Recent Social Media Scams Could Hurt Company Credibility

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COLUMBIA -- For many companies and small business owners, social media are great for networking and advertising, but scammers can take advantage of those companies if they are not careful.

Tro Media in Social Media and Hospitality, a site devoted to what's good and bad with social media, reported a fake Instagram  account on May 31st. The scammers pretended to be Delta Airlines, advertising that the first 20 followers would receive four free flights. The "deal" asked for personal information from users. 

Columbia entrepreneur Linda Chandler knows these scams all too well. She runs her own part-time business making what she calls "knickknacks." She uses a Facebook page for marketing and advertising. 

Chandler said she did experience fake users asking to place orders, but realized they were not real after simply plugging their user name into Google and doing a little research. 

"A person did e-mail me and say that he wanted this big order and it turned out he was a hoax," Chandler said, "I basically Googled him." 

Some ways for companies to avoid being scammed are:

  • Pick the simplest username to describe your company. Your name should be the same on all your active networks
  • Have a helpful description relevant to your business. Avoid text advertising for a contest, using photos instead, posts on other social media networks, or a content website
  • Include an official URL in your description
  • Post at least 7 photos when opening your account to enable the cover photo mosaic

Social media user Erik Hall does not take the fake accounts too seriously.

"Some of the fake accounts are more entertaining than the real ones," Hall said. "I've seen people complain about fake accounts and getting spam on there, but I've never really experienced it."

Intern Erin Morris works with social media, so she sees the effect they have on the company she works for. She did not want to disclose the name of the company.

"It definitely gives less legitimacy with the company," Morris said. 

Ways for users to know a social media account is fake include:

  • Promises of rewards just for following a site
  • Inexact usernames (containing special characters, mentioning deals, giveaways or sweepstakes, or with doubled characters)
  • Small number of photos posted
Chandler said she will continue selling her knickknacks on Facebook, but will always investigate anything she finds fishy.