Social media impersonation - part 1

Social media impersonation - part 1

A message from a stranger


The message in your inbox seems strange. You don't remember talking to this person, let alone promising to recruit them, but the words they use against you are disturbing. Suspecting yet another social networking scam, you don't respond, you block them and forget about the incident. But a few days later, someone else contacts you again . This time, it's a customer. She claims that you didn't sent her the digital product she bought from your Instagram page. When you rant about the situation at a social gathering, one of your friends - an aspiring influencer and avid social network user - quickly comes across your company's fake account. She tells you that she knew what to do - she had already experienced the same situation! 

Identity theft is very common on social networks, and it affects all sorts of people - from politicians such as Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb to social networking influencers such as the youtuber Jeffree Star. 

Between 4 and 10% of accounts on social networks are used for identity theft only. In 2019, for example, Facebook had 2.2 billion fake accounts removed.  


Identity theft on social networks is a brutal invasion of your privacy - on a Facebook or Instagram account you can find photos of your family - but it is also a real commercial threat for your brand or company.


What is identity theft on social networks? 


Identity theft - also called social media impersonation -  it's an account created with your name (real name or brand name) or a resembling one, using your profile picture or even your personal photos, your graphic design, your logo or any other identifying element of your person or your company. People will often forget that they are already following you, or will think that you made a new account. They will follow the page without thinking much about it. The account aims at making people think that it’s representing you. It is always created for fraudulent or malicious purposes.


What are the practices? 


The aim is almost always to gather information in order to resell it.



By impersonating a brand, the fraudsters want to obtain personal information and sensitive customer data (passwords or even bank details). 



These pages deceive consumers by selling them copies of a well known brand. This practice only affects large companies with an established brand image, particularly in the luxury sector.


Fake news

These are accounts that impersonate politicians or celebrities in order to spread false information and news, speaking in their name, with the aim of making a public person look bad.



These pages are usually created by people you know personally in your private life, or who hate your public persona online. They create accounts to make you look hateful or stupid. Sometimes they might portray you in sexual situations in order to humiliate you and stir up hatred against you.


Who is affected?


The two types of brands most affected are those with a very large presence on social media (many followers, lots of content, many advertising campaigns) and those with no social media presence at all. A brand identity without an official account is very easy to impersonate.


What does a fake page look like? 


Fake pages usually use exactly the same graphic style as a brand's official account . They will often pretend to be the customer service or recruitment department of a company. The aim is  to take advantage of google searches such as "company name + support" or "company name + recruitment". Their follower count can sometimes be used as a red flag - but not always - some have more followers than the official account they are copying!


Fake pages often appear and disappear quickly. Indeed, the first few days of such an account's activity are the most fruitful - the fake account has not yet been discovered. Thus, it can be particularly aggressive. The larger the company, the greater the risk that the fake account will be immediately replaced by a new one.


Next week we will talk in more detail about each social network and what to do if you are victim of identity theft.

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