SAN FRANCISCO: Leading brands face a growing reputational risk from fraudsters and scammers because about a fifth (19%) of the social media accounts associated with 10 global brands have been found to be fraudulent.

For its inaugural Social Media Brand Fraud Report, cybersecurity firm Proofpoint examined 4,840 social media accounts associated with BMW, Capital One, Chanel, Amazon, DirecTV, Nike, Samsung, Shell, Sony and Starbucks.

These brands were selected because they are leaders in their field and have an active social presence with an average of 33.7m followers across major social platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Some 902 of these social media accounts, or 19% of the total, were found to be fraudulent, and nearly a third (30%) of these 902 accounts were scams or offers for counterfeit products and services.

Indeed, Proofpoint revealed that counterfeit and knockoff product offers represented 11% of the 10 top brand fraud accounts that it investigated.

The company detected nearly 600 new fraudulent accounts each month in Q2 2016 as well as a sharp increase in the rate of social media phishing, which grew 150% this year compared to the same period in 2015.

"Cyber attackers don't stop with web, email, or mobile apps. Social media has become a prime attack target due to a large user base and corporate ad spending," the report said.

"Companies have embraced social media as an essential marketing communications tool. And they continue to build out their social presence. This focus makes social media a lucrative and attractive target for cyber criminals."

The report went on to make five key recommendations to help brands and their social media customers from falling victim to scams.

Among the measures brands can take to improve security, using automated tools to monitor social networks for fraudulent activity is important as well as reporting fraudulent accounts to social networks to request their removal.

Data sourced from Proofpoint; additional content by Warc staff