Facebook has launched a new anti-scam service using the £3m that it agreed to donate to the development of the programme in return for TV consumer money champion Martin Lewis dropping his legal action over scam ads.
What legal action?
Back in September 2018, MoneySavingExpert’s (MSE) founder Martin Lewis (OBE) took Facebook to the UK High Court to sue the tech giant for defamation over a series of fake adverts bearing his name. Many of the approximately 1000 fake ads bearing Mr Lewis’ name appeared on the Facebook social media platform over the space of a year, could and did (in some cases) direct consumers to scammer sites containing false information which Mr Lewis argued may have caused serious damage to his reputation and caused some people to lose money.
In January 2019, Mr Lewis came to an agreement with Facebook whereby he would drop his lawsuit if Facebook donated £3 million to Citizens Advice to create a new UK Scams Action project (launched in May 2019) and if Facebook agreed to launch a UK-focused scam ad reporting tool supported by a dedicated complaints-handling team.
How the new anti-scam service works
Facebook users in the UK will be able to access the service by clicking on the three dots (top right) of any advert to see ‘more options’ and “report ad”. The list of reasons for reporting the ad now includes a “misleading or scam ad” option.
Also, the Citizens Advice charity has set up a phone line to help give advice to victims of online and offline scams. The “Scams Action Service” advisers can be called on 0300 330 3003 Monday to Friday and the advisers also offer help via live online chat. In serious cases, face-to-face consultations can also be offered.
What to do
If you’ve been scammed, the Citizens Advice charity recommends you tell your bank immediately, reset your passwords, make sure your anti-virus software has been updated, report the incident to Action Fraud and contact the new Citizens Advice Scams Action service: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scamsaction/
What does this mean for your business?
It is a shame it has taken the threat of a lawsuit over damaging scam ads spread through its own platform to galvanize Facebook into putting some of its profits into setting up a service that can tackle the huge and growing problem of online fraud. Facebook and other ad platforms may also need to take more proactive steps with their advertising systems to make it more difficult for scammers to set up adverts in the first place.
Having a Scams Action service now in place using a trusted UK charity will also mean awareness can be raised and information given about known scams and victims will have a place to go where they get clear advice and help.