Scammers are ramping up their efforts to rip off Australians by using fake news with the consumer watchdog seeing a 600 per cent spike in celebrity endorsement scams in just two years.
This year alone, Australians have lost more than $64,000 in 56 cases where fraudsters used con ads with celebrity images to sell products or to get credit card details.
Cate Blanchett, Delta Goodrem and Nicole Kidman are just some of the celebrities caught up in the scams, along with Eddie McGuire, The Project’s Lisa Wilkinson and Karl Stefanovic.
Australians lost about $3700 in 39 reported cases in 2017.
It skyrocketed by more than 600 per cent to 274 cases in 2018 with Aussies losing almost $171,900, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission figures show.
Today host Deborah Knight, who will lead Channel 9’s 2019 election night coverage, is calling for a crackdown on social media companies.
Knight, whose image was used in a scam ad claiming she was quitting the breakfast program to sell face cream, says companies like Facebook need to be more accountable or the ACCC needs to get tougher.
She said it was “appalling” to be targeted, particularly when she was contacted by a pensioner who had money taken out of her account after she tried to buy a sample of the cream.
“We contacted Facebook to try to get them to remove [the ads] … and there just didn’t seem to be any avenue to go about doing this because ‘it was an offshore company’ or they couldn’t track down the people behind this, which I thought was quite bizarre that Facebook could post this product and make money as a company off the advertising associated but they couldn’t shut something down,” she said.
“If the companies who are hosting these sites claim they don’t have the ability to take them down, perhaps they shouldn’t be benefiting from the ad revenue.
“Money talks. If they’re not getting the revenue, maybe they’ll think twice about hosting it.”
Knight also called for tougher powers for the ACCC if it was unable to act on the scams currently.
“We have the regulation in place in Australia but we need to ensure that they’re enforced. And we need to be able to have the tentacles of the enforcement reach out to offshore sites, because the online world doesn’t end within Australian borders,” she said.
“It needs to be able to operate within the real online world. If the powers aren’t strong enough, the need to be made stronger.”
Wilkinson vented her frustration about the scam ads in December after being targeted for years.
“All these ‘ads’ are a complete scam to get your credit card details,” she wrote to followers on Twitter.
“There are about 50 versions — perhaps more — around.
“I’ve tried everything to get them pulled down for years with no luck.”
She urged her followers not to click on the ads and apologised to anyone who had.