Meta has spoken up about a series of scam ads allegedly appearing on its Facebook platform. The ads, which were brought to light by content platform SoyaCincau , had attempted to pass off as real ads from The Star and The Sun daily . These ads were reportedly finance-related and made promises about ways to earn money without paying taxes or owning a luxury car. According to SoyaCincau, logos and names of The Star and The Sun dail y were used to pass off as legitimate ads. However, the URL used in the ads were different from the actual version -,, and

These URLs take users to a website that resembles The Star, in particular, accompanied by bylines to ensure the page seems legitimate. However, upon clicking any of the links on the website, users are taken to the gambling website of Me88. 

Meta's spokesperson told A+M that promoting scams is against its policies and it is dedicating significant resources to tackling this industry-wide issue on and off its platforms. "Our Page, Groups and Events policies prohibit pages that use deceptive or misleading practices, and we have taken action against the Pages running these advertisements. We will take further action if we find additional violations," Meta's spokesperson said. It also encouraged users who encounter such content on Facebook to report it immediately.


Meanwhile, The Star clarified in a news article that its official website is "Please be mindful and cautious when visiting spoof websites that are not affiliated with The Star," the media group said. It also urged readers to not share any personal information if they encounter scams such as these on social media, online websites or any chat and messaging platforms.

"Those who come across fake Facebook ads or pages impersonating The Star or any other brands, are urged to file a report with Facebook. The company is undertaking measures to address this matter," the group said. It also urged Meta to take more concrete steps to prevent the proliferation of pages impersonating established, credible brands to sponsor misleading ads and scam sites on its social media platforms.  A+M has reached out to The Sun daily for comment.

Likewise, The Sta r and The Sun daily are not the only ones to have fallen prey to such scams. Just today, Bank Negara Malaysia issued a warning that there were applications related to Macau scams featuring the bank's logo. It also denied its involvement with these allegations. Last May, KFC Malaysia also warned of a fake "KFC Women's Day Survey" circulating on social media and messaging platforms, which claimed to offer a free KFC Family Feast bucket. Big Pay and IOI Group also warned of similar scams in the past.


Meta's initiatives to tackle scams

Meta has been proactive in fighting financial fraud, launching the #TakNakScam awareness campaign last year together with the Royal Malaysian Police’s Commercial Crime Investigation Department as well as government agencies, industry and consumer associations. The campaign, which ran from July to December last year, taught the public how to identify, check and report against highly deceptive tactics employed by scammers. The tech giant continues to explore opportunities to work with relevant stakeholders in Malaysia to continue with its efforts in tackling scams in Malaysia. 

Two years ago, it also rolled out its flagship digital literacy programme, "We Think Digital in Malaysia" in partnership with non-profit organisation Teach for Malaysia. The nationwide digital literacy programme aims to develop skills that enable Malaysians to create a positive and safe culture online. The topics covered include privacy, safety, security, digital discourse and knowing your digital footprint, organised into four modules.

Currently, its Community Standards cover misrepresentation, spam, cybersecurity, manipulated media, intellectual property, and fraud and detection. Its Pages, Groups, and Events policies as well as advertising policies also prohibit the promotion of products, services, schemes or offers using deceptive or misleading business practices, including those intended to scam people out of money or personal information. It also increased efforts to detect potentially violating, scam-like behaviour, some of which include public figures or public pages, and continues to explore a variety of methods such as new machine learning techniques to expand its detection and further review the ads, accounts, and admins that may violate Meta's policies.

At the same time, the tech giant also has a dedicated set of trained reviewers focused on taking down scams, and it has also received a wide range of helpful reports from its community on a daily basis. It also has dedicated teams who engage regularly with law enforcement to understand the risks to users and partner across various initiatives to mitigate them. Nonetheless, reviewing ads from millions of advertisers globally against its Advertising Policies isn't without challenges.

Facebook isn't the only platform to have encountered scam ads in recent months. In January, at least 15 victims fell prey to a new scam that sees scammers posting ads on Google Search , which would then appear when the user searches for bank contact numbers. The Singapore Police Force said previously that since 2021, victims have incurred losses amounting to approximately SG$495,000 for such scams involving fake bank hotlines.

