Fake Customer Support: Trolling Consumers on Social Media

Quality customer service has long been a pillar of consumerism. Now more than ever, companies attempt to differentiate themselves through unparalleled customer support. When margins are razor thin, companies are happy to go the extra mile, in hopes of attracting and retaining a loyal clientele. Social media allows for consumers to provide reviews, share positive experiences and increase brand visibility. Customer support plays a pivotal role in the sales process — fielding a variety of questions, comments and concerns — all in the name of customer satisfaction. However, there’s a downside to these productive interactions, which Target, United, Quiznos and more all found out the hard way when it comes to fake customer support.

Many times, consumers just want a shoulder to complain on, a proverbial whipping boy to atone for the perceived sins of a corporation. While many customer complaints truly are valid — deserving the attention, care and apologies of a dedicated support staff — anyone working in retail will tell you that a sizable fraction of customer interactions could be classified as grumbling.

In recent years, internet trolls have satirized this dynamic between disgruntled patrons and longsuffering company reps, shaming customers for voicing complaints on company’s social media pages. Posing as customer service representatives on social media, pranksters will respond to consumer complaints with brutal sarcasm and rude feedback.

Fake Customer Support

While many would consider this quite funny, fake customer support poses a real risk for the organizations that the trolls impersonate. The customers are trying to solve a problem, and it’s an opportunity for the organization to repair a tarnished interaction. Fake customer support most likely alienates that potential buyer. It saps credibility and sheds a harmful light on the business. The consumer often believes they’re dealing with an actual employee of the establishment.

Even worse, fake customer support profiles are leveraged in more serious cyber criminal activity, such as social engineering, fraud and phishing campaigns. Fake coupons direct users to exploit kits, malvertising and credential harvesting spoof pages. These can be targeted at consumers and employees of the organization alike. The cost of a fake customer support rep can go far beyond brand damage and cross into data breaches, anti-fraud, and crisis remediation costs.

As can be expected with such a publicly facing, interactive platform, abuse on social media continues to be rampant. Cyber attacks leveraging fraudulent accounts — phishing campaigns, malware attacks and executive impersonations — can be damning not only for an organization’s image but their entire bottom line. Social has presented a powerful marketing and customer support platform, but with it comes additional security risks. Intertwined with the benign trolls are professional cyber criminals, leveraging social to target you, your brand, and your customers.

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