Facebook sues Vietnamese group and California marketing firm for ad scams

Facebook is suing a group of individuals based in Vietnam and a California marketing company. The social media giant said in a blog post that the Vietnam-based group of individuals allegedly got users to "self-compromise their Facebook accounts and ran millions of dollars of unauthorised ads". Meanwhile, Facebook alleged that the California marketing company and its agents were responsible for a bait-and-switch advertising scheme on its platform.

Facebook's director of platform enforcement and litigation, Jessica Romero, said the four individuals in Vietnam used a technique known as "cookie theft" or "session theft" to compromise accounts of employees of advertising and marketing agencies and then ran unauthorised ads. The blog post claimed that victims were misled into self-compromising their accounts by installing a mobile app from the Google Play Store known as "Ad Manager for Facebook". While the app has since been removed, Romero said it prompted users to share their Facebook login credentials and other information, which was then used to access their Facebook accounts and run ads. In some cases, these ads also promoted online scams.

According to Romero, the Vietnam-based group ran over US$36 million in unauthorised ads. The company has since refunded the victims and helped them secure their accounts.

Meanwhile, the other suit against N&J USA Incorporated, Mohit Melwani, and Vishaal Melwani alleged that they ran deceptive ads on Facebook that promoted the sale of products such as clothing, watches and toys. Upon clicking on these ads, users were redirected to a third-party eCommerce website to complete their purchase. After paying for an item, users either never received anything or received merchandise that was different or of a lesser quality than what had been advertised.

Romero explained that in an effort to conceal their bait-and-switch scheme on Facebook, the defendants allegedly blocked and concealed user complaints and negative reviews on their Facebook Pages. The social media giant previously disabled several of the defendants' accounts and Pages. According to the company, this is one of Facebook's first lawsuits against such bait-and-switch scheme.

This is not the first time Facebook has taken action against eCommerce abuse. Last year, it filed separate lawsuits against four individuals offering services intended to artificially inflate likes and followers of Instagram accounts. Facebook also disabled accounts and sent cease and desist letters to seven businesses located in Asia and Europe last year that were defrauding online users who purchased items from their sites.

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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