FACEBOOK has been slammed for dragging the chain in taking action against an ongoing scam ripping off unsuspecting Australians.

Only this week - after Gold Logie winner Carrie Bickmore became the latest victim - did the multibillion-dollar company take belated action to shut the hoax down.

Scammers had falsely claimed she had been forced out of The Project to focus on selling face cream.

Gold Logie winner Carrie Bickmore has fallen victim to a Facebook scam that has been ripping off unsuspecting Aussies.
Gold Logie winner Carrie Bickmore has fallen victim to a Facebook scam that has been ripping off unsuspecting Aussies.

Legal experts said the social network should have acted sooner to stop the criminals, who have repeatedly billed victims for months.

And Facebook could be held legally liable for its part in spreading the hoax or defaming the high-profile Australians used to hook new users.

Other celebrities exploited to spread the scam include Lisa Wilkinson, Sonia Kruger, Delta Goodrem, Jackie O, and newsreader Deborah Knight, who went public with her experience last month after Facebook published fake news articles tarnishing her reputation and delivered them to users over three months.

The latest scam advert on Facebook falsely claimed Ms Bickmore had become "the victim of restructuring" at Channel 10 and would now invest "more time into her beauty business".

But, as Ms Bickmore warned fans on Instagram, "do not click on the link to purchase the product - it's a scam and they will take your money".

TV presenter Deborah Knight was also swept up in the fake news scam. Picture: Supplied
TV presenter Deborah Knight was also swept up in the fake news scam. Picture: Supplied

 

Similar fake stories promoted on Facebook this year include one claiming The Block co-host

Shelley Craft had breached her Channel 9 contract, and another alleging Sonia Kruger had been fired.

 

Victims of the scam were repeatedly billed for months.
Victims of the scam were repeatedly billed for months.

 

A Facebook spokesman said the ad featuring Ms Bickmore was removed after users reported the ad, and confirmed the account that paid to advertise hoax had been "disabled".

"We do not allow adverts that are misleading or false on Facebook, and we removed several adverts that violated our advertising policy," he said.

"We encourage anyone who sees an advert that they believe infringes an individual's rights to report it so the content can be reviewed and removed by our teams."

But the cancellation came too late for many fans who said they placed orders for the skin products advertised under Ms Bickmore's name, some of whom have now cancelled their credit cards.

Other victims of the scam report being charged up to $525 after ordering a "free sample" of the product and handing over financial details to cover delivery charges.

"I got done on one of these scams when they used Lisa Wilkinson," one victim said. "I usually am so careful but they tricked me into a 'sample,' pay on postage, and it cost me $480."

Facebook was slammed for dragging the chain in taking action.
Facebook was slammed for dragging the chain in taking action.

A call centre operator contacted by News Corp claimed the operation was based in the US and billed "customers" $US131 every two weeks until told to stop.

Cove Legal principal and media lawyer Roger Blow said these scams had become so prevalent that Facebook had a "responsibility" to shut them down.

"This is part of a commercial enterprise, they're doing this regularly, and Facebook should, in my view, have people investigate how they're getting access, what accounts they're using, and from now on properly scrutinising these ads before they get out," he said.

"They owe it to the community who is getting scammed and they owe it to the celebrity."

Mr Blow said celebrities caught up in this scam had several legal avenues, including misleading and deceptive conduct, using a celebrity's image without consent, and defamation.

But identifying the overseas source of the scam could be tricky, Mr Blow said, and Facebook could also potentially be held liable for failing to respond quickly to user reports.

"If it's defamatory, Facebook could be held liable as a publisher for defamation," he said.

"Facebook makes a lot of money and this is the kind of space where they should be investing more of their money to provide better levels of protection."



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