Fake "Likes" and "Followers" Sold For Cash

|Aug 19|magazine7 min read

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Oddly enough, stolen credit card numbers may not be the most coveted new asset. Shockingly, fake fans on Instagram have surpassed the cost of stolen credit card numbers. How much? Five times as much.

As social media has become progressively more prominent in molding digital reputations, hackers have used their skills to create and sell false endorsements. Among these endorsement users can buy “likes” on Facebook or “followers” on Instagram.

The cyber experts at RSA, the security division of EMC corporation, says the computer virus known as Zues - used to steal credit card information, has been modified to create bogus Instagram “likes” that can be used to generate buzz for a company or individual Instagram account.

The “likes” are sold in groups of 1,000 on internet hacker forums, where cyber criminals get credit card numbers and other valuable information. According to RSA, 1,000 Instagram “followers” can be purchased for only $15 and 1,000 “likes’ on Instagram tend to be sold for $30. 1,000 credit card numbers can cost as little at $6.

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Marketing experts are saying that some people are willing to spend heavily to gain more attention on the internet. Businesses want to make their new products or services seem incredibly popular and buzz worthy.

"People perceive importance on what is trending," said Victor Pan, a senior data analyst with WordStream, which advises companies on online marketing. "It is the bandwagon effect."

Facebook has almost 1.2 billion users, and said it is in the process of tightening security on Instagram, which the social media giant purchased last year for $1 billion. Instagram has nearly 130 million users and will have the same security measures that Facebook uses, said spokesman Michael Kirkland.

"We work hard to limit spam on our service and prohibit the creation of accounts through unauthorized or automated means," Kirkland said.