Thumbs down to Facebook scam ads. Photo Credit: Barbara Soares.

Facebook Scam Ads are Fooling People

“The scam ad was on Facebook for too long, I thought that if it was a scam Facebook would probably put the ad down after a couple of weeks at least. I thought that it was safe, unfortunately, I was wrong”.

Facebook’s mission statement, made by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is to connect every person in the world.  However, their priorities often seem to users to be the ads that fill newsfeeds of their billion users worldwide. Those ads are often fraudulent.

As most private companies Facebook(FB) wants to make a profit, and selling advertising space on the newsfeed is how they do it.  The data they collect from users makes this an appealing network to businesses worldwide, getting straight to the target audience.

The Verge website published in the 27th January 2016 impressive figures related to the Facebook income, “The company earned $3.69 billion on $17.93 billion in revenue in 2015; revenue was up 44 percent from 2014. On average, 1.04 billion people use Facebook every day, up 17 percent from the previous year”.

If the social networking makes all the profit towards ads, we suppose that Facebook spent a great amount of money to provide the best service to their customers. Unfortunately, that is not what happens. So how does Facebook behave when those ads, that bring so much money to the company, are scams?

Thumbs down to Facebook scam ads. Photo Credit: Barbara Soares.
Thumbs down to Facebook scam ads. Photo Credit: Barbara Soares.

There are cases where people pay for the ‘free shipping’ for a ‘free sample’ on some of those Facebook ads and the company charge them the entire product fee after few days. Not just that, the company kept charging the fee and sending the product, or not even, during months. There is no way to contact those companies to cancel the purchase, so the only alternative is to cancel your credit card in your bank explaining the situation.

This was the case for Ms. A who, after some weeks of seeing the ad on Facebook, decided to take the advertised free trial from a company called “Garnicium”.

“The scam ad was on Facebook for too long”. She told us, “I thought that if it was a scam Facebook would probably put the ad down after a couple of weeks at least. I thought that it was safe, unfortunately, I was wrong”.

During the sale, where she would need to pay around three euro for the shipping Ms “A” decided to cancel, “I pressed the bottom no at the last page, when they said it would be discounted on my bank account (for shipping), I had a fear at the last minute, and decided to don’t go through that free trial anymore, but pressing the button no it came through anyway”.

Ms “A” sent an e-mail trying to cancel it, explaining she pressed the button to don’t go through. It was too late. The company took €89.90 from her bank account and sent the product. She sent another e-mail explaining that it was an error, and she wasn’t even interested in their product anymore, also she didn’t even agreed to pay for the shipping, so why did they take the entire amount from her bank account? No reply.

Finally, she checked on google and saw many complaints about the same product, and all the people were getting it from Facebook. It was so easy to check on google that many scam websites appeared at the top of the page, she said. “I saw so many complaints, people who had been getting the product from the last three months, or four, and had no way to stop it unless cancelling your credit or debit card. So I did it. I went to my bank in Ireland and explained the situation, they already knew about that company. Thankfully my bank paid the money back after few weeks. But I read comments of people despaired paying around €400 or dollars for a product they never wanted, and they couldn’t cancel it at all”.

Jadh Gonzalez is another customer that was almost a victim of Facebook scam ads, “It was almost Christmas, December 2015, when I saw a Pandora ad on Facebook. The discount was massive and I thought it could be a marketing strategy from the company to reach more customers. The website that the ad on Facebook brought me was exactly the same as the Pandora website; the logotype and all the information were there, the ad on Facebook was perfect as well. I don’t know why, but at the last minute I decided to check it before procedure with my purchase and thank you God I did; Pandora said it was a scam, and they didn’t have any type of promotion neither on their website nor Facebook. Or I was going to lose my money, or getting some fake jewellery from a cheap place”.

Facebook building in Dublin 4. Photo Credit: Barbara Soares
Facebook building in Dublin 4. Photo Credit: Barbara Soares

Earlier this month, April 2016, “BuzzFeed Style” published on their page on Facebook a video and an article “Here’s Why You Should Think Twice Before Clicking On That $12 Dress On Facebook” showing images of women who bought clothes from a company advertised by FB. “Women are being lured on Facebook into buying cheap clothing by companies using stolen images”, those ads have been on Facebook for months, perhaps years, and Facebook does nothing to stop it, even with many complains of the victims who got something that doesn’t match with the pictures online.

