Posted February 4, 2009 7:33 am by with 17 comments

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ReadWriteWeb reports that security firm Aladdin released their Annual Threat Report today, one of the biggest online identity theft threats of 2009 will be fake social media profiles. I don’t expect that to surprise any of Marketing Pilgrim’s readers, I do, however, expect it to come as a surprise to most of our clients and the less “Web savvy.”

Evil people are heading out to popular social media sites and setting up fake profiles and abusing those profiles. They are pretending to be someone in order to create valuable connections, and in some cases, to hurt online reputations. Director of Aladdin’s Attack Intelligence Research Center, Ian Amit, says this type of identity theft can be “devastating, both on the personal level by creating difficulties in employment, ruining social and professional connections, damaging reputations; as well as on a financial level, such as stealing customers, corporate data.”

As you may recall, we reported on a horrible case in which a mother had created a fake social profile and bullied a girl to suicide. This report has a lot of merit, and this is a real threat that more businesses need to take seriously.

You need to ensure that you’ve secured social media profiles, and are constantly monitoring your online reputation. There are plenty of tools out there that can help like Andy’s social media monitoring tool, Trackur.

I expect this won’t be the last we hear about this, as there is always someone who isn’t listening out there.

  • This is already a huge problem at Twitter.

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Great Interview with Google Search Quality Team Member: Kaspar Szymanski

  • Abuse of any of these ‘opportunities’ is not a surprise. It’s always a disappointment though. To expect everyone to behave appropriately is not realistic so now we just need to figure out ways to help clients who suffer from these issues. Another level of the ORM is starting to bloom. You see, every bit of bad news has a silver business lining; new service offerings!

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..More Mobile Than I Thought

  • I hardly find this surprising. Just like the bulk of emails are currently regarded as spam, so the internet will be increasingly inhabited by virtual beings that serve the nefarious purposes of real humans….(insert evil laughter here)

  • This has been a reality for years. People have created fake Myspace and Facebook accounts since the sites were created (though Facebook has done a fairly good job getting rid of fake celebrity/personality accounts). I was friends with “Harry Potter” on Facebook all throughout college.

    Fake Twitter accounts are definitely a problem, but as long as you don’t use a tool to autofollow anyone who follows you, they’re easy enough to ignore.

  • Leo

    I have actually seen an abundance of popular names on Twitter that are fakes. Some common things to look for are the underscore. For instance, just today, I had a request for “RandFish_”. Now what the imposters intend to do with this, I don’t know…maybe sell something using the person’s authority? Who knows. But luckily, most of us are smart enough to realize that these types aren’t going to go on a twitter friend finding frenzy.

    Leo’s last blog post..Internet Marketing and the Case for Remarkable Content

  • This is already prevalent in many social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. I believe the purpose is to drive traffic to their sites or market products under false pretense projecting the identity of popular people. Even in Twitter, this is ubiquitous and many people are duped in believing that these profiles are whom they believe it to be. This can lead to high crimes, more phishing scams and blatant identity fraud.

    Equity Credit Loan’s last blog post..Low Rates Equity Loans: Finance Your Home Smarter

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  • How do you protect your profile on all social sites? There are just too many. I am on twitter, facebook, and a few others. What all the ones I am not on? How do you monitor those?

    Matt McGuire’s last blog post..Sacramento Downtown/Riverfront Streetcar

  • Pingback: Fake Social Media Profiles: The Biggest Online Threat of 2009? | Who Has The Biggest()

  • PS3

    I hadn’t spotted this when I posted in another thread. I had a message from Twitter saying that AndyBeal was following me but when I followed the link the account was suspended.

    Suffice it to say that someone else was trying to be Andy! Good example of the point of the thread!

  • You cant stop people from creating fake profiles. Ya you need to be bit careful with your own profile otherwise there can be lots of issues for no reason.

    boldly going somewhere’s last blog post..How To Choose A Good Domain Name

  • I have noticed the same problem as well.Therefore I have skipped 90% of the sites I participate on and have concentrated on the biggest sites in my niche.Another reason why i have done this is that it takes too much time to research good content to send to the sites.

    Tom Lindstrom’s last blog post..By: Jeff – Pay Speeding Tickets

  • I remember seeing a myspace profile, in which when you click anything on the profile, it took me to a warning site (warning from McAffee), which just shows how far people will go to infect you!

  • I think I was a llittle out of the loop on this one, but then yesterday I was taqlking to some 20-somethings and they were Myspace this and Facebook that …. and I realized how much it has penetrated daily life for them. Sadly, where the masses go, both crime (and its related components) and money-seeking follow ….

  • Hi All, as the author of the original piece, I just wanted to comment following some of the ideas and questions above (great discussion BTW):
    1. From a media market perspective, I would try to offer my clients some kind of “how are you perceived online” service. Just as I get media clippings and alerts from my PR companies, I would love to get the same on the online identity fingerprint that I have as an individual, as well as a company (which is notable more difficult, but could be automated to a large extent).
    2. From the “protection” level – I would suggest linking the different identities together. You usually have one or two that are heavily used, and some that are just placeholders. Creating such “chain of trust” between them could be used to validate the real ones from the fake ones.
    3. On a grander scale of things – authentication of real people should have certain profiles “badged” to indicate they have been validated. Other means of assuring ones real and online identity are clearly required as more trust is being given to online identities…

  • I think Twitter should work for companies the same way facebook worked for college students back in the day. A college student was placed in their network based on their schools email address.

    If Twitter did this for companies (or something similar) you could authenticate a corporate account.

    I liked Hubspot’s idea of letting companies pay to get a “seal of authenticity” on their account.

    Jon Bishop’s last blog post..How To Stop Receiving Auto DMs

  • This is not surprising to me. It will get far worse before it gets better. Thanks for the link to Trackur.