Facebook takes down ads linked to fake report on Singapore billionaire Lim Oon Kuin promoting cryptocurrency

The fake article comes amid false reports designed to look like they are linked to Singapore Press Holdings. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM UBERADD.COM

SINGAPORE - An online article in which billionaire Lim Oon Kuin - Forbes' 18th richest person in Singapore - seemingly promotes the benefits of cryptocurrency in an interview is fake, said his oil trading and shipping company Hin Leong Group on Tuesday (Sept 10).

The fake article comes amid false reports designed to look like they are linked to Singapore Press Holdings.

These reports include a fake article soliciting investments in bitcoins by using fabricated comments from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The fake article on Mr Lim shares many similarities to the fabricated PM Lee report, such as its structure and the use of some images.

Links to these fake reports have also been circulating on Facebook as sponsored posts by pages on the social media platform with seemingly unrelated names, such as "Destin to Travel", "Fresh Pies" and "Fauna Articles".

Facebook told The Straits Times on Tuesday that it has removed the advertisements promoting the fabricated articles and disabled their associated accounts and pages on the social media platform.

Even so, some of the Facebook pages that promoted the fake reports could still be found as of 7pm on Tuesday.

A Hin Leong spokesman said that the purported interview with Mr Lim, the group's founder, did not take place.

Mr Lim is listed by Forbes as Singapore's 18th richest person this year. As of Tuesday, Forbes said he has a net worth of US$1.7 billion (S$2.35 billion).

"Mr Lim Oon Kuin does not condone any of the alleged statements and representations set out in the article which are attributed to him," Hin Leong's spokesman told ST.

He added that Mr Lim has no knowledge of the "Bitcoin Revolution", a cryptocurrency trading programme that is mentioned in the fake article.

"Mr Lim and Hin Leong reserve all their rights against the publishers and websites which carry this purported interview," he said.

A Facebook spokesman said that the company takes an "extremely serious" view of misleading advertisements that violate its policies and feature public figures.

"It's important to us that ads on Facebook are useful to people and not used for promoting deceptive or scammy behaviour," said its spokesman.

He added that the company urges people who see deceptive ads to report them by tapping the three dots in the top right corner of the ad.

Last month, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) warned the public about the fraudulent website that used fabricated comments from PM Lee.

It advised members of the public to exercise caution and avoid providing financial or personal information on the forms linked from the website.

"Anyone who suspects that an investment could be fraudulent or misused for other unlawful activities should report such cases to the police," it said.

The fake online report with fabricated comments from Hin Leong's Mr Lim also encouraged readers to submit personal details, such as their name, e-mail address and credit card details.

The creators of fraudulent websites often set up pages that they think the man on the street will trust, said Mr Aloysius Cheang, Asia-Pacific executive vice-president of the Centre for Strategic Cyberspace + Security Science.

People can protect themselves from these websites by checking businesses' official websites to see if they have indeed engaged the celebrities and personalities in question, said Mr Cheang.

"Actual endorsements will usually be shown on the website and include a press release," he said.

Alternatively, they can visit the prominent figure's personal website or social media channels to verify if they are ambassadors for the product, he added.

•Not sure if something is fake news? Readers can send an e-mail with their questions and a link to the suspect article to askst@sph.com.sg

•Reports published can be found on the ST website under a special "fake news debunked" section at http://str.sg/fake-news

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