Facebook has had a lot of controversies with its ads—and there are tons more scam or fake news-related Facebook ads reported. So, how could Facebook let this happen so often? And what if I tried to get an ad about something fake approved on the platform? Well, it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be.
In order to do this experiment, I need to create a whole list of things as preparation. The list included making a name and concept of the fake ad, making a set of graphics to go with the concept, buying and creating a website, creating a fake ad post on the site, creating a Facebook account and page—with all the works, and then try to post an approved ad on the said Facebook page.
It wasn’t easy to do the first few as it required a lot of time, effort, and feedback from my fellow colleagues. It took at least three weeks for me to make the research and preparations, not including the regular work I had going on.
I also figured out what kind of ad I’m going to push—an eWallet scam. eWallet scams are actually quite common, and it’s a fairly harmless fake ad to showcase. It’s not really spreading any harmful false information, and since I’m not going to hack anyone, the worst thing people can have happen to them is that they’re taken to a fake website.
I then had to build the graphics from scratch. And even though I had a degree in Graphic Design, it’s not my strongest suit and I haven’t practised it in ten years. Luckily, Canva—a free platform—was there to help me build something…fairly decent.
Okay, so the graphic set I created isn’t meant to look extremely legitimate. I had to cheese it up a little, and make it look a bit like it’s in average quality. I think a fairly poor quality fits into the Facebook aesthetic, but in hindsight I should have made the graphics look a little more believable.
After making the brand and look, I bought ewalletpromo.com, which was quite an easy find. I also had to build the website, and add my graphics and look—which took even more time.
The next step was to build a Facebook page, with a brand new Facebook account. There’s no way I would want to use my own account for something like this. At first, making my fake profile was easy and I had no issues. I even started to straightaway make my own Facebook page for Cheap eWallet Official Malaysia, a page that tickled a few of my colleagues.
Once I was happy with what the Facebook page looked like, along with linking my fake website, I tried to buy an ad. And this was where my problems started.
Facebook informed the account that in order for the ad to be approved, they’d have to get back to me in 24 hours or less. I got a little nervous but I waited a day, and I was devastated to learn that my ad was not only not approved but my account was blocked right after. It seems like Facebook caught my little trickery.
I wasn’t going to give up on the first try. But as soon as I started to make another Facebook account, the platform straight up blocked it from even happening. I was banned from making any new accounts. I even tried appealing and waiting a few days to see if Facebook can let my fake account through. But… no dice.
A couple of other coworkers did manage to make a Facebook account, but I personally couldn’t get any new accounts going. It could probably be because I’m using the same laptop and they could track that stuff—I even tried making an account at different locations.
What did I learn?
It looks like Facebook has been cracking down on these types of spam accounts a lot more now. Signing up for a Facebook account means that you need to confirm both your own email, a legitimate phone number that isn’t tied to other Facebook accounts, and even a convincing profile picture.
Scammers now have to think of all these things to convince Facebook to let them in. And even after that, they have to figure out how to make the Facebook page seem more legitimate.
It’s even harder now that the platform is showing users how long a page has been around, how many posts it’s got, and how many followers it has. It just makes me think of how hard scammers work to steal money from you. They must have a whole community with them and not just one scammer with a dream.
But I’m not just going to praise Meta for stopping me. So many scammers on the platform have taken advantage of so many victims already. Fatin from SoyaCincau BM even interviewed a victim who lost thousands of ringgit because of a fake page on Facebook.
But is Meta looking into a stricter way to deal with ads rather than just fake accounts? Because just because I can’t do the scam, doesn’t mean that there aren’t any scams on Facebook. Just cleverer ones out there, so, stay alert.