Busy on the Forums?  It May be Forum Profile Spam

Several marketing firms and organized spammers are now targeting community forums and social networks as part of their promotional campaigns.  Instead of purchasing legitimate advertisements, they have taken the liberty to create fake user profiles to spread the word about their products or services. 
 

This is certainly not ideal for the victimized environment and its legitimate users.  The last thing they want is a reputation tarnished by thousands of marketing campaigns littering their forum.  Unfortunately for other users, these interactive communities are the perfect platform for launching major advertising campaigns.  The strange twist is that administrators are compromised by this type of spam.  While the spammers are using their site for different intentions, they are also driving in more traffic and doing a bit of advertising for the administrators. 

The dangers of forum spam

Other spammers are bit more malicious with their tactics.  Many users on forums and social networking sites, such as MySpace, have been victimized these individuals.  Advanced spammers often hack into their user profiles and go on numerous comment posting sprees filled spam messages.  They also fill up the bulletin boards and even directly email other users with spam advertisements.  If a user fails to log out of a system, they are leaving their profile wide open to anxious hackers with the intent of distributing spam or worse.  

Advanced spammers will even go to the length of completing doctoring a user profile to make it appear genuine.  They will post introductions, falsify personal information, and even post stolen pictures to represent an official user - making this type of spammer very difficult to spot, especially if a robot network is not involved in the act. 

The incredulous argument of profile spammers

This type of spam usually intrigues other members with vivid content such as flashing banners or moving video streams.  Sometimes, just clicking on of these items will result in more spam being delivered from the fake user profile.  Others will place surveys and current events on the site to prompt reactions from other users.   

What has offset this innovative spamming trend is the fact that so many of these campaigns have been very successful.  The strategy is almost guaranteed to increase page views and makes the probability of profit that much greater.  A few proud spammers have boasted that this technique has allowed them to build relationships with various social networks and eventual clients.  They claim to be strengthening the environment of the community - all while gathering exposure. 

Many of those that are active in the fight against spam find the claims to be very debatable.  It's hard to see quality in an environment that goes to such great length to create fake user profiles.  How can regular users continue to interact in a community driven by this activity?

While this type of spamming does make some sense from a marketing aspect, not all administrators are onboard.  With or without consent, more spammers will continue to use this effective vehicle of promotion and create as many fake user profiles as it takes to spread their messages. 

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In 2003, more than 10 million Americans fell victim to identity theft.

Identity theft costs business and individuals $53 billion dollars annually

In 2003, Americans spent 300 million hours resolving issues related to identity theft.

70% of all identity theft cases are perpetrated by a co-worker or employee of an affiliated business.