LOS ANGELES (KCAL/KCBS/CNN) - A Facebook ad for a company selling face masks claimed all but one member of a Los Angeles family died from COVID-19, but the story, which used a real family’s photo, isn’t true.
Mother Sara Ancich says a professional photo her family took for their holiday card eight years ago showed up in a Facebook ad for FilterMax face masks. The ad claimed she and her entire family had died, except for the youngest son, after contracting COVID-19 at a church service.
“Who would have the audacity to clearly not know a family and type that they had died?” Ancich said. "It’s on the forefront of everybody’s mind in the news and everything and how quickly it is taking lives. It could so, so clearly be true to people.”
FilterMax also claimed in the ad that it’s the most efficient respirator on the market and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but the FDA says that’s not true. The ad features video of a teenager, falsely presented as the surviving member of the Ancich family.
"I am curious about the boy in the video, too. Where's he in this? Does he know that he's out there?" Ancich said.
Over several days, Ancich was inundated with Facebook messages from concerned family and friends, who wanted to make sure the story wasn’t true.
Ancich says she tried reporting the video to Facebook, but it kept popping up in her feed. She says she hasn’t posted the photo on social media in years, but a reverse image search on Google reveals the photo is on several Pinterest boards for examples of family photos.
“It was upsetting. It’s violating,” she said. “I don’t know how I could have prevented this, or I would have.”
Facebook has since pulled the ad, of which there were several versions. The company says in order to crack down on businesses taking advantage of fear during the coronavirus pandemic, it has banned all ads having to do with hand sanitizer, face masks, wipes and COVID-19 tests.