How to report a Facebook advert – a saga

Purple SproutNews

How to report a Facebook advert - a saga

There may be occasions when you need to report a Facebook advert, for example, if you have seen a sponsored post which is misleading or inappropriate.

We recently experienced how hard it is to hold digital fraudsters to account when we needed to report a Facebook advert after one of our clients fell victim to hackers. A client asked us for advice after thieves gained access to her personal profile, which was linked to her PayPal account. The fraudsters used the profile and payment information to take out a series of adverts masquerading as the business to promote clothing and accessories.

Luckily, our client saw the advert and immediately got in touch with us to ask for advice. We were granted access to the client’s personal profile and checked to see if they had any ad accounts set up – that’s when we discovered four adverts and immediately put them on hold, changed the passwords and the client informed PayPal of what had happened. They eventually got their money back – over $90 had been taken to pay for the fraudulent adverts.

In this case, our client saw one of the adverts before it got any further, but we thought we’d share this experience to highlight something seriously wrong with the system used to report fraudulent digital adverts.

So how do you report a Facebook advert?

Let’s rewind a bit and look at what’s out there to protect us from fraudsters. In April 2018, Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis issued High Court proceedings for defamation of character against Facebook after a year in which 1,000 scam adverts abusing his name or image had appeared on the social network.

Then, in January 2019, he dropped his lawsuit after Facebook agreed to launch a dedicated tool to report such scam adverts. Facebook agreed to donate £3million to a new Citizens’ Advice projectCitizens Advice Scams Action (CASA) service – to help tackle them. The service launched in May 2019 and Facebook also agreed to launch a new scam ads reporting tool, unique to the UK and a dedicated team to handle these complaints.

Wow! Great news. You’d think it would be easy to report a Facebook advert after all of that… think again.

The easiest way to report a Facebook advert is by clicking on the three little dots you see in the right of the post. Let’s see what this does…

Report a Facebook advert 1 Report a Facebook advert 2

When you get to ‘report this ad’ you are given a few options.

You can also try https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scamsaction/ or call 0300 330 3003 if you are in the UK. There will be more on our experience with Citizens Advice Scams Action later in this article.

How to report a Facebook advert that you can’t see, but you’re aware of – our experience

The problem we had was that unless you can actually see the advert to click those three dots and report it – how can you? Well, it’s a lot harder.

Here’s what we tried:

  • Our client reported the advert on September 6 by clicking the three dots. She’s had no response from Facebook other than to say ‘thank you for reporting this advert’. There’s no evidence it has been investigated and the case is listed as ‘open’ at the time of writing this on September 18.
  • We, as an agency, also tried to report the advert – we just received a thanks for reporting it message, with no case being opened.
  • Our client granted us access to her profile and we reported ‘a billing issue with our advertisements’ because this was the closest option to querying the payments from her ad account. We fully explained the situation and attached a screenshot of the advert.
  • Here’s the response:

Facebook advert response 1

  • What they failed to mention in their response was that Facebook had now disabled the client’s ad account. The link was to appeal the decision to disable the ad account.
  • We filled in the form and clearly explained the problem again, indicating the previous case number for extra information. We explained again that the account had been hacked, money had been taken from the account and the adverts had been created without permission. Everyone makes mistakes and they must have just not read it properly, right?
  • Wrong.

Facebook advert response 2

The fraudulent adverts created by hackers who stole from our client didn’t meet Facebook’s Advertising Policies – we’d be deeply concerned if they did!

  • Our next step was to call 0300 330 3003 to speak to the Citizens Advice Scams Action (CASA) service. We relayed all the information and they reported the matter to Trading Standards and gave us a case number. They told us to call back if our client didn’t hear anything from Trading Standards within five working days.
  • When our client had no response, we called back and were told that CASA was unable to check with Trading Standards what was happening with the matter. They said there was no reference number to use if we called Trading Standards ourselves to check and that even if we did, they would redirect us back to CASA because they “speak on behalf of Trading Standards”. They said all we could do was wait to be contacted by Trading Standards.
  • The next day, we received a call from Stoke-on-Trent Trading Standards, who told us the best thing we could do was report the matter to Action Fraud. We repeated the information to Trading Standards and they said that just because we reported it “didn’t mean it would be investigated” because the criminals who placed the adverts were probably not based in the UK. He added: “It goes on all the time. It’s very difficult to police the internet. Facebook has to take some responsibility too.”

Conclusion

So there you have it; Facebook did take responsibility by publicly donating £3million to tackle fake digital adverts – but that doesn’t mean adverts will be investigated.

As you can see from our ordeal, it is still exceptionally hard to bring these criminals to justice. We even reached out to Facebook’s press office for a comment – but we have not received one at the time of writing this article. They appear to have taken no action against the thieves, who are still out there, targeting accounts.

For now, here are some tips for securing your Facebook account:

  • Regularly change your Facebook password
  • Check your notifications for anything suspicious, such as advert confirmations for adverts you have not placed or log ins from locations and devices you don’t recognise
  • Contact your bank right away if you notice unauthorised payments
  • Go into your ad account and pause any adverts and contact whichever payment provider is linked to your ad account so they can stop further payments and begin refund proceedings

If you’re looking for a digital marketing agency which will always fight in your corner, get in touch.