LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Eight years ago, the Ancich family had a professional photo taken for their holiday card, but last week that photo showed up again — this time in an ad on Facebook.
The ad was for a face mask and stated that all but the youngest son had died of COVID-19.
“Who would have the audacity to clearly not know a family and type that they had died,” mom Sara Ancich said.
The ad claimed that the family had gone to a church service in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and had contracted the virus.
“It’s on the forefront of everybody’s mind in the news and everything and how quickly it is taking lives,” Ancich said. “It could so, so clearly been true to people.”
Over the following days as the ad was seen by more people, Ancich said she was inundated with Facebook messages from concerned family members and friends.
“And they were all reaching out saying, ‘Is this true,’ ‘You haven’t posted anything in a while,’ ‘Are you there,’ ‘Are you OK,'” Ancich said.
She tried reporting the video to Facebook, but it continued to show up in her feed.
“It was upsetting,” she said. “It’s violating.”
Sara said she hasn’t posted that photo on social media in years, but a reverse image search on Google shows the photo is included on several Pinterest boards.
“I don’t know how I could have prevented this, or I would have,” Ancich said.
In the video, the maker of the face mask, FilterMax, also claimed that it was the most effective respirator on the market and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA said the product was not approved by the agency.
The ad also shows video of a teenager, falsely identified as a member of the Ancich family recounting his story of survival.
“I am curious about him,” Ancich said. “Where’s he in this? Does he know that he’s out there?”
When CBS Los Angeles reached out to Facebook, the ad was immediately removed — along with several other versions of it.
Facebook said that in an effort to crack down on businesses taking advantage of fear during the pandemic, it has banned all ads having to do with hand sanitizer, masks, wipes and COVID-19 tests.