Thumbs up as Facebook launches anti-scam tool
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 moneysavingexpert.com – 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 citizensadvice.org.uk/scamsaction for more information or help via a web chat.
Facebook’s HQ in Menlo Park, California
Martin Lewis, founder of the site moneysavingexpert.com, sued Facebook over ads that used his image as a front for online scams