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Latest update: September 2023 | by Lili


Fake Ads on Social Media


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Over the last few years, social commerce has changed the face of E-Commerce. 250 million people interact with Facebook Shops per month causing 1 million monthly sales in 2022. In the US alone, social commerce is expected to grow by 31.6% from 2023 to 2030 and reach a $1.298 billion value by the end of this year.


Platforms previously used for other purposes, like WhatsApp have introduced shopping options to their services. But new opportunities bring new threats as well. Like the ever-present fake ads.

More ads, more fakes

Social media has done great things for E-commerce. Facebook has become a marketplace: people can shop by simply clicking on ads within the platform. Similarly, Instagram also allows people to shop by clicking on pictures or ads of products they like.


Businesses can post adverts on social media, 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 chances are it is probably counterfeit. Before the shopping feature on Instagram became available, researchers found 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 most genuine looking social media ad in the world can send you through to a website that is suspicious. While you are navigating around the website, keep an eye out for telltale signs. Does it look like a quality website that sells legitimate products, or does the whole experience feel 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. Even better, you can run the domain of the website through Scamadviser’s software to determine if it’s authentic or not.


Sometimes, a business will make a play on a well-known brand name and market themselves as a similar product rather than a “knock off”. A great example of this is the brand Jack Wolfskin. A business with a very similar style and name, Caddy 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 mentioned earlier, 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 products, like fake Ray-Ban sunglasses because of the fact that they saw the ads on Instagram or 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 most likely looks very realistic. During our investigation of this type of social media ad, we have stumbled upon an ad that looked like it was placed by an authentic reseller of Ray-Ban sunglasses.


Clicking through the ad, nothing struck us as majorly suspicious on the websites it led to. 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 one of the reasons why so many bad actors are taking advantage of social ads. And the other? 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

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 Ray-Ban sunglasses. This led to a website where the products were obviously counterfeit.


Practice makes perfect. We catch a large number of different fake social media ads while working with brands, which helps us recognize them in the newsfeed of social media sites.


The problem is that a lot of people cannot tell they have been directed to a website that is selling them counterfeit goods. While there are a few tricks we explained above that can help you tell ads for counterfeits from genuine articles, you’d need to be an online brand protection expert to really know the difference.

How can we help you with fake social ads?

If your company is becoming a victim of fraudulent social media ads selling counterfeited products, get in touch with us and let us show how we can help you.