New Report Finds Fake News Scams Increased by almost 20% in Q1 2018

Misleading information published online is a growing threat in the US and often connected to cybercrime.

dfndr labs recently released its Q1 2018 Cybersecurity Report analyzing cybercrime trends for the first three months of this year.  According to the report, fake news detections increased by 19.6% from 15.7K detections in Q4 2017 to 18.8K detections in Q1 2018. These stories are harmful in several ways. First, they diminish the credibility of individuals or organizations that re-post and cite them as sources of factual information. Additionally, fake news stories can do irreparable damage to the reputations of businesses and individuals as well cause physical harm to users that contain inaccurate information such as incorrect medical advice. Finally, cyber scams often spread malicious links connected to the articles.


The report found that men were three times as likely to click on a fake news story as women. Males made up 74.8% of fake news detections in Q1 with 14K detections compared to females who made up 25.1% of detections with about 5K detections.

The top two fake news stories detected involved a get-rich-quick scheme working from home and a diet supplement scam.  The first story had 5K detections for a phony work-at-home job taking paid online surveys. The article encouraged readers to click a link to sign up on a fake website to get more information so that they could learn the secret to making money using this method. The second story, involving a bogus weight loss supplement contained malicious links directing users to more information about the product had 2K detections.

Detections By Region

  1. Northeast – 33.3%
  2. Southeast – 26.7%
  3. West – 18.3%
  4. Southwest – 12.8%
  5. Midwest – 8.6%

The Northeast was the region most impacted by malicious links spread through fake news stories in Q1 2018 with 33.3% of the detections. The Southeast came in second with 26.7% of detections followed by the West with 18.3% of detections, the Southwest with 12.8% of detections and finally the Midwest with 8.6% of detections.  The top three states affected by fake news were California with 2.7K Detections, New Jersey with 2.5K detections and New York with 2.0K detections.

Tips for Identifying Fake News

  1. Look beyond the headline
  2. Verify sources
  3. Look for satirical disclaimers
  4. Double check breaking news on Social Media

There are several things you can do to verify whether or not a story is fake news. Start by looking beyond the headline. According to an article published in the New York Times posted last June, a study found that 59% of news stories that had been re-posted on social media hadn’t received any clicks meaning they hadn’t been opened or read. The stories were shared solely based on information contained in their headlines.  

Second, look for quotes by experts or individuals with firsthand information who were directly involved in the story.  Information presented should be easily verifiable online with a little research. Fake bloggers and news writers will often include links as reference material.  It’s a good idea to double check to make sure that these sources back up the writer’s claims.

Satirical websites that look like legitimate news agencies are becoming increasingly more common. Often, they have credible sounding names and their sources sound believable. Look for fine-print disclaimers identifying websites and stories as satirical or for entertainment only.  Additionally, doing some research on the site publishing the article can help reveal its legitimacy.

Finally, double check breaking news being spread quickly on social media. Well-intentioned users often want to be the first to share a juicy story causing it to spread like wildfire. It is always a good idea to fact-check using the websites of legitimate news agencies or to see if local radio or television stations are carrying the story before reposting it.

Staying Protected

1) The best method to protect yourself from becoming a victim of an online scam is to fact check information such as news, job opportunities, contests, and promotions before sharing it on social media. Remember, cybercriminals often create spoofed offers and websites from well known and trusted brands.

2) Always protect your mobile device with reputable security software. dfndr security provides features such as anti-phishing that alerts users to malicious links received through SMS, emails or messenger apps before you click them.

3) Finally, you can also use the dfndr lab page verification tool at to verify suspicious URLs.