Scammers target Kiwis: Annabel Langbein the latest focus for Facebook fakers | Stuff.co.nz

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Chef Annabel Langbein is the latest target of an online scam, which has used the names and faces of at least half a dozen famous Kiwis.

Foreign scam artists have been exploiting Facebook’s lax policy on adverts for some time, in a bid to rip off New Zealanders.

Langbein said scammers had made fake news articles, which said she was quitting her job because of a new skincare company. 

“It’s all fake. The very worst thing is that my followers and supporters are being conned and losing money and I am powerless to stop it,” she said on Instagram.

Facebook does not fact check the adverts it promotes, which has meant peddlers of fake news, conspiracies and scams have been able to reach users on the platform.

But a spokesman said it had removed and blocked pages that featured fake celebrity endorsements from New Zealanders.

“We do not allow these scams on our services and we take swift action to remove them as soon as we become aware. These scammers are well resourced and use sophisticated cloaking technology to mask content,” he said.

Tech companies such as Facebook and Google collect data about their users, including where they live and what their interests are. Companies, scam artists, governments and lobbyists can then pay the tech giants to target anyone in the world.

For more than a year, a group of scammers have been targeting New Zealand celebrities and forging endorsements for adverts such as skincare and bitcoin.

A Facebook spokesman said these scammers worked across the internet, but the company was investing in automated technology to better detect false news and endorsements. He said the company employed more than 35,000 people to work in its security team, which dealt with these issues.

” The damage and cost to our business far outweighs any ad spend or benefit as this kind of misleading content,” he said.

CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF
Annabel Langbein is warning her followers that scam artists are faking stories about her.

These scammers often create fake news websites, made to look like legitimate news sites such as the BBC, Stuff and NZ Herald, to publish fake stories about how one of the celebrities is “quitting their job” after discovering the wonders of a get rich quick scheme.

 it was launching a reporting tool in New Zealand to combat these “celebrtiy-bait ads”.

The tool was first rolled out in the UK, after television presenter Martin Lewis launched legal action against Facebook when his name was used in a similar scam. He dropped the lawsuit when Facebook promised to dedicate resource to anti-scam initiatives. 

Facebook’s director of product management, Rob Leathern, told Stuff last month that the company did take legal action to stop scam artists when their posts were reported.

“It’s kind of a cat and mouse game we’re constantly playing,” he said.

Facebook is asking Kiwis to report click bait advertisements on the platform.

The company has faced mounting pressure to stop the spread of fake news, scams and conspiracies.

Actor Sacha Baron Cohen made headlines last month, calling social media companies “a sewer of bigotry and vile conspiracy theories”.

“Zuckerberg said that social media companies should live up to their responsibilities,” he said.

“But he’s totally silent about what should happen when they don’t. By now, it’s pretty clear they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves.”

Facebook, however, has been clear that it would delete scam accounts and block their accounts once it was notified.

 “Often, we’ll go beyond rejecting the ad; we’ll remove the ability of the accounts and people behind them to advertise with us in the future,” Leathern said.

Chef Nadia Lim, journalist John Campbell, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, broadcasters Mike Hosking and Hayley Holt have also been featured in similar scams.

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