Social Media

Melbourne Central hit by Facebook scammers: Lessons for your brand

Emma Koehn /

It’s Melbourne Central’s 25th birthday this year, but there have been some gifts the shopping centre would rather have not received.

This week a fake business Facebook page popped up asking for customers’ information, purporting to be “Melbourne Central Shopping”. The page was running giveaway competitions to ‘celebrate 25 years’ of the centre in Melbourne’s CBD, even though no such promotion was being officially offered by retailers. Shoppers quickly distinguished between the spoof page and the legitimate one, and let the centre know about the scam on social media.

This is not the first time scammers have attacked a well-known brand by lifting its social media identity. Airlines have also been hit in recent years, including fake pages for Jetstar and Emirates promising free flights or upgrades to first class. Most of these scams take the official logos of a brand and promise customers free products or competition entry, often asking for personal details.

Social media commentators say this is the price of admission for putting your brand online and all businesses needs to be vigilant. But if you don’t make your business known on social media, you could be at greater risk of scammers.

“Every startup should register their business names in the key social media platforms,” InsideOut PR director Nicole Reaney told SmartCompany.

If you do encounter a fake page for your business, time is of the essence.

“Organisations faced with the situation of another company utilising their brand equity, should shut it down immediately by reporting the situation to the communication medium,” Reaney says.

Social media educator Laurel Papworth of SilkCharm consultancy, says fake business pages are a warning to business owners to not run their social media accounts half-heartedly. If you’re not online communicating with customers each day, a space opens up for scammers to do it for you, Papworth says.

“If you’ve got a lot of people who ‘Like’ a Facebook page, but pretty low regular engagement, that inactivity really opens up the question of ‘Cost of Inaction’,” she told SmartCompany.

“You have to ask why a scammer is doing a better job of [engaging with] customers than you are. Making a page and not then doing anything with it is part of the problem.”

For Melbourne Central, a swift communications approach ensured the fake page was shut down before it gained momentum. A spokesperson for owners of the Melbourne Central centre, GPT, told SmartCompany the first thing their management did when being notified of the page was to contact Facebook and report the fraud. The page has since disappeared from the site.

When scamming or fraudulent behavior is detected around the brand, the first step is to contact the platform in question and request removal, the spokesperson said.

Reaney recommends brands use social media to combat any fakes by quickly communicating with their customers about fraudulent accounts so that nobody is disappointed by fake deals. But when it comes to detection itself, a strong social media audience can knock over scammers in the first instance.

“Organisations may also find that consumers align to the original brand and warn off other consumers – automatically generating loyal brand ambassadors,” she says.

Papworth agrees: “If you have an active community, you have a line of defence that can stop it,” she says.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.