With social media and digital engagement becoming increasingly popular, marketing and sales teams are investing heavily in growing their digital footprint to drive brand and generate revenues. Fake social media accounts too are posing as the original brand, to steal your hard-earned followers and destroy customer loyalty and create distrust.
Faking on social media accounts is very common across the globe, especially those pretending to be celebrities and high profile figures are common nowadays and it can be annoying for many but more likely harmless. Fake profiles often serve as the foundation for broader digital assaults especially when they target high ranking executives and government officials. Organisations should make a conscious effort to guard executives from fraudulent profiles so as to shield not only the executives but the complete business.
Fraudsters/scammers use fraudulent social media accounts to target legitimate followers. In the recent past, we all have been seeing many profiles being cloned/impersonated for a possible social engineering fraud. Scammers are going a mile ahead and cloning/faking high-rank police officers too, which is alarming in this infodemic situation.
Concerns with fake social media accounts that you should be aware of:
• Distribution of phishing and malware
• Malicious and offensive content sharing
• Fake coupon sharing
• Fake survey forms
• Tarnishing reputation of executives and brands
• Seeking money from common friends posing an emergency (many police officers accounts are cloned/impersonated. It is the most happening social engineering scam now and people should transfer money only up on talking in person or over phone after due verification)
• Sensitive information leakage through social engineering scams (you are more likely to share information with a profile which you think is your CEO or CFO, authorising a payment or advising you to donate to a cause)
• A scammer creates a fake social media profile, where he pretends to be a sales representative, bank employee or a loan recovery officer.
• Cat fishing is a well-known scam, where a fake social media profile is created in order to seduce a victim into a fictitious online relationship, with the intention of extracting money by blackmailing.
• A scammer creates a fake social media profile, to sell likes, retweets, shares, comments and followers are most popular in India where bots are used.
What can we do about fake social media accounts?
(1) Most high ranking executives and government officials often feel they are safe from impersonations when compared to high profile celebrities and political leaders and here is what you must understand.
• Fake accounts of celebrities and political leaders are used mostly for the purpose of perception manipulation or drive marketing endorsements.
• Fake accounts of high ranking executives and government officials are used for the sole purpose of financial gains like seeking a donation, seeking loan, or advising payments to be made to an anonymous account.
(2) You must first assess what is their impact on you as an individual or as a company with a digital presence on social media platforms? The first line of defence is learning how to recognise fake accounts and then start engaging with a fake account. Below are some tips to Spot fake/ impersonating social media accounts.
• Sudden spike in follower count
• Look for the unusual follower to engagement ratio
• Profile creation date (i.e. fake ones will be mostly new pages)
• Check the URL and not the display name or profile picture
• Fewer posts and shady content
• Asking donations and seeking loans on social media platforms
What are social media giants doing to curb fake accounts?
Bots-run fake profiles account for 75 per cent of social media fake profiles. Social media giants have invested heavily on fact-checking agencies to curb fake news and introduced solutions to curb the spread of illegitimate accounts utilising artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), and they are employing pattern recognition to identify the difference between real and fake profiles before they are flagged for human review.
• Facebook deleted over 2.2 billion accounts that it deemed to be fake in the first quarter of 2019
• Twitter removed as many as 7.5 million fake accounts per week as of April 2019
• Google blocked and removed 2.7 billion bad advertisements in 2019
Where to report on fake/ impersonated accounts:
First, lock your profile and below are a few links that will help you resolve the problem, and if necessary deleting the account and banning the individual or the organisation responsible.
• Report to the nearest Cybercrime Police Station or report on the National Cyber Crime Portal https://www.cybercrime.gov.in
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/169486816475808
• Instagram: https://help.instagram.com/370054663112398
• Twitter: https://help.twitter.com/forms/impersonation
• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/solve
• YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802027#report_channel
Stay Tuned to Cyber Talk Column on September 29 for more on “Internet Ethics and Digital Wellness” brought to you by Anil Rachamalla, End Now Foundation, www.endnowfoundation.org
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