MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis is launching a High Court legal battle against Facebook over claims the site is publishing scam adverts causing vulnerable people to hand over thousands of pounds to criminals.
- What is the lawsuit about?
Mr Lewis is bringing a defamation suit against the social media giant after months of frustration with scammers piggybacking on his reputation.
He says Facebook has published more than 50 fake posts bearing his name in the last year, many of which are used to scam money out of people.
People have handed over thousands of pounds in good faith, Mr Lewis said, only to find the adverts have nothing to do with him or his company.
- What are the scams?
The scams typically appear to be "get-rich-quick" schemes that prominently feature images of Mr Lewis and purport to have been endorsed by him.
Often the Facebook advert clicks through to fake news sites or mocked-up pages that appear to be from real news sites.
They can look like this:
And click through to pages that pretend to be from legitimate news sites, like this:
The sites are often fronts for binary trading firms that are headquartered outside the EU.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) strongly warns against investing in binary trading schemes and Mr Lewis and his team call such schemes "financially dangerous" and a "near-certain money-loser".
- Why sue Facebook?
Mr Lewis has said his aim is to force Facebook to change its advertising policy.
He is seeking exemplary damages, but any damages won will be donated to charity.
Mr Lewis said: "There are customers who have lost a lot of money. Some of them won't even talk to me because they've seen my face on the advert and think it’s me who has scammed them – it's an absolute disgrace.
"I’ve had enough of this. It's affecting my reputation, but more importantly it is affecting real people who are handing over money in good faith while the scammers are raking in the cash.
"I won't be making a penny out of this, by the way – I've had a team of people looking at this for months now and it is time to take a stand."
Mr Lewis said he would be prepared to call a halt to the defamation claim if Facebook pledged to tackle the scam adverts problem.
- What should Facebook do about the scams?
Mr Lewis suggests Facebook could reduce the risk of such scams by having inbuilt settings notifying well-known people every time their image is used in an advert, requiring their approval that the post is legitimate.
He said: "I hope to open up a legal remedy for other people who have found themselves in the same boat.
"I don't do adverts. I've told Facebook that. Yet it simply continues to repeatedly publish these adverts and then relies on me to report them, once the damage has been done.
"I've got no idea how successful this legal action will be or how long it will take but I can’t sit back and let it [scamming] happen.
"I'm trying to give Facebook a bloody nose and actually get some changes made – or at least get people talking about this."