Four scam victims in Japan sued Facebook on Thursday after being hoodwinked by fraudulent online investment ads that used images of celebrities without their consent, their lawyer said.

Online hoaxes posted on Facebook and other social media channels in Japan led to ¥27.8 billion ($178 million) in losses last year, according to the National Police Agency.

The four filed the case with Kobe District Court demanding Facebook Japan, owned by U.S. group Meta, pay ¥23 million ($148,000) in damages, according to their lawyer.

The plaintiffs say they fell victim to adverts posted on Facebook offering high investment returns and which used images of wealthy celebrities like Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa.

Maezawa, the founder of Japan's largest online clothing retailer, became famous internationally after paying to go to the Moon on a future mission operated by Elon Musk's SpaceX.

His image is commonly used without his permission by online fraudsters, with one typical advert using the caption: "Started with ¥10,000. Gained ¥1.3 million in four days."

Maezawa has previously urged the Japanese government to take action and has said he is working with lawyers in the United States to bringing a lawsuit of his own against Meta.

Contacted by AFP about the Japanese lawsuit, Meta was not immediately available for comment.

The adverts in this case used only photos but other countries have seen more elaborate scams using "deepfake" videos of celebrities urging people to invest in fraudulent schemes.