You may want to think twice before accepting that friend request or replying to that new friend on Twitter. New research is shedding some light on the growing black market dealing in buying and selling fake social media followers and just what impact it will have on social media.
The reality is that it is extremely easy to buy fake followers.
A recent study by Barracuda Labs found 20 sellers of fake accounts on eBay alone.
The research also found that 58 of the top 100 Google search results for "buy Twitter followers" sold fake followers, 40 percent of which were set up in the past six months.
On average, the cost is surprisingly reasonable, costing around $18 per 1,000 followers.
While this issue is relatively new, it has been in the news more as of late since Facebook announced that 83 million of its accounts were fakes and Mitt Romney's Twitter account began to see large spikes in the number of followers.
"Fake users should be a huge concern to both Facebook and Twitter because of the threat they create to user trust, online security and the overall community feeling of the social networks," said Paul Judge, chief research officer at Barracuda Networks. "This obviously threatens advertising revenue as organizations begin to question the true visibility and reach of their ad campaigns."