What do imposter accounts mean for businesses?

cyber security imposter accountsImposter accounts on social media can do a lot to undermine your brand.

Social media’s big players have been slow to take action so far. However, imposter accounts have been hitting the headlines recently.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to imposter accounts and the effects they can have on your business, then tell you how to identify a social media account as genuine or fake.

What are imposter accounts and how can they impact businesses?

Essentially, an imposter account is any social media account set up to impersonate another individual or business, whether directly or indirectly.

This account could be administered by a person, or potentially by a ‘bot’ (an automatic computer programme developed to carry out certain actions).

There are literally millions of imposter accounts online. In fact, one research paper concluded that 5-6% of all Facebook profiles don’t belong to the person they seem to represent.

People often set up imposter accounts to achieve a particular goal, while others are simply out there to cause trouble. Using fake information, images and profiles, imposters use these accounts to undermine brand reputation, security and – ultimately – profitability.

The influence of imposter accounts is so huge, it’s led to a black market of fake social media profiles. Some have even gone as far as questioning whether these accounts have influenced recent political events.

How can they impact businesses?

Imposter accounts are used to:

  • Impersonate influential individuals and criticise, mock or lie about company activities
  • Pretend to be a company or employee and damage brands through unsavoury comments or posts
  • Create and exploit security vulnerabilities (gaining access to sensitive data or business accounts)
  • Conduct phishing schemes or other scam activities

Even when they’re not targeting your company specifically, the sheer number of these accounts will skew your analytics via fake engagement. This will make it harder to come up with strategic insights and grow your brand online.

What are social media sites doing about these accounts?

The short answer is: not enough.

If you spot an imposter account that’s impersonating you or your business, you have to report it to the social media platform yourself.

They’ll ask you for copies of documents to prove your identity. This could include your passport or driving licence (neither of which are required when setting up an imposter account).

Even after reporting the account (potentially multiple times), past instances suggest Facebook, Twitter and the like can take days, or weeks, to close the account. In this time, your company’s online presence could undergo a lot of damage.

How to spot imposter accounts

If you see someone using your information or images online, report them to the relevant social media platform administrators immediately.

Also, be sure to enhance your online security, and consider issuing a public statement.

However, if you’re trying to straighten out your analytics or just check whether an account is genuine or not, you can look out for these warning signs:

  1. Poor spelling (names, key company details etc.)
  2. Lack of link to authentic website (for companies or influential individuals)
  3. Erratic or overly targeted social media history (images, posts, promotions etc.)
  4. Irrelevant friend list (with connections the account holder’s unlikely to have)
  5. Random selection of pictures (often lacking pictures of the account holder)

Don’t let imposter accounts undermine your business on social media. Look out for these warning signs and prepare to report fake accounts whenever you identify them.

If you’re concerned about the cyber security of your business, talk to our experts today.