A federal magistrate judge on Tuesday recommended that Meta Platforms be awarded a default judgment against four residents of Hanoi, Vietnam, who hijacked the accounts of advertising and marketing agency employees in order to perpetrate an ad fraud scheme.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Thomas Hixson in the Northern District of California recommended that the defendants be prohibited from accessing or attempting to access Meta's platforms, and from disrupting Meta's systems -- including by developing malware. It's not clear whether Meta will be able to enforce the injunction, given that the defendants never appeared in court.
The recommendation grew out of a lawsuit brought by Meta in June 2021. The company alleged that the Hanoi residents -- Them Nguyen, Le Khang, Nguyen Quoc Bao, and Pham Huu Dung -- duped agency employees users into installing an app called “Ad Manager for Facebook” from the Google Play store.
That app, which wasn't affiliated with Facebook, obtained people's logins and passwords, which enabled the defendants to run ad campaigns without the users' knowledge. The fake "ad manager" app was installed more than 10,000 times between December of 2020, when it appeared on the Play store, and May 2021, according to Meta's complaint.
Hixson, who accepted Meta's allegations as true, said in his ruling that the defendants “ran thousands of ads that redirected Facebook and Instagram users to various ecommerce sites,” and spent at least $36 million in advertising, which was charged to the victims' business credit lines. Meta reimbursed the victims.