Report: Online Content Abuse Increases 109 Percent, Fueling Fraud Supply Chain

New Digital Trust & Safety Index from Sift Uncovers Fraud Ring Using Fake Listings on E-Commerce Marketplaces

San Francisco, California, UNITED STATES

SAN FRANCISCO, July 08, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Sift, the leader in Digital Trust & Safety, today released its Q2 2020 Digital Trust & Safety Index, which focuses on content abuse and the fraud economy. Derived from Sift’s global network of 34,000 sites and apps, as well as a survey of over 1,000 consumers conducted in June 2020, the research details how content abuse is a critical part of the fraud supply chain, the interconnected ecosystem of fraud. One of the most jarring findings includes the discovery of a fraud ring based in Russia where fraudsters executed a card-testing scheme through fake listings on an e-commerce marketplace.

Counterfeit content has played a role in e-commerce for as long as digital businesses have existed. Scams, spam, fake reviews, and misinformation have evolved in tandem with online shopping, discussion forums, and social networks. The Q2 Digital Trust & Safety Index demonstrates that content abuse has surged in 2020 in particular, with attempted scam and spam postings increasing 109% between January and May 2020 year-over-year. This increase is likely connected to the global disruption caused by the coronavirus as fraudsters have used content to deceive and exploit consumers on e-commerce sites and online communities.

Introducing Fraud Supply Chain

The report outlines how content abuse is not merely a standalone threat but a type of cybercriminal behavior that acts as both a springboard for, and a bridge between, account takeover and payment fraud, contributing to what Sift calls the fraud supply chain.

“Fraud doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” said Jason Tan, CEO of Sift. “Our latest report illustrates how cybercriminals use different attack vectors to steal from consumers and businesses, often through more complex ways than merely buying stolen credit cards to make large purchases. Merchants must adopt a Digital Trust & Safety strategy to protect across the entire user journey and combat the fraud supply chain, which will in turn help them protect and grow revenue.”

Uncovering A Card-Testing Fraud Ring

One of the more covert ways content abuse fits into the fraud supply chain involves card testing, which takes place after login information, gift card details, or payment data has been stolen or bought. In fact, Sift’s Data Science team identified precisely this type of operation in early June 2020.

A group of 15 fraudsters in Russia with identical IP addresses (a fraud ring), who Sift has named Bargain Bear, worked together to test dozens of credit cards and digital wallets by posting fraudulent content listings on an e-commerce marketplace. Using these fake listings, they sold items to each other in order to vet stolen data, “negotiating” the costs of those items down so that the exchanges appeared more legitimate. This allowed Bargain Bear to test payment information in order to make much larger purchases thereafter. The attempted scam also sought to bolster the fraud ring’s legitimacy on the marketplace by having the “buyer” post positive, yet fake, reviews.

In addition to details on the newly discovered fraud ring, the Digital Trust & Safety Index reveals:

  • Content fraud decimates brand loyalty. Content abuse is typically financially motivated, with content designed to facilitate scams making up nearly half of the attacks blocked. 56% of consumers surveyed reported that if they discovered that their personal information had been exposed as a result of a scam on a website, they would stop using the site or service and choose a different provider.             
  • Amid pandemic, content scammers took aim at ticketing sites. The ticketing and events space was hit the hardest by attempted content abuse since the start of the year, while also experiencing record drops in event volume (down 84% from April 2019) as large gatherings of any kind became impossible – indicating that fraudsters have maintained their focus on businesses struggling amid the pandemic.
  • Consumers are aware of fake content and its consequences. 67% of those surveyed believe they come across some type of fraudulent content or false information on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, and 94% of them deem content to be suspicious based on conspicuous factors: pie-in-the-sky promises, multiple typos or grammatical errors, outlandish claims, or a lack of identity information from the person posting it.

The Sift Digital Trust & Safety Index gives online merchants visibility into the covert economics that impact business—along with industry expertise to help businesses protect their customers without losing money or momentum.

The full Sift Q2 2020 Digital Trust & Safety Index can be found here.

About Sift
Sift is the leader in Digital Trust & Safety, empowering digital disruptors to Fortune 500 companies to unlock new revenue without risk. Sift dynamically prevents fraud and abuse through industry-leading technology and expertise, an unrivaled global data network of 35 billion events per month, and a commitment to long-term customer partnerships. Global brands such as Twitter, Airbnb, and Twilio rely on Sift to gain a competitive advantage in their markets. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @GetSift.

Media Contact
Victor White
Director of Corporate Communications, Sift

Photos accompanying this announcement are available at:

Sift_Q2-Digital Trust & Safety Index_FINAL (1) Sift_Q2-Digital Trust & Safety Index_FINAL (2)