Fakes get sneakier on social media

Global Head of Marketing, MarkMonitor

Social media has transformed the way brands interact and engage with consumers and, as part of that change, opened up a new avenue for the sale of counterfeit goods.


Scammers leverage social platforms to impersonate brands by repurposing legitimate images, brands names and logos to appear credible before promoting fake goods and directing consumers to counterfeit websites. Whether through fake social media accounts or illegitimate listings and advertisements on online marketplaces, it’s a serious problem  causing significant headaches for a variety of brands.


This isn’t to say that efforts aren’t being made to prevent this activity. Many brands choose to implement consumer-centric online brand protection strategies, which can help to eliminate the most impactful instances of counterfeiting, while making it more difficult for malicious individuals to cause damage in the first place.
But many businesses fail to consider one particularly vulnerable area: their own social platforms.


Tricky new trends


We are seeing a new trend in the world of online brand abuse.


Those looking to sell fakes to consumers fool shoppers into making a purchase by leaving hidden comments that link to counterfeit websites on official brand social media pages. The offender begins by creating an account using the same name and logo as the genuine brand. This way, posts in the comment section appear to come from the legitimate brand and are used to guide consumers to the fake goods. A second method is to use their own account to offer what appears to be support or guidance to the consumer, but is in fact a trap to disseminate information about the counterfeit goods.


Another common method is to pose as a salesperson on a genuine brand’s social media page. Comments generated — geared to selling counterfeit goods — are posted by bots. They use cunning artificial intelligence (AI) technology that runs night and day. This has proven to be a form of attack that is worryingly effective, primarily because the audience will be far less suspicious than they would be other counterfeiting methods; if they are already browsing the brand’s genuine social media account, then they have no reason to be on their guard.


Seal off vulnerabilities


The sheer volume of comments that brands receive on their social posts can be extremely difficult for those in charge of a brand’s social media activity to vet or moderate. No matter how carefully reviewed, bad actors will find a way in.


It is no secret that counterfeiting of any kind on social media platforms can lead to crippling damage of a brand. The damage gets amplified when activity takes place on your own account. If a victim falls for counterfeiting in this way, they might become quite irate and post a complaint online. If they mention that this took place on a genuine brand’s Instagram of Facebook page, the consequences for reputational damage are not hard to imagine.


Brands: stay vigilant


To deal with this challenge, identify counterfeiting culprits by paying close attention to all social channels and accounts. It’s easy to overlook your own social media pages — after all, they’re under your ownership, and so as long as no one is hacking into the accounts themselves it’s easy to think you’re safe from harm — but as the individuals behind these attacks continue to grow more sophisticated, brands need to stay on high alert.

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Alison Simpson
With more than 13 years’ experience in the domain industry, Alison has managed all aspects of Corporate Domain Managem... More