Fake brand social media accounts are on the rise according to a study into the shape of the industry from Proofpoint.
From April through June 2016, the 10 top brands across different industries were identified and analysed across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. A total of 4,840 brands were found to be associated with these companies – almost a fifth (19 per cent) were fraudulent.
Social media is reportedly a prime platform for fraud. Used as a corporate marketing and communications tool, it can be hijacked with malicious intent such as spamming users and misrepresenting the brand.
Of the 902 fraudulent accounts associated with 10 top brands, nearly 30 per cent were scams or offers for counterfeit products and services. Furthermore, four per cent of these were either phishing for user information, looking to install malware, protesting against the company in question or parodying it – which it claimed could harm the reputation of the brands.
These were BMW, Capital One, Chanel, Amazon, DirecTV, Nike, Samsung, Shell, Sony, Starbucks as selected by the Brand Directory list of top brands for 2015.
The report said: “Many unauthorised accounts are fake brand accounts. They are created solely to defraud your customers or undermine your brand. Bad actors create these accounts for financial gain or to protest your company and create negative brand sentiment.
“Other fraudsters prey on customers who try to engage with your brand. They target customers using fake customer service accounts, phony sweepstakes, and more. Some are motivated by a political agenda and create fraudulent accounts to attack a brand's image. Most often, they closely imitate the brand to make fun of the company or its customers. These protest accounts diminish brand value and create a negative or even hostile experience for customers.”
The most common fraud practices included offering free gifts or discounts, or posing as customer support or software updates.
A flaw was also identified with Facebook and Twitter verification which can help with capturing the spammers – while the seal is viewable on the profile it is not always readily viewable on individual tweets and posts.
Social media phishing is the fastest-growing social media threat, increasing 150 per cent from 2015 to 2016.