Report: Scams Accounted for Nearly 60% of User-generated Malicious Content in Q1 2021

Sift, the leader in Digital Trust & Safety, released its Q2 2021 Digital Trust & Safety Index report, which revealed that scams accounted for 59% of blocked user-generated malicious content within Sift’s network during the first quarter of the year. The report examines how weaponized content is moving the Fraud Economy forward, as well as consumer perception of content fraud based on a survey of more than 1,200 U.S consumers.

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Content Scams on the Rise

Scams – defined as any content created and used to perpetrate fraud, such as listings for products that are never shipped – are the foundation of the Fraud Economy. This global, interconnected network of online abuse hinges on conning consumers, and fraudulent content is the go-to vehicle for spreading fake information, committing financial fraud, and conducting phishing attacks.

The other most common blocked content fraud types include irrelevant content (22%, not related to the topic at hand), toxic (18%, includes foul language, harassment, hate speech or bullying) and commercial (1%, solicitations against terms of service).

Consumers: Cautious and Unforgiving of Content Fraud

Decreased transaction volumes, new digital shopping methods and services, and rising attack volumes across many markets throughout the pandemic contributed to a 77% surge in blocked content fraud in Q1 2020 over the same period in 2019.

However, with an additional 18% increase in Q1 indicating that fraudsters remain committed to leveraging user-generated content to ensnare consumers and steal from businesses. And as these attacks proliferate, consumers are increasingly wary and unforgiving when it comes to content fraud, as Sift’s study found.

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Key findings from the survey also include:

  • Content fraud encounters abound: Approximately 27% of consumers surveyed report running across fraudulent content on a daily or weekly basis. According to respondents, the most common types of fraudulent content encountered are spam (51%) and scams (50%) with misinformation and ‘fake news’ rounding out the top three (43%).
  • COVID-19 vaccine misinformation widely reported: Half (50%) of consumers surveyed say that they’ve come across COVID-19 scams or misinformation. Within this group, 61% say the scams encountered involved misinformation about the efficacy or side effects of COVID-19 vaccines; 61% say they involved misinformation about vaccines containing tracking technology; and 28% came across fraudulent vaccine cards or passports.
  • Fraudulent content has a direct impact on consumer loyalty: More than half of consumers surveyed say they would stop shopping at a business if malicious content was discovered on the brand’s website. Specifically, 56% say they’d stop using the site or service if fake or misleading content was discovered, while 54% say they’d stop use if they were scammed into sharing personal information.
  • The web’s top spammiest and scammiest places: Those surveyed also identified the places online where they encounter the most content fraud. These include: social networking sites (61%​); classifieds (28%​); dating sites (24%); marketplaces (21%); and crowdfunding sites (15%).

Defending Against the Broader Fraud Economy

“User-generated content is a key engagement driver for online businesses, and many, like community and marketplace sites, depend on user-to-user interaction,” said Marc Olesen, Sift’s President & CEO. “Yet with scams making up more than half of malicious user-generated content detected on Sift’s network, consumers have grown wary of these types of attacks and they clearly demand that businesses proactively protect them against fraud perpetrated by illegitimate users. By embracing a Digital Trust & Safety strategy – one that prevents fraud while accelerating growth – brands can stop all types of fraud and abuse while ensuring a safe and seamless user experience for their customers.”