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Guide to detecting influencer fraud

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The influencer marketing landscape has evolved rapidly, transforming into a multi-billion-dollar industry: it is expected to reach $19.4B in 2024. As with all lucrative sectors, authenticity is paramount. But the rise of influencer marketing has not been without its challenges, one of the major ones being influencer fraud.

Influencer marketing industry growh

Source: BuzzGuru

At the heart of successful influencer collaborations lies a single, unyielding principle: authenticity. In a world filled with information overload, consumers have become incredibly discerning. They crave genuine recommendations, authentic experiences, and real connections. Brands have acknowledged this, opting to collaborate with influencers who resonate authenticity, aligning with their brand values, and communicating seamlessly with their target demographic. However, this has also ushered in a pressing challenge: influencer fraud.

Influencer fraud isn’t a mere hiccup — it’s a substantial obstacle. Deceptive practices such as buying fake followers, artificially inflated engagement rates, and even the creation of completely fictitious metrics, cast a shadow over the industry. Brands, in their quest for authenticity, often find themselves navigating a minefield, trying to discern genuine influencers from the fraudulent ones. This not only jeopardizes their investments but can also tarnish their reputation, diluting trust amongst their audience.

Furthermore, the ripple effect of influencer fraud extends beyond individual brands. It threatens the very foundation of the influencer marketing industry. Every fraudulent activity, every misled brand, and every wasted campaign dollar sows seeds of doubt. It raises questions about the industry’s credibility and makes brands hesitant about investing in influencer marketing.

The Famesters agency experts have prepared a guide to detecting influencer fraud to help you navigate the landscape and select only reliable and trustworthy influencers for your campaigns. Read further to learn how to do it.


At its core, influencer fraud involves deceptive tactics aimed at artificially boosting an influencer’s perceived popularity and reach. This can involve a spectrum of malpractices, but let’s delve into the most common ones:

  • Buying fake followers. Perhaps the most rampant form of influencer fraud, this involves purchasing followers, often bots or inactive accounts, to inflate an influencer’s follower count. These numbers might look impressive on the surface but delve a bit deeper, and the lack of genuine engagement becomes evident.
  • Fake likes and comments. Similar to buying followers, some influencers resort to purchasing likes and comments to show heightened engagement on their posts. This creates an illusion of a highly engaged audience, but in reality, these interactions lack substance and relevance.
  • Engagement rings. This is a more covert form of influencer fraud. Engagement rings are groups of influencers or users who collaborate to like, comment on, and share each other’s content. The intention? To artificially boost engagement metrics. While it may seem like genuine interaction, it’s a choreographed dance of reciprocity, devoid of genuine audience engagement.


The allure of influencer marketing is clear: it promises brands direct access to niche audiences, genuine recommendations, and authentic engagement. But what happens when the foundation of this promise, authenticity, is shaken by influencer fraud? The repercussions are manifold:

  • Impact on ROI (Return on Investment). Brands collaborate with influencers anticipating a certain return, whether it’s increased brand awareness, sales, or audience engagement. Influencer fraud skews these expectations. Money spent on influencers with fake followers or engagement doesn’t translate into real results, leading to a diminished ROI.
  • Brand reputation risks. An association with a fraudulent influencer can be detrimental. Consumers value authenticity. When they realize an influencer associated with a brand is deceptive, it can lead to skepticism not just towards the influencer, but the brand as well. This can tarnish a brand’s image and erode trust among its audience.
  • Undermining the credibility of genuine influencers. Not all influencers indulge in deceptive tactics. Many have cultivated genuine audiences over years of hard work and authentic content creation. However, the actions of a few fraudulent influencers cast a shadow over the entire community. Brands, wary of being duped, might become overly cautious or skeptical, even when dealing with genuine influencers. This increased scrutiny can make collaborations challenging and can even deter brands from leveraging influencer marketing altogether.

Influencer fraud doesn’t just impact individual campaigns; it threatens the very fabric of influencer marketing. In an industry built on trust and authenticity, deceptive practices can have long-lasting repercussions, making it imperative for brands to stay vigilant and informed.


To ensure that your investments in influencer marketing are well-placed, it’s essential to recognize the signs of influencer fraud:

  • Rapid, unexplained spikes in follower counts. Organic growth is generally gradual, built over time through consistent content and authentic engagement. If you observe a sudden and unexplained surge in an influencer’s follower count, it might be a red flag. Such spikes often indicate the purchase of fake followers. It’s advisable to analyze an influencer’s growth pattern over a period to ascertain its legitimacy.
  • Inconsistent engagement rates. Authentic influencers generally maintain a consistent engagement rate, which is the ratio of likes, comments, and shares to their total follower count. If an influencer has a high number of followers but negligible engagement or vice versa, it might indicate foul play. Similarly, if their engagement fluctuates wildly from post to post without any apparent reason (like a viral post), it’s a cause for concern.
A formula to help you calculate YouTube engagement rate

A formula to help you calculate YouTube engagement rate

  • Comments lacking relevance or seeming generic. Authentic engagement is characterized by relevant, diverse, and personalized interactions. If you scroll through an influencer’s comments and find a majority of them to be generic (“Great post!”, “Love this!”) or irrelevant to the content, it’s a potential sign of purchased comments or engagement rings.
  • High follower count from unrelated regions or generic profiles. An influencer’s audience demographics should align with their niche and content. For instance, a US-based beauty influencer having a significant percentage of followers from unrelated regions could be suspicious. Furthermore, if you spot a large number of followers with generic, scanty profiles (no profile picture, zero posts, or a generic bio), it might indicate the presence of bot followers.

