May 22, 2019

Hundreds of scammers allegedly selling substandard items to Pakistanis on Facebook

ISLAMABAD, DECEMBER 18, 2018: Hundreds of Facebook pages are robbing people of their money by selling substandard and counterfeit items.

According to the initial investigation carried out by Digital Rights Monitor, these Facebook pages attract people by posting sleek pictures of branded items and offer to sell them at reduced prices.  Some pages also sponsor these posts on Facebook. when people ordered the items as shown in the pictures and made the payment, they received a totally different item in their package via courier services. 

When some customers complained to the admins of these pages about the packages they received, they were first told that there was a mistake and that the package would be replaced in a few days. Later, the customers were blocked by the Facebook page admins leaving them clueless about how to recover their money.  In some instances, after a few complaints, the same page would allegedly re-brand itself, apparently to dodge the complainants and other potential customers. 

                       

In the midst of this situation, a number of Pakistani Facebook users have self-organized themselves to raise awareness among the people about the fraudulent pages. Facebook groups including “Scam Updates PK” named “Anti Fraud Campaign” have around 21000 and 1600 members respectively where people regularly share their experiences about the fraudulent pages. 

Additionally, the admin of “Anti Fraud Campaign” has also set up a Facebook page to share these experiences with a wider audience. Recently, the admin shared a list of around 118 Facebook pages that have been found to engage in the aforementioned malpractices.

Meanwhile, talking to Digital Rights Monitor, Facebook representative shared that such pages and advertisements violated Facebook’s commerce and advertisement policies.  He said that they were aware about these scams and had already put in place mechanisms to remove them from their platform.  These include automated machine learning system, a team of in-house trained reviewers to review and take down such ads and reports from the Facebook community. Lately, Facebook took down half a million scam accounts as a result of these measures.  

On fake ads, the Facebook representative said that each ad was reviewed carefully even before they appeared on the platform to ensure that the ads did not violate Facebook Community Standards and were not leading to misleading and fraudulent content.  

The Facebook representative encouraged users to report the suspicious ads and pages to Facebook.  To report the counterfeit products, the users can fill out the form here. On the other, in order to report scam posts and accounts, the users could follow the instructions given here on their website.

“Failure to comply with applicable laws and regulation may result in a variety of consequences, including the cancellation of advertisements placed and termination of the account,” stated the Facebook representative on the outcome of a complaints against any fake ad. 

 

 

Written by

Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.

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