Like Twitter’s blue checkmark and Weibo’s “V,” popular mobile messaging app WeChat has its own special symbol to distinguish the official account of a brand or celebrity—the only problem is, that verification has been cropping up on way more accounts than just the real ones for top luxury brand searches.
According to a recent report on Asia tech blog Tech In Asia, a multitude of resellers and fake brand accounts are getting their hands on a yellow check symbol marking their profile as “verified”—often leaving the real ones buried far down on the search list.
The surest way to access a brand’s official WeChat account is via scanning QR codes available in retail stores or promotional posters. Users can also do a manual search within the app itself for the brand. However, this method often pulls up multiple results bearing WeChat’s verified account label, defeating the label’s purpose of demarcating official from fan accounts.
According to Tech In Asia, a search for popular luxury brand Louis Vuitton alone on the app pulled up more than 100 accounts with that name, with many of them bearing WeChat’s label of verification. Tech In Asia reports that after their article was published, the fake Louis Vuitton accounts included in the story have been taken down, but fake verified accounts for Starbucks and other luxury brands remain. In fact, a cursory search for some of the most popular luxury brands in China shows that Hermès yields 49 results with 20 verified accounts, Gucci returns 21 results and five verified accounts, and Prada brings up 15 results and five verified accounts.
These fake accounts are not only using the brands’ official logos, but several without WeChat’s verification resort to creative means to appear more convincing—some accounts are embedding an image of WeChat’s yellow checkmark in the profile pictures. The accounts can appear almost indistinguishable from actual verified accounts.
However, not all accounts are spammers—Chinese electronics maker Haier has multiple presences on WeChat, and while some seem to be spam accounts, some are related to individual products and others are corporate resellers. Nearly all of them have the yellow badge of authenticity.
When Tech In Asia reached out to WeChat’s parent company Tencent for comments, a representative replied, “We highly respect intellectual property rights, and have put in place an ongoing initiative to protect the IP rights of brands using [WeChat] platform in China.” This initiative includes measures to take down official accounts that use fake verification marks or fail to provide valid business registration licenses for verification. The representative said that Tencent will respond better with their take-down policy regarding the “report” button provided on every official account, where in some cases an account could be taken within 24 hours.