test purchase
social media monitoring

Fake Ads on Social Media

Who are you really buying from online?


Social media has done great things for E-commerce. Facebook has made their link to E-Commerce much easier with Facebook ads, and many people can shop by clicking a link on an ad. Similarly, Instagram also allows advertisers to set up adverts with very little verification. Anyone with a Facebook page can “sponsor” a post, and while Facebook does vet these adverts, the number of fraudulent ones that slip through unnoticed make it obvious they cannot cope with the demand. There are a number of ways you can spot an ad that points to a fake product or company on social media:

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is

If you spot something that looks unreasonably cheaper than it should be, then the chances are it is probably counterfeit. Before the shopping feature on Instagram became available, studies showed a many ads promoting fake Yeezys. It isn’t hard for a bad actor to set up an incredibly genuine looking ad. All bad actors need to do is find a picture online of the genuine product and pass it off as their own advertisement. For every ad that doesn’t get through Facebook's verification process, they will just set up five more and see which ones they can get past.

Be aware of which website you get sent through to

When you click on a social media ad, you will get sent through to the website of the online seller. Even the best looking social media ad in the world can send you through to a website that looks suspicious. While you are navigating around the website, does it look like a quality website that sells legitimate products, or does the whole experience feels a bit cheap?

One thing you can do is google the website you are sent through to and find out what others are saying about the products that are available. Sometimes, a brand will make a play on an original name and market themselves as a similar product rather than a “knock off”. A great example of this is the brand Jack Wolfskin. A brand with a very similar style and name, Caddie Wolfclaw has been selling online for quite a while now.

Do not assume legitimacy just because you saw the ad on social media

As we have covered, it is very easy for fake advertisements to get through the verification process on social media platforms. Many people have been tricked into buying fake brands like fake Ray-Ban sunglasses just for the fact that they are advertised on Instagram on Facebook. With millions of ads requiring verification each day, it is little wonder the platforms can’t keep up with demand. It is always best to do your own checks if something looks wrong or if the product looks like it is too heavily discounted to be the genuine article.

How easy is it to be fooled by a fake social media ad?

If a social media ad has got through the approval process, it is likely that it looks very realistic. During our investigation of this type of social media ad, we have been caught out by an ad that looks like it is by an authentic reseller. Clicking through on the ad for Ray-Ban sunglasses nothing struck us as suspicious on the websites. Many authorised sellers use their own websites to sell online. It wasn’t until we received the product as part of our test purchase service that we realized they were in fact, counterfeit. 

Why does social shopping work so well in the first place?

Social shopping works so well because most social advertising takes place outside of the normal advertising environment. Because social advertising is native, audiences respond to social ads a lot more than they would to standard display advertising in the form of banners. This is why so many bad actors are taking advantage of social ads. While buying display advertising is a costly process that needs the help of a DSP, social ads can be created quickly on the platforms with as little daily spend as £5.

Catching fake social media ads

We catch a large number of different fake social media ads while working with brands.

This makes it very easy for us to spot them in the newsfeed of social media sites. To test how many fake ads there really are out there, we recently conducted an investigation on Instagram. Within minutes, we had found a fake ad for the popular sunglasses brand, Ray-Ban. This led to a website where the sunglasses were obviously counterfeit.

The trouble with these ads is a lot of people cannot tell they have been directed to a website that is selling them counterfeit goods. There are a few ways you can tell but the best way is to search the website on the internet and find out what other users are saying.

How can we help you with fake social ads?

If your company is becoming a victim of fraudulent social media ads selling your products, get in touch and we help you to get rid of these.

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