Commentary

One In Five Brand Profiles Is Fake

Here’s a new wrinkle in social media marketing: it turns out roughly one fifth of all profiles seemingly representing a big brand across the most used social platforms is not, in fact, associated with that brand at all. That’s according to a new study by Proofpoint, a firm specializing in online security. 

Proofpoint looked at brand profiles for ten well-known brands (BMW, Capital One, Chanel, Amazon, DirecTV, Nike, Samsung, Shell, Sony and Starbucks) with a total of 4,840 accounts across social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. On average the brands studied had 33.7 million followers across their different social channels.

Proofpoint found that 902 or 19% of the profiles that purported to represent these brands on social media were fraudulent -- and while brands are doing their best to get fake accounts taken down, the process resembles a game of whack-a-mole, as around 600 new fraudulent accounts are created each month. Still, there seems to be a bit of improvement, as a previous study by Proofpoint found that 40% of Facebook accounts and 20% of Twitter accounts claiming to represent a Fortune 100 brand were fraudulent.

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There are a number of reasons why someone might want to maintain a fake brand account, and indeed Proofpoint uncovered a range of purposes, including scams, protest accounts, malware, and other types of fraud intended to swipe valuable personal information like email addresses for SPAM, bank logins, credit card numbers, and even Social Security numbers.

Taking a closer look, fully 30% of the 902 fraudulent accounts identified were scams or offers for counterfeit products or services, while 4% were intended for phishing, malware, protest, or satire. The incidence of fraudulent social media accounts intended for phishing, in particular, increased 150% from 2015 to 2016.

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