How brands and consumers can safeguard against scams

A study done last year by Callsign found that 45% of consumers have experienced a decrease in trust in businesses such as banks, retailers, mobile network operators and delivery companies due to persistent scams spoofing brand names. Over 42% of global consumers are asking mobile network operators to do more to stop scammers, and a third (33%) asking the same of banks.

Trust in these organisations is eroding fast because consumers are overwhelmed by scam messages from fraudsters spoofing brand names daily. Consumers claim to have received scams through email (67%), SMS (57%), phone (46%), messaging apps (33%) and social media (23%) in the last year.

Fighting scams is the responsibility of everyone including individuals, brands and publications, regulators as well as other vendors or players in the wider ecosystem, Yeo Siang Tiong, GM for Southeast Asia at cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, told A+M .

In the age of digitalisation, brands and publications must ensure their IT systems are secure, with robust measures to defend against attempts to infiltrate systems and exfiltrate data, as well as to detect suspicious activity. Aside from these, being the parties impersonated by these threat actors, the implementation of defence measures need to go beyond protecting their systems, he said.

Proactive measures are also required to remind their customers against falling prey to their impersonators and their scams, even if they happen outside of their systems. On the end of customers, the responsibility lies in always being vigilant, and taking proactive measures to reduce the risks of falling victim.

Meanwhile, Yihao Lim, intelligence strategy lead, APAC at cybersecurity firm Mandiant told A+M that false or misleading ads on social media platforms have been around for years.

"It is essentially social engineering and similar to the infinite number of phishing emails that have appeared before, they will continue to appear in the future – the onus of dealing with this issue lies with end-users themselves," he said.

Citing Singapore as an example, Lim said there are resources such as which documents all scams and fraud cases in Singapore almost on a daily basis. According to him, consumers have to adopt the habit of checking sites such as these regularly, change their behaviour to cross-reference whatever they read on any website with another source, in order to ensure legitimacy. "Basic hygiene such as double-checking the URL of a webpage before entering sensitive credentials is also another good practice to adopt," he added.

5 signs you could be dealing with scammers

"Cyber criminals often exploit emotions of unsuspecting individuals. By pressuring the user to reply quickly or issuing ultimatums, cyber criminals hope to instill panic and fear to trick people into providing confidential information," Kaspersky's Yeo said. He added that cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more persuasive, taking advantage of new trends or the latest news to make the scam seem more believable.

Here are five signs that you could be dealing with scammers:

1. Greed or fear: Scammers normally promise their victims, for example, a large government payout or free cryptocurrency. The scammers also work on intimidating the victims such as posing threat to send video of the victim doing unsavory acts such as watching porn to all their contacts or to ruin reputations. They work on short-circuiting their victim’s ability to respond rationally. If, after reading such an e-mail or message, one feels inclined to do exactly what the sender asks, by following a link, sending money or calling a number, that is actually a warning sign.

2. Scammers exploit the victims by hurrying them: If a message or an email says one has only a few hours or days or minutes to claim a prize or buy much sought after equipment or sneakers before it sells out, it is probably a scam.

3. Amateurish design. Designs that come with obvious errors in the message are another red flag. Some intentional misspellings or substitution of letters with similar-looking numbers of optical counterparts from other alphabets as to fool spam filters, it sure is a sign of danger.

4. Getting one invested in time: When a potential victim goes to a fraudulent website from an email or chat message, the scammers usually try to draw them in through a series of simple tasks, including taking a short survey or selecting a few boxes supposedly containing prizes. They get the potential victims to invest a bit of time and effort to stay on the page, and the more invested they feel, the less likely they are to close the page when it asks for payment. When a website promising a big payday, it is not a good sign

5. Small fee charged: The scammers will ask a victim to make a small fee, through a transfer of card verification. The amount asked usually small and insignificant but that allows the scammers to gain access to the credit card details.

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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