Social Media Fraud: Creating Fake “Likes”

Based on a recent article that appeared in World Intellectual Property Review in March, 2016, Stuart Fuller of NetNames has coined a phrase “Fliking” which he is trying to get entered into the Oxford English Dictionary 2016 edition. Similar to many terms that have been born out of new technology and trends, the word fliking has a very real concern to IP professionals. The practice feeds from the practice of people “liking” a product that give the product sudden credibility with consumers.

The article goes on to explain that the term refers to the practice of buying or soliciting “likes” for a product. The practice can even extend to tweets or positive reviews, which fraudulently rate a product highly solely to attract and deceive potential buyers. Faking favorable comments, or Fliking for a product, is nothing more than fraud.

The Internet has changed the way consumers shop and think about how we evaluate products. As consumers, we know that products are routinely priced cheaper on the Internet that comparable products found in a brick and mortar store. When we see a product that is priced lower than normal in a store, we instinctively wonder “what’s wrong with this product?” However, if we find that same product on the Internet at a lower than expected price, we think we found a great deal! Counterfeiters have capitalized on that mentality and have learned to price counterfeit products strategically lower than similar authentic product just for that reason. They know that consumers don’t suspect that a lower Internet price could mean something is amiss.

The same logic works with favorable consumer reviews and “likes”. If another anonymous Internet consumer says the product is great, then it must be. Whether the product is counterfeit or leaves something to be desired, all an unscrupulous seller needs to do is fabricate enough favorable consumer reviews and the product gains instant credibility. Think about sites that most people shop on: Amazon, most on-line retailers, department stores, and even eBay (seller reviews) give the buyers confidence to buy by putting reviews on their sites. Even travel and dining sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Open Table have consumer reviews to guide buyers. Most businesses and brands have their own FaceBook page where consumers can record “likes” to show how much consumers like the product or brand.

This trend of rating products and services by anonymous buyers on the Internet is one of the strongest endorsements that affects the buying decision. Why would it be a surprise that sellers who deal in counterfeits wouldn’t use this technique to their own benefit?

Brand owners need to monitor not only the Internet, but also Social Media to insure that copycat brands or counterfeit retailers are not diverting their unsuspecting customers with these fake favorable commentaries. As we well know, when a consumer unsuspectingly buys a counterfeit product which does not have the same quality standards as an authentic product, the brand owner risks a loss in brand integrity, reputation, and consumer loyalty. These losses are far greater than simply the loss of the sale.