A recent social media scam targeted at consumers has businesses caught in the crossfire, heaping unwarranted abuse onto business owners. What can you do to avoid these scams and protect the brand of your business?
Maintaining a strong social media presence is vital for business success today, but scammers are exploiting this fact and causing distrust between consumers and businesses.
Business advertisements have been recently appearing on Facebook, claiming that consumers can obtain free products by simply paying a meagre fee to cover postage. Clicking the ad takes the consumer to a site that looks very similar to that of the proper website.
However, after inputting their payment details, some consumers have reportedly been overcharged for products, and in some instances, received nothing at all.
This is because these ads are not being uploaded by the businesses themselves, but instead by scammers posing as a legitimate business.
Where are these scams occurring?
Media reports have suggested these scams targeted Facebook in particular. Fairfax Media reported that Chemist Warehouse was a victim of one such scam, but it took action to resolve the situation.
My Business approached LinkedIn and Twitter for comment to see if their platforms were also experiencing the issue. A LinkedIn spokesperson said that these scams were not found on its platform, while a Twitter representative had not responded by the time of publishing.
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all state in their advertising policies and guidelines, however, that ads must not be deceptive or misleading:
- Facebook’s advertisement policy states: “Adverts must not contain deceptive, false or misleading content, including deceptive claims, offers or business practices”;
- Twitter’s advertisement policies similarly states: “Ads for products or services that are potentially unsafe or deceptive are prohibited” and “ads making misleading or deceptive claims are prohibited, such as “get rich quick” offers”;
- And according to LinkedIn’s advertising guideline: “LinkedIn does not permit ads related to scams, financial schemes, pyramid schemes or other fraudulent or illegal financial arrangements or investment opportunities”.
How can I stop this happening to my business?
My Business asked Adam Franklin, author, social media speaker and marketing manager at Bluewire Media, to provide some advice for busy business owners on how to protect themselves from falling victim to similar scams.
He suggests that if you detect that your business has been used for a deceptive advertisement, you should follow these four steps:
1. Report the ad to the relevant social media platform.
2. Report the ad to the police and/or a lawyer.
3. Notify your customers that an illegitimate ad is currently circulating, and not to click on it or respond to it.
4. Thank the customers who notified you of the scam and encourage them to notify you if they see any other suspicious communications from your brand.
Mr Franklin says maintaining communication with consumers through as many different channels as possible is absolutely vital if a social media scam uses your business, such as through email, social media accounts and potentially even a press release distributed to relevant media outlets.
“Notify your customers… that scammers are out there pretending to be you and ripping people off using ads with fake offers,” Mr Franklin says.
“Give details of what offers to avoid and which, if any, are real.”
He also suggests that businesses owners should remind their customers to be vigilant, and access the legitimate website by:
- Confirming the URL of the website is from the main website;
- Directly going to the main website and locating the offer;
- Confirming the details of the advertisement by directly contacting the business via email or telephone.
“It's our own responsibility”
Regardless of how hackers and scammers may do damage to your business’ brand, it is ultimately up to you as the business owner to make things right.
“It's not Facebook's fault these scams are happening, even though it's easy to blame them,” Mr Franklin says.
“At the end of the day, as business owners, we are responsible for the relationship with have with our customers, regardless of what scammers are doing on Facebook, social media and online.
“We must communicate with our customers and educate the community on how to buy from [us] safely.”
Just like with scam emails, Mr Franklin says fault does not lie with the platform on which the scam occurs.
“Most of us have received scam emails from people claiming to be from a bank asking us for our credit card details, or scammers saying we've inherited a fortune and all we need to do is to wire transfer some funds to a random bank account,” he says.
“When this happens, we know it’s not Gmail's or Hotmail's fault.
“However, they are trying to help because they encourage you to "mark it as spam" so they can get better at filtering out scammers. The same thing is happening on Facebook where you can report content as spam.”
He adds: “It's never fun bring scammed, but at the end of the day it is our own responsibility [as social media users].”
Other types of financial fraud affecting SMEs
While fake business advertising on social media may not directly target SMEs, there are a number of financial frauds and scams that do. The most common of these are:
My Business has also previously published tips and advice from Dr Michael Schaper, deputy chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, on how to stay vigilant and avoid becoming a scammer's next prey.