The rise of social media has been fast and furious and many businesses benefit greatly from having a social media presence.  With the click of a mouse or tap of a smartphone, customers can find out about the latest offers or new products that a retailer is spruiking and make an online purchase on the spot.

There is, however, a downside to social media, which one of our retail clients knows all too well. Cyber criminals targeted a large Australian retailer by creating multiple fake social media accounts that used the retailer’s branding.  They lured customers by offering fake gift cards as bait. These offers were presented to customers via social media pages, and even appeared in the form of surveys sent in emails.  From the surveys the criminals were able to gain personal information from customers, such as contact details and sometimes even credit card information, which they then sold to marketing firms.

The other issue with social media is that scams can be distributed far and wide by unsuspecting customers who are trying to give their friends and family what they think is a great offer.  Sharing, commenting and ‘liking’ a fake Facebook page can make the number of potential victims sky-rocket.

The retailer was alerted to the fake social media offers when they started receiving multiple complaints from aggravated customers who wanted to know where their gift cards and prizes were.  It didn’t stop there. Not only did the customers not receive gift cards or prizes, in some cases they were signed up to SMS services which cost a lot of money or told to call a number to claim their prize, also resulting in massive costs on their phone bills (some of these amounted  to $2.00 – $5.00 a minute!). The unauthorised social media pages heavily impacted on the retailer’s brand reputation.  They immediately put notices on their legitimate website to warn customers of the scam emails, Facebook pages and/or websites and asked them to report any scams.

By signing up to a suite of FraudWatch International products and services, including Anti-Phishing, Brand Abuse, Social Media Monitoring and Mobile Apps Monitoring, the retailer was able to reduce the amount of “fake” social media pages that were hurting their brand.

Support teams at FraudWatch International have detected over 200 cases of social media brand abuse incidents for this retail client in the past 2 years.  In most cases, we were able to take these fake pages down within 24 hours.

By maintaining the detection of these sites that are impersonating the client’s branding, we are reducing the risks of financial, brand reputation and clientele losses. Quick response times also reduce the likelihood of these fake social media sites spreading and targeting a wider set of customers.