How to Spot a Social Media Account That’s Impersonating Your Brand

For anyone who’s wanted to throw their phone at the wall in frustration when confronted with another ‘please listen to the following 10 options’ after being on hold for an hour just to ask a company a simple question, the promise of getting someone to respond to you directly via a quick post on social media is an enticing one.

Companies seem to agree too and are quickly responding to customers’ demands to use social media as a communication channel. Banks, utility companies, and retailers, in particular, are embracing social media. A recent report by the American Banking Association, for instance, found that 58% of banks are using social media as a customer service channel with a further 17% planning to do so in the next two years.

However, ease of use should not impact on security. One downfall with using social media is the ease with which fake accounts can be quickly created which impersonate your brand, and potentially mislead your consumers.

This is known as ‘angler phishing’. They are fake customer service accounts (aka ‘parody accounts’ or ‘phony profiles’) which are set up to dupe customers into sharing personal details such as their account number, full name, address and phone number. With so much valuable information in the wrong hands, tricksters are able to steal identities and financial information.

The longer a fake social media account goes unnoticed, the more chance tricksters have of damaging your brand reputation too.

Read More: 4 Social Media Risks You Need To Prepare For

How can you spot a fake account?

Social media platforms work hard to stop impersonation accounts being set up. New accounts using brand names need verification from a brand representative before it is made live. However, fake accounts do slip through, so here are our top ‘spot and stop’ tricks for your social media team:

Know your brand’s accounts

Sounds obvious but many brands have multiple accounts for different brands, countries, languages, and type of customer interaction.

  • Make a central list of all official brand handles and pages. Share it centrally, with one version so it’s clear it is up-to-date
  • Run regular checks for handles and page names you don’t recognize. They often have a few extra letters after the brand name or include words such as ‘Ask’ or ‘Help’.

Secure your brand’s social media accounts

You also need to ensure your own social channels are secure and not hacked.

  • Set up two-factor authentication for all social media accounts, especially if they are maintained by just one person. You will then log in with a password and an authentication number sent to your preferred device.
  • Make sure your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest pages have the verified tick badge telling visitors that the page is genuine. You can request the badge by going to the platform’s help section.
  • Add posting rules to page bios. Tell users to only send personal or account details using direct message (DM), never on the main feed, for example:

Read More: Is Unmoderated Social Media a Good Idea?

Teach customers to spot fake accounts

Many high-target brands now protect customers from being caught out by running education campaigns. Tell your customers:

  • Not to be fooled by pages that have the brand’s official logo and branding, that’s easy to copy. Look beyond the branding.
  • Look at the ‘join date’. Avoid interacting with accounts opened in the last few months as they could have been set up specifically for the scam.
  • Be suspicious of pages with low numbers of posts, followers or friends. Official customer services pages will receive lots of posts every day, hour or minute.

Report fake accounts

When you find a fake account, report it to: