The Many Faces of Link Fraud

Neil Shah, Hemank Lamba, Alex Beutel, Christos Faloutsos

Most past work on social network link fraud detection tries to separate genuine users from fraudsters, implicitly assuming that there is only one type of fraudulent behavior. But is this assumption true? And, in either case, what are the characteristics of such fraudulent behaviors? In this work, we set up honeypots ("dummy" social network accounts), and buy fake followers (after careful IRB approval). We report the signs of such behaviors including oddities in local network connectivity, account attributes, and similarities and differences across fraud providers. Most valuably, we discover and characterize several types of fraud behaviors. We discuss how to leverage our insights in practice by engineering strongly performing entropy-based features and demonstrating high classification accuracy. Our contributions are (a) instrumentation: we detail our experimental setup and carefully engineered data collection process to scrape Twitter data while respecting API rate-limits, (b) observations on fraud multimodality: we analyze our honeypot fraudster ecosystem and give surprising insights into the multifaceted behaviors of these fraudster types, and (c) features: we propose novel features that give strong (>0.95 precision/recall) discriminative power on ground-truth Twitter data.

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