Exposing Exploitative Online Scams
NIF grantee FakeReporter exposed large-scale fraud on Facebook, which included a group ostensibly organising self-employed Israelis, but that was actually set up with thousands of fake profiles. Its sole purpose was to amass membership that could then be sold to advertisers or politicians. The revelation was the subject of a N12 news investigation. FakeReporter noted that “this is a bigger issue than mass fraud” — indeed, this scam represents is the tip of an iceberg that threatens Israeli democracy.
Two months ago an organization called “I am self-employed” opened a Facebook page and quickly attracted 12,000 members. It even arranged real demonstrations about the lack of government support for freelance workers who have been impacted economically by the COVID-19 pandemic. In reality, the entire operation is a scam set up by 30-year-old Daniel Jamil from Rehovot.
Jamil, who described himself to Channel 12 News as a startup entrepreneur, said that he sets up Facebook pages sometimes for his own uses, and sometimes on behalf of political leaders, and then floods the page with bots that mimic real profiles, automatically post comments, and create an agenda for the real members of groups. He then sells the Facebook groups he has built for tens of thousands of dollars to commercial organisations.
FakeReporter CEO Acvhiya Schatz said, “There are real people who joined this group because they are suffering. One sees how easily someone exploited that distress and took advantage of it. There is a clear economic incentive in this set up— to tap into ideas that strike a chord with many people, fool them, and then blatantly capitalise on them. This story is much bigger than defrauding thousands of people. It is in fact harming democracy.”