People who have lost their entire savings to fraudulent bitcoin investment schemes advertised on Facebook are turning suicidal, Martin Lewis says.
The U.K.-based consumer advisor, who runs MoneySavingExpert.com, blamed Facebook for causing the financial catastrophe by promoting scam ads on its trusted social network, many featuring himself. Lewis in April launched a lawsuit against the Mark Zuckerburg-helmed firm for allowing ads to run on its system without any background check on the promoters. He plans to distribute any court settlement among the victims of the bitcoin investment scheme ads if the lawsuit goes in his favor.
But, in the meantime, many people have already reached out to Lewis with their stories, which he shared with local media.
“The impact on peoples mental health of losing their retirement funds, or losing their children’s, children’s money that they thought they were investing is catastrophic and life-destructive,” said Lewis, adding that people had invested because their ad featured his face.
“People who say, ‘I’ve lost all my retirement funds, I don’t know how to live, I don’t know how to go on.’ People [are] crying their eyes out,” he explained. “From my perspective, these people say, ‘I only did this because I trusted Martin Lewis.’ You can see how I feel about it.”
Lewis is reportedly seeking millions of dollars in damage from Facebook to compensate victims before he settles. He is also seeking an apology and “manifest substantial change” in the methods by which the social media company handles paid advertising. Lewis has previously asked Facebook to hire specialized professionals that could monitor and report false advertising in real-time, particularly the ones that misuse the names of public figures to dupe people.
Mike Schroepfer, the CTO of Facebook, in May told U.K. lawmakers that they were planning to launch a facial recognition feature to weed out these blatant scams, but its deployment across their large-scale network turned out to be impractical. In January, before Lewis filed the lawsuit, Facebook had banned crypto-advertisements on its website, particularly those promoting initial coin offerings (ICOs). The company reversed its decision in June. It now allows pre-approved advertisers to promote specific services, not including ICOs.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to local media that they were mounting their crackdown against the false advertising campaigns on their website. In response to Lewis’ demand for adding specialized workforce, the spokesperson assured the publication that they have already doubled-up human resources in their online security wing.