Ads Inc. closed down, but the tools it used to trick millions of Facebook users still exist
In the fall of 2019, Facebook gave San Diego marketing company Ads Inc. Purchased more than $50 million in Facebook ads Use celebrity images without their permission to entice people to join difficult-to-cancel monthly subscriptions.
Ads Inc. responded by layoffs and terminated operations, and stated in a statement that it “will cease operations of Ads Inc. and its affiliates.”
However, according to a BuzzFeed News investigation of the International Federation of Journalists led by the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Facebook was unable to keep the company’s remaining personnel out.
Until it closed in April, Ads Inc.’s previously controlled network domain ezlp.io hosted pages promoting fraud, including fake cryptocurrency investments. People who have suffered financial damage in more than 50 countries. It is unknown who can control ezlp.io. The Facebook account used by the company to place ads is also still active. According to people familiar with the matter, these accounts were transferred to a new unknown owner earlier this year.
Company records in California and Puerto Rico show that Ads Inc. is still an active company, but sources told BuzzFeed News that the company sold or otherwise disposed of any assets it might own-including some of its assets Rented Facebook account -Has been dormant since last fall. Ads Inc. was founded by Asher Burke, who was killed in a helicopter crash in Kenya in March 2019. The company is now owned by his property, and its executor is Asher’s father Brad Burke. Brad Burke did not respond to emails or emails sent to his wife and daughter via Facebook.
Facebook has vowed to get rid of such ads.
“We don’t want ads trying to defraud people’s money on Facebook-they are not good for people, weaken trust in our services and harm our business,” Rob Leathern, director of product management at Facebook, told BuzzFeed News. To detect and reject advertisements, but also to prevent advertisers from using our services, and in some cases, take them to court. “Although there is no perfect law enforcement method, we will continue to study new technologies and methods to stop these illegal advertisements and the people behind them.”
The previous continued operations of Ads Inc. assets underlined Facebook’s inability to completely eliminate fraudsters.
In July, Finnish actor Jasper Pääkkönen discovered that his picture was used by an unknown advertisement promoting crypto investment fraud. He was very angry and wrote to Aura Salla, the head of EU affairs at Facebook, to complain.
Salla replied on the Messenger: “So far, we have discovered that this scam is very clever. The number of these scams is so large that they cannot pass manual checks.”
Before the closure, Ads Inc. lured people into financial troubles by promoting fake cryptocurrency trading products, earning more than $1 million in commissions.
“I have nothing to survive,” Say Maj-Britt, 67-year-old Swedish woman, became homeless after losing her savings and selling her house to make up for similar losses Cryptocurrency investment fraud. (She asked not to disclose her full name to protect her privacy.)
The victims were attracted by Facebook ads, and they falsely claimed that celebrities used automated cryptocurrency trading software to make money, with names similar to Bitcoin Revolution and Bitcoin Code. People are asked to click through to enter their personal information. The information has been sent to the call center and will follow up by phone within a few minutes, asking you to pay. In fact, the software does not exist, and their profits are Haishi Rage Building.
Earlier this year, Dagens Nyheter, OCCRP and other media partners released Fraud factory investigation, The company went deep into a Ukrainian cryptocurrency call center operated by a shadow company under the Milton Group. After the story appeared, a source who claimed to be working in law enforcement contacted Dagens Nyheter.
“I saw [one of] A celebrity advertisement that you use to illustrate one of your stories. This advertisement was produced by Ads Inc. “They wrote and shared a link to an online database, ezlp.io, which contains thousands of web pages in multiple languages ??that use the image of celebrities to promote cryptocurrency investment products. These are sent by Ads Inc. Give people a persuasion page to persuade them to hand over personal information.
The company did not make any efforts to conceal its ownership. There is a login screen on the homepage of the site that says “Welcome to Ads Inc.”. Multiple sources confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the news belongs to Ads Inc.
OCCRP found approximately 15,000 pages on ezlp.io, facilitating at least 17 different investment proposals in 11 languages. Since 2018, some products in at least eight countries have received public warnings from regulatory agencies. The relationship between Ads Inc. and Milton Group, the person who acquired the assets, is unclear, but some of these cryptocurrencies also list investment brands found on ezlp.io in Milton Group’s documents.
This business seems very profitable. Ads Inc. began to promote cryptocurrency investment in the second quarter of 2019. In the slide presentation at the company meeting in July 2019, “crypto” was listed as one of the company’s “victory celebrations”, which generated $1.15 million in commission income during the quarter. The document stated that cryptocurrency generated a 120% return on investment, making it the company’s most profitable vertical and a major priority for the next quarter.
After the company claimed to cease operations, it is unclear whether the site was removed from the control of Ads Inc.. But it is still being updated with new content until dark on April 25-six months after the advertising company said it had ceased operations.
Internal discussions conducted by BuzzFeed News on Facebook indicate that the company continues to track the activities of former Ads Inc. employees. It is not clear what action was taken.
Facebook threat investigators wrote on the company’s internal discussion platform Workplace in October: “My team is still investigating former employees to understand the current operating status of the company after its dissolution.”