Family Says Fraudulent Facebook Ad for Protective Masks Used Stolen Photo

Wire Service
By Wire Service
April 16, 2020US News
Family Says Fraudulent Facebook Ad for Protective Masks Used Stolen Photo
A pedestrian wears a protective mask, amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19, as she walks past a hoarding advertising fashion masks in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 3, 2020. (Sergei Supinsky / AFP via Getty Images)

A California family says their identities were stolen and used in a Facebook ad for a company selling a protective mask that claimed to have saved the youngest son in a family of five from COVID-19.

“It was sickening and it was violating,” said Sara Ancich, 45, of Orange County after seeing the ad for the first time on April 12.

The video was taken down Monday, a spokesman for Facebook told CNN.

Ancich, a sixth-grade English and history teacher, says she became aware of the ad April 10 when her brother-in-law texted her about it.

The ad opens with the photo of the family, solemn music underneath and text that reads: “Youngest son from a family of 5 is the sole survivor from the deadly pandemic after wearing a CDC approved respirator.”

Face Mask
A young woman wearing a face mask walks past an advertising placard in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, Ukraine, on April 6, 2020. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images)

The image is a professionally shot picture of her family from eight years ago that the photographer, Rich Lander, posted on his website, Ancich told CNN. The image has since been removed by the photographer.

The ad then claims the family balked at government warnings and attended a 176-person event and that “Justin,” the youngest son, was the only member of the family to wear a mask. Behind that text, the ad ran video of the British royal family inside Westminster Abbey. The text over the unidentified, smiling, boy, says that he “narrowly escaped death.”

Ancich’s youngest son, now 16, is named Ryan.

“The boy that supposedly portrayed our youngest son, we don’t know who that boy is,” Ancich said.

The video featuring the Ancich family is one of several versions that have been investigated by other media outlets with varying images and video clips but the same “sole survivor” script and FilterMax branding.

The ad says FilterMax “deploys dual filtration valve technology with a 5-layer protection filter, which effectively blocks out 99.9 percent of bacteria, dust, smog, and pollen from entering your lungs.” The ad also claims they are FDA-approved—a claim CNN could find no evidence for on the list of approved respirators on the FDA website.

A man walks past a large billboard raising awareness to the measures taken by the Italian government to fight against the spread of the COVID-19 which pictures a woman wearing Italy’s national flag as a protective mask for protective measures and reads “All together, without fear,” in the streets of Naples, Italy, on March 22, 2020. (Carlo Hermann / AFP via Getty Images)

Numerous companies use the name “FilterMax.” CNN was not able to definitively ascertain which company is behind the video but reached out to several online stores that were, at one point, selling the masks under that name. None immediately replied to requests for comment.

“We apologize to the family impacted by the video. We’ve removed it and have taken steps to keep people from sharing it,” a Facebook spokesman told CNN.

“We also continue working to stop people from exploiting this crisis for financial gain by banning the sale of masks and other products that are linked to predatory behavior.”

Facebook also clarified the FilterMax ad did not run as paid distribution, which the platform actively shows to users, but “appeared organically.”

™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.
ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.