News National Jessica Rowe frustrated by fake ads using images of her and other celebrities to scam internet users

Jessica Rowe frustrated by fake ads using images of her and other celebrities to scam internet users

A fake ad uses an image of Jessica Rowe that has been altered to make her look bruised.
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Jessica Rowe describes herself as a journalist, a mum and a crap housewife.

She’s also the target of some dodgy advertisements.

The latest ad that has surfaced on the web features a photo of Rowe doctored so her face looks bruised.

On it are the words “Breaking news: A sad day for Jessica Rowe. Our Prayers go out to her family.”

The provocative picture is one of many that have surfaced targeting female celebrities.

Rowe has spoken out for the first time about the dodgy advertisements to the ABC’s PM program.

“It makes my heart miss a beat actually when they’ve popped up when I’ve been on legitimate websites, and then suddenly there’s one of those little pop-up boxes with a picture of me clearly photoshopped but with terrible bruising on my face,” she said.

Fake ads are on legitimate websites

Just the other day Rowe was confronted with one of those unexpected images while she was surfing the internet with her nine-year-old daughter.

“Suddenly this pop-up pops up and it’s me,” Rowe said.

“And she’s like, ‘Mummy what is that?’

“And I was kind of like, ‘Oh my God, what is that?’

She said the real issue for her was that the fake advertisements were appearing on legitimate websites.

“The other part that I find enormously frustrating is there’s nothing that Google says they can do about it because of the various algorithms that I don’t full understand,” she said.

“But depending on what search words you put in your Google search, these pop-ups will appear.”

Rowe told the ABC people were losing money because of the fake ads and then contacting her on social media.

“What upset me is people would then click onto this and give their credit card details … and I think that is wicked for people to be exploited in that way,” she said.

The latest advertisements say Ms Rowe has left journalism in order to sell diet pills.

“That is, again, the biggest load of nonsense – I don’t believe in dieting, full stop,” Rowe said.

She said she was frustrated by her inability to do anything other than urge people not to click on the ads.

“The thing is, they will make them look legitimate,” she told PM.

“They will make the article that you click on look like a real website with made-up names from the person who has supposedly written it, with supposed quotes from me, and it’s a load of crap.”

Facebook ‘take no responsibility’

Co-host of the Sunday Project on Network 10, Lisa Wilkinson, has been targeted for some years.

Recently the dodgy ads have given reasons why she left the Today show, and why she is purportedly leaving her current job.

“What they say is I’m leaving because my real love is to create my own make-up and beauty empire — and wouldn’t you know it, you can buy Lisa’s fabulous new face cream that she’s also given to her good friends Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman.

“I mean really, just name any Hollywood star and they’ve put them on these ads.”

Wilkinson said she had been trying to get them taken down.

“They seem to come via Facebook, and yet every interaction I’ve had with Facebook, they take no responsibility for it, even though all of the ads – and there’s quite a few of them – seem to come through some sort of Facebook feed, and then turn up in sponsored content on sites like, The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph,” she said.

“I mean they are absolutely everywhere and it appears there is nothing that Facebook want to do about it.”

A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement: “We do not allow adverts that are misleading or false on Facebook, and we removed several adverts that violated our advertising policies.

“We encourage anyone who sees an advert that they believe infringes an individual’s rights to report it so the content can be reviewed and removed by our teams.

“Recently, we’ve also made several improvements to combat misleading activity through a combination of technology and human review, including automation to detect scams and improved reporting abilities.”

Google also issued a statement: “We have clear policies against ads that mislead or trick users into interacting with them. When we find ads that violate our policies, we remove them.”

It’s random, and it’s hard to track, so buyer beware

Advertising is often randomised, explained Raechel Johns, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Canberra.

“If you hit refresh on the page, you’ll see a new ad that pops up,” she said.

“And so what happens is when an organisation buys advertising space, they often buy it for a suite of sites, they buy it for time zones, or times that might be completely random.”

She said advertisers’ ability to track and update an ad in real time could be aiding the dissemination of the images.

“For example, if at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon they recognise that the ad isn’t working, they recognise that they’re not getting enough click-throughs … what they can actually do is update the site, tweak it a little bit, increase the discount or change a quote or change a headline on the ad,” she said.

“And they have the power to do those things in real time, and I think that could be how the problems are arising with the fake testimonials.”

Fake ads should be easier to report and taken down fast: ACCC

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), online shopping scams — some featuring celebrities — are the fastest-growing category of scams in Australia.

Delia Rickard from the ACCC warned shoppers to be wary.

“So far this year the ACCC has had over 2.3 million reported to us as lost in online shopping scams, and I suspect that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she told PM.

“The number of people who order things that never turn up and shrug their shoulders but don’t actually get round to complaining to the ACCC I’m sure is enormous.”

She said Facebook and Google should do more to get rid of the dodgy ads featuring prominent Australians.

“It’s true they do remove things, but I think it’s important too that it’s made really easy for people to contact them — not just through the online clicking on the three dots, but a phone number where they can call and complain,” Ms Rickard said.

“And there should be an assumption where there’s a regulator … or the celebrity whose face is used as clickbait in the ad [reporting it] that they will take it down, and then do their investigation, rather than for it to stay up until whatever steps need to be taken are taken, and that the service is adequately staffed so there is always someone answering the phone and action is taken quickly.”