­geted by some kind of on­line scam­mer – even if it’s just an email from Africa promis­ing to trans­fer gazil­lions of pounds into your bank, if only you’d just hand over your ac­count de­tails.

Martin Lewis – he of moneysavin­g­ex­ – can bet­ter that. He’s been used against his will as the ac­tual front­man for many scams.

If you’ve ever had the mis­for­tune to spend any time on the web­site they call Face­book, you may even have seen one such ad – they have Martin’s face on them, with a fake quote from him promis­ing you’ll be rich if you buy into the scheme that will be re­vealed to you when you click on kindly and trust­wor­thy Martin’s face.

Ob­vi­ously, once you’ve bought into the scheme, you never see your money again or the promised riches.

And there’s not much you can do about it.

Any­way, Martin had enough of all this – de­spite his re­peated as­ser­tions when­ever he got the chance that he “didn’t do ads”.

The ads didn’t stop and peo­ple con­tin­ued to get ripped off.

And so Martin de­cided to sue Face­book. The case was even­tu­ally set­tled out of court, with Face­book agree­ing to donate £3m to a scheme of Martin’s choos­ing to help stop the scam­mers, and to add tools to Face­book it­self to help users re­port scammy ads.

This week, the fruits of those two labours went live.

Firstly, the Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau, the in­sti­tu­tion Martin chose to work with to get the mes­sage out, has re­vealed its new ded­i­cated Scam Ac­tion project – funded by Face­book’s £3m.

It will now of­fer ded­i­cated one-to-one ad­vice to any­one who thinks they may have fallen vic­tim to a scam.

It will also undertake scam preven­tion ac­tiv­ity – spread­ing the word so more peo­ple are aware of what a scam looks like, and how to avoid fall­ing into the trap.

The other side of the at­tack on the scam­mers comes from Face­book it­self – built into each ad is a new fa­cil­ity to re­port the ad as a po­ten­tial scam, so Face­book can in­ves­ti­gate.

You ac­cess the tool by click­ing the three dots in the top right-hand cor­ner of any ad – when you se­lect the “re­port ad” op­tion, there is now a but­ton you can press to mark it as a po­ten­tial scam.

Martin him­self said: “The UK faces an epi­demic of on­line scam ads – they’re every­where. Yet, dis­grace­fully, there’s lit­tle ef­fec­tive law or reg­u­la­tion to pre­vent them, and of­fi­cial en­force­ment is poor to non-ex­is­tent, as these crim­i­nals are usu­ally based out­side of the EU.

“That’s why I sued for defama­tion, bizarrely the only law I could find to try to make big tech firms un­der­stand the dam­age their neg­li­gent be­hav­iour has caused.

“Today should be the start of real im­prove­ment. The aim is to tap the power of what I’m dub­bing ‘so­cial polic­ing’ to fight these scams. Mil­lions of peo­ple know a scam when they see it, and mil­lions of oth­ers don’t.

“Dur­ing the law­suit ne­go­ti­a­tions I ap­proached Cit­i­zens Ad­vice and asked if it’d be will­ing to help in the fight against scam ads.

“I was de­lighted that it was so ea­ger to do it, and that it’d have a cou­ple of years of re­sources to try to tackle and re­pair the dam­age caused by the scourge of scams.”

■ IF you think you’ve fallen vic­tim to an scam on­line, you can con­tact the Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Scams Ac­tion by call­ing 0300 330 3003 for one-on-one help, or visit cit­i­zen­sad­­s­ac­tion for more in­for­ma­tion or help via a web chat.

Face­book’s HQ in Menlo Park, Cal­i­for­nia

Martin Lewis, founder of the site moneysavin­g­ex­, sued Face­book over ads that used his im­age as a front for on­line scams

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