While influencer marketing presents a world of opportunities for brands, it’s crucial to approach it with an analytical mindset. Recognizing the signs of influencer fraud can save brands from potential pitfalls and ensure that their marketing efforts yield genuine, impactful results. At Famesters, we always pre-screen each influencer we present to our clients. Our influencer lists are selections of relevant, reliable, and trustworthy content creators, as we thoroughly examine their accounts, audiences, and content.

Technology, particularly AI, is our ally in this battle against deceit. With the power to scan millions of data points, AI can spot irregularities and patterns that might go unnoticed by the human eye. Famesters utilizes AI-powered tools to dissect and analyze influencer profiles, ensuring brands collaborate with genuine partners.


Brands encounter various challenges that can impact the effectiveness and authenticity of their campaigns. Fortunately, with technological advancements and a strategic approach, these challenges can be mitigated. Here’s a deep dive into some prevalent challenges and the solutions to address them:

Addressing fake engagement using AI tools

Challenge: One of the most pressing issues in influencer marketing is fake engagement, where influencers artificially boost their metrics through likes, comments, and followers, often acquired from bot farms or other deceptive means. This falsely elevates their influence, leading brands to make investments that don’t translate to genuine engagement.

Solution: Advanced AI-powered tools like BuzzGuru have emerged as a formidable weapon against fake engagement. BuzzGuru can help you detect irregular engagement patterns, differentiate genuine interactions from bot-generated ones, and statistically link suspicious activities to known sources of fraud. The Famesters agency has pioneered the use of such technology to safeguard your campaigns from inauthentic influencers.

The importance of influencer due diligence

Challenge: Merely looking at numbers isn’t enough. An influencer’s past activities, collaborations, content consistency, and true engagement rates are vital indicators of their authenticity and relevance to a brand’s campaign.

Solution: Before partnering, it’s imperative for brands to conduct comprehensive due diligence. Analyze the influencer’s past collaborations to check for consistency and alignment with their niche. Review their content over time to ensure they resonate with their claimed audience. Furthermore, evaluating their genuine engagement rates (likes, comments, shares) in relation to their follower count provides insights into their true influence.

Effective methods to measure ROI and campaign impact

Challenge: Investing in influencer marketing without a clear mechanism to measure the return can be a leap in the dark. Traditional metrics may not always capture the real impact and ROI of influencer collaborations.

Solution: You should incorporate a combination of quantitative and qualitative metrics, as we do at Famesters. Quantitative metrics include tracking codes, affiliate links, and direct sales from influencer-promoted content. On the qualitative side, sentiment analysis can measure audience reception, and brand awareness surveys can assess the influencer’s impact on audience perception. Together, these tools offer a holistic view of an influencer campaign’s success, allowing brands to adjust strategies and maximize ROI.


Before diving into a collaboration, you should prioritize thorough vetting of influencers. This involves reviewing their content history, engagement rates, and consistency. Authentic influencers typically have a history of genuine interaction with their audience, and their content aligns with the brand’s values and message.

Engage in direct conversations with potential influencers to understand their audience demographics. Platforms like Instagram offer insights such as audience age, gender, and geographical distribution. Moreover, genuine influencers often have personal anecdotes or stories about their audience interactions, indicating a real bond.

Tips for brands to self-audit influencers

  • Engagement ratio analysis. Compare the number of followers to engagement rates. Extremely high follower counts with low engagement can be a red flag.
  • Audience geography. A U.S.-based influencer with a majority of followers from unrelated regions might be suspicious.
  • Content review. Authentic influencers often have a blend of sponsored and non-sponsored content, revealing genuine passion for their niche.
  • Feedback and reviews. Look for feedback from other brands or agencies that have collaborated with the influencer. At Famesters, we have exclusive relationships with some influencers and are always ready to share previous experiences of working with them.
  • Consistency check. Genuine influencers maintain consistency in posting and engagement.


Here are the steps brands can take to protect themselves from influencer fraud:

  • Use technology. Leverage AI and advanced analytics to spot irregularities in influencer metrics.
  • Contracts. Clearly outline expectations, deliverables, and terms of collaboration to avoid misunderstandings.

Read more on the topic: How to write an agreement for an influencer marketing campaign

  • Pilot collaborations. Before a full-fledged campaign, test the waters with a smaller collaboration to gauge authenticity and effectiveness.
  • Third-party vetting. Contact Femsters — our experts specialize in influencer vetting.


Influencer marketing, with its profound reach and potential for genuine engagement, is undeniably a game-changer in the digital era. However, as with any powerful tool, it comes with challenges that require brands to be proactive, discerning, and vigilant. Influencer fraud, while a significant concern, can be effectively mitigated with the right strategies, tools, and expertise.

If you prioritize authenticity, leverage technology, and make informed decisions, you will not only protect your investments but also unlock the transformative potential of influencer collaborations. But, navigating the complex terrains of influencer marketing need not be a solo endeavor.

Are you looking to ensure your brand’s influencer campaigns are anchored in authenticity and deliver genuine ROI? Don’t leave it to chance. Reach out to Famesters: our experts who specialize in fraud detection and influencer vetting, and ensure your marketing campaigns are built on trust and real engagement. Let us guide your path to influencer marketing success.

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