How to keep your brand’s social media account safe from fraudsters

A new study has revealed a startling statistic – that a huge 19% of social media accounts linked with the top ten brands across a range of industries are actually fake.

The research by Proofpoint looked at the social media profiles associated with the top brands in each industry, and found that the accounts associated with a massive 4,840 brands were not actually anything to do with the brand. These non-official accounts were found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, and were associated with well-known companies such as Amazon, Samsung, Nike, Sony, Starbucks and Capital One.

Why do people create fake accounts?

These fake brand accounts have been created by non-official sources, acting either to harm the reputation of the brand, to protest against the brand or another malicious reason. Some internet users even create these fake brand profiles for satirical purposes, while others do it simply out of boredom and because they can.

The Proofpoint research also found that nearly 30% of the fake accounts were attempts to scam customers into paying for counterfeit or non-existent goods or services. The account holders trade on the good reputation of the brand to establish credibility and win the trust of customers, many of whom have no idea that the account is not officially associated with the brand.

Avoiding reputational damage or worse

Needless to say, these fake accounts can be catastrophic for brands. According to the report, they can “…diminish brand value and create a negative or even hostile experience for customers.” They can damage your brand’s image and reputation, create a negative feeling relating to your brand and can interfere with the digital marketing activity of your real accounts. You may even end up fending off a legal challenge by someone who has been ripped off by one of these accounts.

The problem for large, well-known brands is that it can be difficult to stop or even find these fake accounts. All you can do is remain vigilant and implement systems and policies that can hopefully stop a malicious attack in its tracks. Here are some very useful tips to help you keep your brand’s social media accounts safe and secure, and to spot when a fake account is created:

  • Set up alerts and social media monitoring for your brand name. There are many social media monitoring tools and alerts you can set up in order to keep track of what people are saying about your brand online. You can use these to keep track of engagement and discussion about your brand, but also to spot when a potentially fake and damaging account is active.
  • Do manual searches and use reporting tools. If all else fails, you can spend a few seconds every day searching for your brand name on social media platforms. If an authorised account pops up, you can use the platform’s reporting tool to flag it up and get it removed.
  • Prevent hacks. Use a secure password manager to log in and setting up alerts for unauthorised activity. Social Media Examiner has more detail on this and other tips for keeping hackers out.

Have you had problems with unauthorised accounts? If so, how did you discover the fake account and how did you resolve the issue? Please feel free to share your thoughts.

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