Whether it’s fake news, fake likes or fake adverts, Facebook hasn’t been far from the top of the news agenda over the last few months.

Rip Off Britain - Fake Facebook Adverts

Don’t trust an advert just because it features a trusted face (Image: BBC)

On Monday’s Rip Off Britain: Live (BBC1, 9.15am) I addressed the fake Facebook adverts issue which has recently seen money-saving expert Martin Lewis sue the social network for damages after his face appeared in fake adverts for scam financial products.

The fake Facebook adverts I see generally fall into three main categories:

Fake Celebrity Endorsements

Advertisers have long worked with trusted names to grow reach and sales – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, as Martin Lewis and others have found, it’s a doddle for rogue advertisers to mock up fake celebrity endorsements, fake news reports – even entire fake websites – in an attempt to ensnare unwitting readers into their sales funnel.

MY ADVICE: Don’t trust an advert just because it features a trusted face, or appears to be a news story from a reputable news site, do your own research first.

Free Trial Offers

Invited to sign up for a free trial of smart pills, skin cream, eye serum or anti-wrinkle rub? Be very, very wary – it’s not often there’s a free lunch on the Internet. Or a free miracle anti-ageing or weight-loss cure.

Buried away in the T&Cs may be clauses which mean – one way or another – you’ll end up forking out a fortune, often as a subscription. And working out how to cancel it or get a refund can prove a real headache.

Good trial offers do exist online, but they’re often for digital services – video and music streaming services, for example.

MY ADVICE: Be suspicious of free trials of physical products on social media from companies you’ve never heard of, and give the terms and conditions every possible scrutiny, keeping a digital copy to refer back to.

Don't trust this fake ad

Don’t trust this fake ad (Image: MoneySavingExpert)

Misrepresentation

This is where the beautifully presented goods you see in the advert bear little resemblance to what you eventually get in the post, and it’s something we’ve covered many times before on Rip Off Britain.

Often the advertisers rely on people giving up hope at this point, not bothering with the inevitable hassle of returning an item. And the firms that walk this tightrope certainly don’t make it easy for those that can be bothered.

MY ADVICE: Always do your own research, away from the social network, before you press ‘buy’; research the company advertising the goods, see where they’re actually based and what other people say about their experiences of buying from them.

More Tips To Spot Fake Ads

  • Be suspicious if the advert you click on passes you from one website/company name to another; always make sure you know who you’re dealing with and check each company carefully if you haven’t heard of them before (and watch out for look-alike company names)
  • Look at the web address of the page and check it matches the title of the site – don’t trust a news story purporting to be from a well-known news source (BBC News, for example) but with an unfamiliar web address (http://buythisno-w.com/bbc-news-live-debt-free/ for example).
  • Look for an address and phone number – and if it’s a free/cheap number then call it to get a feel for their customer service; if not, then go elsewhere
  • Beware of pressure tactics: “stock running low”, “offer ends in 19 minutes”, “8 others are also looking at this product” are all there solely to speed you into buying. Make up your own mind, on your own terms and in your own time
  • Get rich quick schemes? Bitcoin, binary trading etc? I advise you to steer well clear – schemes like these rarely help anybody get rich except the people selling them

BBC Rip Off Britain: Live airs every day on BBC1 and 9.15am Monday 25th -29th June 2018 – catch up on iPlayer here.