Fox News is reportedly exploring its legal options after a company selling junk coins (similar to ones Glenn Beck has hawked) placed ads on Facebook targeting the network's viewers and falsely implying a connection.
Quartz did a terrific exposé of the scams of a company called “Chase Metals.” Here’s how one victim described what happened after she clicked one such ad and filled out a form for more information:
Within 24 hours, Cheryl got a phone call from a representative of a company called Chase Metals. She said that right away, the caller launched into a conversation about which Fox News programs she watches. Then he mentioned that he had seen that she was interested in precious metals. Her interest at the time was casual, but the salesman was persistent, calling her again and again. They talked over several days, she said. He’d ask about her family, learning that the retired nurse was raising two of her grandchildren on her own.
To be clear, Fox News appears to be a completely innocent third party here. But while Quartz notes that conservative Fox watchers are likely to distrust the government (and thus trust precious metals more), the Quartz story also underscores the trust and affection Fox fans have in and for the network. Clearly, that’s why Chase Metals went out of its way to suggest a connection.
Quartz spoke to five customers of Metals.com (or Chase Metals) who lost large portions of their savings. We also reviewed regulatory documents from various states that mention more than 130 Metals.com and Chase Metals customers and describe what happened to some of them in detail. Their stories were remarkably similar: They were politically conservative, retired, and usually had little or no experience investing in precious metals. They felt deceived, and a handful fought to get their money back by filing complaints with organizations such as the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and review websites like Ripoff Report.
When a Facebook user clicked on certain Metals.com-affiliated ads, many of which didn’t mention Metals.com, like one ad from “Fox News Insider Reports,” they would be taken to a website with a URL such as FoxInsiders.com.co. The web page urged them to “Call NOW” while a countdown timer created a false sense of urgency, over a line that read “Offer Only Valid For Next 15 Minutes.”
Other ads seemed designed to mislead viewers about who was behind them. Some ads claimed an affiliation with Fox News, like those with the advertiser’s name listed as “Fox News Viewers.” The Fox News Viewers ad linked to FoxBusiness.com.co.
Fox told Quartz that the network has never had any association with Chase or any of its aliases and that “we plan to further explore our legal options regarding this matter.”
I’m hoping Fox considers exploring legal action against Facebook, too. That company seems to have no good explanation as to how at least $3 million (and likely much more) in advertisements managed to get approved.
Facebook didn’t respond to specific questions about why these ads—after many months and millions of dollars spent—weren’t caught earlier. As recently as last week, according to Facebook’s ad library, Facebook was still serving ads that linked to a website that listed a phone number that, when called by Quartz, was answered by someone who said they worked at Metals.com.
Facebook specifically cited its rules that ads “must not promote products, services, schemes or offers using deceptive or misleading practices, including those meant to scam people out of money or personal information.”
Quartz also included this notice with its article: If you or someone you know lost money in a gold or silver scheme, here’s how to get help. If you have tips or information that might help us further cover this story, you can email us at email@example.com or reach us more securely.
(H/T reader Eric Jefferson)
Comments by John McKee and mlp ! gave me a much needed laugh.