Individuals across Vietnam are eagerly seeking out ways to have their Facebook accounts verified in order to promote themselves or their brands.
Facebook account verifications are booming in Vietnam, with dozens of services popping up to help individuals meet the criteria for verification on the social media platform.
K., a well-known expert in the communications industry, had spent years attempting to get his Facebook account verified to no avail before seeking out a service that claimed to help users get Facebook’s famed blue checkmark next to their names.
“Since I was acquaintances [with the people who ran the service], I only paid VND15 million (US$638). They got my account verified in just two weeks,” K. said.
As demand for these services increases, so does the number of providers, with many claiming a 95 percent success rate in getting accounts verified and others promising lifetime guarantees and full refunds if they can’t get an account verified.
The cost of these services ranges from VND20 million to VND200 million ($845 to $8,445), depending on the status of a customer’s account.
Thanh Binh, a social media expert who works for a Ho Chi Minh City-based Facebook account verification service, explained that the ease of getting someone verified is completely dependent on a user’s number of followers, interactions, popularity, and the number of articles written about the users.
The price a service charges a customer is totally dependent on these factors.
"The biggest cost is for the articles that need to be published about an account holder because it usually takes six to 12 articles," Binh explained.
"Increasing the number of followers and meeting other criteria also effect the cost, so customers are charged on a case-by-case basis.”
According to Binh, it is easiest to get accounts verified for celebrities because they typically already meet most of the criteria.
"In other cases, it costs between VND20 million and VND200 million," Binh said.
|The demand for Facebook verification has also led to scammers posing as verification services. Photo: Tu Trung / Tuoi Tre
A grey market for blue checkmarks
A google search for these “blue tick services” pulled nearly over 105 million results, illustrating just how large the market has become.
According to D., who works for one such service, many of these verification companies work under sales-based commission model, with salespeople attempting to rein in customers by promotion and advertising services.
"For each successful contract, a low-level salesperson can earn VND5-10 million ($212-424)," D. explained, adding that he himself averages three customers per week, with each contract ranging from VND100 - 200 million ($4,248 - 8,496).
"If everything goes well, my monthly profit sits between VND600 million ($25,488) and VND1 billion ($42,480)," he said.
With such huge profits, it’s no surprise that dozens of these services now exist across Vietnam.
Of course, it’s also no surprise that Facebook has begun scrutinizing verified accounts and, occasionally, revoking such verifications, leaving users who paid a big sum for such services.
Exploiting the market
The demand for Facebook verification has also led to scammers posing as verification services.
Phan Van Tri, a resident of Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, was recently charged by the Binh Thanh District police with "using a computer network, telecommunication network, and electronic devices to appropriate the assets of others."
Posing as an account verification service, Tri and his accomplices would ask victims to provide personal information such as the name of the account, password, email address, and a photo of an ID, claiming these were all necessary for the verification process.
Using this information, Tri and his accomplices would log into a victim’s account and send messages to the account’s friends asking to borrow money.
Their operation was so sophisticated that they could even use tools to impersonate the holder and make video calls to the victim’s Facebook friends.
Then, using the victim’s personal information, the group would open bank accounts with similar names to the victim so that the victim’s Facebook friends wouldn’t suspect the scam when they transferred money.
Binh Thanh District police claimed that at least 20 individuals had fallen victim to Tri and his accomplices.
An investigation into the case is ongoing.