BuzzFeed News goes on saying “A BuzzFeed News investigation into these companies shows many are linked to a major Chinese clothing retailer led by one of China’s richest men. And it suggests Facebook, which has become a major source of customers for the companies, is struggling to push back against their scammy ads”.

Mary McNamara explained how easy it was to put an ad on Facebook for her, with no issues, “I use Facebook ads – my business is alcohol based and so I wondered would it be challenged by Facebook or restricted at all as I got a message to say it had to go to a member of staff for approval – but it was approved without question”.

On 16 December 2011, Supermarket multinational Tesco confirmed on their main Facebook page that some of the ads about the company, offering free vouchers on Facebook, were a scam. “WARNING: any adverts, websites or Facebook pages offering ‘first 100,000 attendants get a Free £250 Tesco Voucher’ are a scam and nothing to do with Tesco. For everyone’s online safety we ask you not to follow any links”.

Three days after Tesco warning about those ads on Facebook, C. Branson sent a message complaining about the negligence of Facebook. “It was not just yesterday. I reported this scam by the same people 2 weeks ago and I am getting more and more invites to pages giving away Tesco vouchers allegedly. I report each one but nothing gets done for weeks by Facebook”.

J. Whitehouse said in May 2014, “This scam appears to have been circulating for years”. The post was followed by many people who actually believed on those Tesco ads once it “included Tesco’s logo and looked very official”. In September 2015, D. Briggs wrote in the same post from 2011: “I’ve just been scammed by this”.

However, in 2011, some people as M. Davies were already aware of Facebook ads scam. She wrote in the Tesco’s warning scam post on Facebook in December 2011, “I think people are not aware enough of the scams being portrayed on Facebook! When something sounds too good to be true, it’s normally a scam”!

If some people could identify those Tesco scam ads back in 2011, how Facebook didn’t? Even if people and Tesco reporting those scam ads to Facebook how that kept appearing for many years, and it still in 2016?

Different from other companies, with their logotype and colours outstanding (as google, for example), Facebook building in Dublin 4 has no signs of the company at all. Photo Credit: Barbara Soares.
Different from other companies, with their logotype and colours outstanding (as google, for example), Facebook building in Dublin 4 has no signs of the company at all. Photo Credit: Barbara Soares.

Jessica Soares, a journalist from Brazil, sent a simple question on the Facebook Brazil page ‘SAC Facebook ADS’ regarding on how the platform deals with their ads. She said she is a journalist; the reply that she got from the staff was only a link to their Facebook ads policy page.

The second time, being more specific about what she wanted, researching for scam ads on Facebook, she wrote questions such as, “How does Facebook behave when they are aware of a scam ad? How do they take care of their public/customers? Why is it happening so often?” Facebook not just ignored her message, but also removed her post. Ms. Soares got a message saying, “The post below was hidden because the same information was posted multiple times”. The curious thing is that the first post, which was completely average wasn’t deleted by Facebook, although the second that challenged their behavior was removed.

Attitudes like that with journalists seem to be common regarding Facebook, once the social networking lacks in service for the media and press. When I tried to get in touch with the company I went through many fake phone numbers, e-mails, and even when I got the right one I didn’t’ get any reply, only a message saying “Thanks for contacting Facebook’s press office. We know you might be on deadline, so we’ll do our best to get back to you as soon as possible”.

I decided to physically go myself to their offices, and the reply that I got is that they don’t do “walk-in service”. That was only after the receptionist called someone, once I said I really needed to talk with somebody. If there is someone to call and ask, there is someone to talk with me. The recommendation from the receptionist was to try online, even though I said I’ve tried everything, and no replies so far, he went on saying “keep trying”, and suggested me to post the letter. Which I did and had no reply.

If Facebook treats people from the media and press like that, imagine their victim customers? There is almost zero customer service, and it generally takes weeks to get a response from them, if you do. Phone numbers are also impossible to find, trying to get through to a human being for any issue is a complete nightmare.

Many of those cases I mentioned were easily found on google if you simply type the company name and scam ad, for example. The Chinese companies who sell fake clothes on Facebook ads are clearly scams. Facebook probably knows about that, now everybody knows, so why did that ‘fake clothes’ advertise came up on my timeline while I was writing this investigative journalism piece? I will need to agree with what Allen Clifton wrote for the “Forward Progressives” web page in March 2014, “Now Facebook is basically nothing more than a giant billboard that uses its massive amount of users to sell as much space as it possibly can to whatever company will pay”.

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