Facebook estimates that between 5.5 percent and 11.2 percent (68 to 138 million) of its user accounts are fake. While most of these fake accounts pretend to be individuals, some are fake company pages.
Take Southwest Airlines, for example. If you search for "Southwest Airlines" on Facebook, it will bring up the official Southwest Airlines Facebook page, which has over 4 million likes.
But, search for "South West Airlines" and you'll find a different page with less than 2,000 likes. This fake South West Airlines page looks like the official company page -- it has the same cover photo and one of the official Southwest logos as the profile picture. But it is not affiliated with Southwest Airlines.
Scammers do subtle things to get you to visit and like fake company Facebook pages. One common tactic is to simply add a period (".") to the end of a company name. For most users, the subtle difference is hard to detect.
Another trick used is to slightly alter the company name. For example, a scammer might create a page called "McDonalds" -- whereas the official Facebook page is called "McDonald's."
For someone that may not look closely or may not know the exact spelling of a company name, this is another easy way for scammers to catch unsuspecting users.
Why Do Scammers Create Fake Facebook Pages?
Fake company Facebook pages typically offer promotions that may be similar to those of legitimate companies. One example was a fake Facebook page promotion offering 380 free Samsung Galaxy S-4 phones, claiming they could not be sold.
However, the Samsung website and the official Samsung USA Facebook page did not mention this promotion. In five minutes, I found several Facebook pages promoting prizes ranging from free Apple products, to Beats headphones by Dr. Dre, and even fashion products.
Scammers scam to steal your personal information. When you sign up for one of these promotions, you are prompted to share your name, address, and other personal information. This information can be used by scammers to rip you off. And, this information may also be sold to third parties who use that information for similar reasons.
Generally, fake accounts are only available for a few days. After a few days, if users report the page, Facebook will shut down the page. However, in those few days, thousands of people may get caught up in the promotion.
Scammers encourage users to like and share the promotion on their own Facebook pages in order to advertise the promotion to friends and friends of friends.
To protect us from fake accounts, Facebook started verifying the authenticity of Facebook pages run by large companies. Most large companies will have a blue check mark next to the page name, which means that page has been verified for that company. While not all companies have this verification check mark, those that do have been verified by Facebook.
One thing you can do to protect yourself from Facebook scammers is to double-check every promotion you see on Facebook. Usually, if a company is promoting something on Facebook, the official website for that company will mention the promotion.
Also, be cautious about the pages you like on Facebook and the things your friends share. Be wary of company Facebook pages with few posts.
And if a promotion sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Note: This post and the opinions expressed here are from Russ Warner, Internet safety expert and CEO of ContentWatch, makers of parental control software that can block Facebook, Net Nanny.
Follow Russ Warner on Google+.