Scammers are being targeted by a new tool for UK Facebook users that allows the reporting of fake adverts.
The fresh efforts to tackle scam ads across Facebook are being introduced in the UK on Tuesday, following action taken by the founder of the MoneySavingExpert website, Martin Lewis.
The social media giant is releasing a scam ads reporting tool, with a specially trained team investigating alerts raised by users, reviewing reports and taking down violating posts to clamp down on potentially misleading adverts.
Trends of scam adverts will also be analysed to help enforcement.
Scam adverts often use fake celebrity images or endorsements to dupe people into buying false products and services, such as bitcoin trading schemes and diet pills.
Consumer champion Mr Lewis dropped a campaign lawsuit against Facebook in January, after the social network agreed to create a reporting tool donate £3 million to Citizens Advice for an anti-scam project.
The dedicated online scams service from Citizens Advice, called Scams Action, will give one-to-one support to those who are worried they have been scammed.
Mr Lewis previously announced his intention to sue Facebook for defamation in a personal capacity in a groundbreaking lawsuit, following a raft of scam ads featuring his picture.
"The UK faces an epidemic of online scam ads - they're everywhere," the founder of MoneySavingExpert.com said.
"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.
"So now, I'd ask all who recognise them to use the new Facebook reporting tool, to help protect those who don't - which includes many who are vulnerable.
"Facebook's new dedicated team will then hopefully respond quickly to ditch the scammers."
Citizens Advice said its Scams Action team is expected to help at least 20,000 people in the first year and will also work at identifying and raising awareness of online scams.
"We know online scams affect thousands of people every year," said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.
"We're pleased the agreement between Martin Lewis and Facebook meant we could set up this dedicated service to give more help to people who have fallen victim to online scams."
Steve Hatch, vice president for Northern Europe at Facebook, said scam ads are "an industry-wide problem" caused by criminals and have "no place on Facebook".
"Through our work with Martin Lewis, we're taking a market-leading position and our new reporting tool and dedicated team are important steps to stop the misuse of our platform," he explained.
"Prevention is also key. Our £3 million donation to Citizens Advice will not only help those who have been impacted by scammers, but raise awareness of how to avoid scams too.
"At a global level, we've tripled the size of our safety and security team to 30,000 people and continue to invest heavily in removing bad content from our platform."
Steve Hatch, vice president for Northern Europe at Facebook, said scam ads are “an industry-wide problem” caused by criminals and have “no place on Facebook”.
“Through our work with Martin Lewis, we’re taking a market leading position and our new reporting tool and dedicated team are important steps to stop the misuse of our platform,” he explained.
“Prevention is also key. Our £3 million donation to Citizens Advice will not only help those who have been impacted by scammers, but raise awareness of how to avoid scams too.
“At a global level we’ve tripled the size of our safety and security team to 30,000 people and continue to invest heavily in removing bad content from our platform.”
How to spot a fake advert
- Be wary of 'celebrity' endorsements; seeing an advert claiming a famous face uses, supports or invests in a particular product or service should set the alarm bells ringing - don't rush to sign up, check out the claims thoroughly before parting with any money or personal details
- As a general rule, if it looks too good to be true, it most likely is! If a holiday is hundreds of pounds cheaper than you've seen elsewhere, be wary; if you see a 'new' car for sale a considerably less than your local dealer, tread carefully
- 'Hurry, this offer ends soon! Pay today to save £100s...' Resist pressure to part with money (or bank/credit card details) on something that apparently has a pressing time limit
- Watch out if you're being asked to pay in an unusual way, for example, through iTunes vouchers or a money transfer, such as Western Union
- HTTP vs HTTPS: Look for the little padlock symbol on the url/website address - if it doesn't have one, the site is not secure and neither are your personal details should you enter credit card numbers
- On a similar theme, be ultra-wary if you're being asked to provide a PIN for your credit card/bank card, or your personal passwords for your accounts - legitimate companies will never (or should never) ask you for these
- Is there a postal address? If not, you should suspect you’re not dealing with a bona fide company
- Surprise emails or text messages should immediately put you on alert; receiving a message from a company you've never heard of offering you a product or service for a knock-down rate should be ignored.
- Get it in writing; if the company you're dealing with will not provide written confirmation before you sign up or hand over money, then walk away