Online brand impersonation protection safeguards your brand by detecting and removing fake social accounts, domains, sites, and apps.
Wiser Market’s technology and experts provide brand protection and combat impersonation attempts so you can focus on growing your business.
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What is brand impersonation
When a third party impersonates a brand, it attempts to use its identity for malicious purposes.
In other words, brand impersonation is about pretending to be someone you are not for your advantage.
The objective is usually money, but brand impersonation can also be carried out to damage brand reputation, harass or intimidate.
Brand impersonation infringes on intellectual property rights, such as trademarks and copyrights.
Exceptions include fan accounts, criticism, parody, information pages that create legitimate accounts, and more.
Brands and organizations may not be aware of impersonation attacks until they suffer significant damage.
Examples of online brand impersonation
Online brand impersonation is becoming more common, which means it is working well for criminals. Brands, on their part, should stay vigilant and stop online brand impersonation in its various forms:
Social media impersonation
Social media impersonation happens when a third party creates an account that uses brand information, such as name or image, without authorization.
They can do it by copying information or hacking into the account, and there may be multiple attacks happening at the same time.
Knowing that this is happening is the essential first step so you can begin takedown actions.
However, it is not always easy to uncover, like when the impersonating account exploits your brand’s logo or images without using its name.
Domain impersonation – Website impersonation
Website impersonation, which has become increasingly automated and more common, happens when a third party creates a website that looks like someone else’s site.
When the website looks authentic, customers are quicker to put their faith in it, and the malicious attack is more likely to be successful.
Attackers usually seek monetary gain: get customers to buy their counterfeit products, convince customers to purchase products but never intending to send them, or exploit customer data.
Fake pages with fake products often get to customers through online advertising that redirects consumers to a fake website where the transaction takes place.
Unsuspecting customers believe the lookalike website with the misleading domain name belongs to your business, and so it damages sales, brand loyalty, consumer trust and your brand reputation.
One way to perform website impersonation is Cybersquatting.
This illicit practice involves a third party who purchases domain names just because of someone else’s brand name or trademark.
Cybersquatters get the chance to take over domains in instances when the brand did not claim them or when it unintentionally lets it expire.
For example, a brand owns brand.com but no other TLDs, such as brand.co.fr. or brand.net.
In other cases, cybercriminals register domain names and add a word that makes the name variant confusingly similar and credible (like adding to brand.com and making it brand-us.com).
Sometimes cybersquatters try to sell the domain name back to the brand and make a profit.
Other times they use it to gain traffic from customers who attempt to reach the original website, where they can deceive shoppers into purchasing counterfeits.
Another way for website impersonation is typosquatting.
Also known as URL hijacking, typosquatting refers to a third party who purposely purchases domain names only one typo away from a legitimate brand name and profits from unintentional errors.
The most common causes for typos are:
- A typo in the domain name, such as adding or omitting a character (typing goggle.com rather than google.com).
- Misspelling, especially of confusing spellings (for example, yves saint lauren instead of saint laurent).
- TLD typos, where typosquatters register an identical domain name with a confusingly similar TLD (such as .cm which stands for Cameroon instead of .com).
Customers who unknowingly reach a lookalike website may end up purchasing a counterfeit while at the same time disclosing their personal and financial information.
Harmful as it may be, since they are not using the company trademarked name, it may not be easy to take them down.
Domain spoofing happens when a fraudster uses a brand’s website URL to convince consumers he is the trusted brand or business.
Using the target domain, he can create fake websites or email addresses that appear legitimate.
In most cases, the purpose is to get sensitive financial information, like credit card numbers.
Fake apps are essentially similar to fake websites: criminals copy the original app and dupe people into downloading it.
They often copy the app code, delete tools like tracking and advertising, and publish it with their own details, particularly monetization information that enables them to make money off the app.
Once the app is installed on unsuspecting mobile phones, cybercriminals can gain personal and financial information, sell ads, receive payments for purchases, or otherwise carry out malicious attacks.
No brand wants to be associated with app impersonation.
Phishing scams involve cybercriminals impersonating a brand in order to deceive customers into giving sensitive information or data, often using spoofing techniques.
Most phishing emails involving brands include emails that appear to be sent from a legitimate business but contain a link to a phishing site (that looks like the real thing but is a lookalike used to steal your information) or malware that the customer unknowingly downloads once he clicks the email.
The email may also ask you to update or verify personal information.
According to the FBI, phishing has evolved to create variations, including vishing, smishing and pharming.
Cybercriminals carry out impersonation attacks using different methods and tools.
To impersonate a brand, they can use brand intellectual property, from logos to images and listings to posts, hashtags and more.
Brands with no presence on a social media platform seem easier to impersonate.
However, bad actors also target brands with a significant online presence and following, so they can reach a large audience.
Attackers can also pretend to be the customer service team. Another way is to launch appealing campaigns, such as sales events and raffles.
Highly sophisticated cybercriminals sometimes carry out the most aggressive campaigns in the days after creating a bogus account, when it is active but still less visible on search results.
How to protect my brand from online impersonation
* Register Intellectual Property Rights – Registered intellectual property (IP) rights give you the exclusive right to use them.
Apply for registration of your name, symbol, and/or logo as a trademark.
When applicable, register copyrights, patents, and generally all your IP assets. As intellectual property is territorial, it is essential to register your IP in the locations where you manufacture and sell your products, as well as in China.
* Use defensive domain registration – Registration mitigates the chances of domain name abuse. Be sure to own popular TLDs so you can block others from using them.
* Always monitor – Perform searches to detect and analyze impersonation attacks so you can act against impersonation but avoid false positives. Time is of the essence because it does not take a lot of time to create significant damage.
* Monitor broadly – Search not only for your brand name but variations of it, such as misspellings and hashtags.
Also, use logo recognition and other distinctive brand imaging. To best monitor the immense online landscape, technology is the solution. Wiser Market’s technology can identify brand logos, so even if a fraudulent account does not have your brand’s name, it can flag the infringing content.
* Create a brand protection strategy that creates an online brand protection shield.
Legal action is both expensive and time-consuming. Online brand protection agencies offer a solution that is technology-based and best combats online threats.
Wiser Market – protection from brand impersonation
Brand impersonation takes various forms, from promoting counterfeits to stealing financial information.
There is no one-solution-fits-all and so it is essential to have a partner with the expertise to devise an online brand protection strategy and carry it out.
Without it, brands risk loss of sales, diverted traffic, and damage to reputation and consumer trust.
Wiser Market’s proactive online brand protection strategy uses technology to create an efficient and scalable brand protection solution.
Advanced tech and expertise ensure the successful removal of online brand infringements so you gain control of your brand online and protect what’s yours.
At Wiser Market, we believe in proactive brand protection.
Our superb brand protection services, from detection through analyzing to enforcing takedown actions, result in over a 90% success rate.
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WiserTip: The heavy burden of identifying brand abuse lies with the brands. Want the problem solved? Stay on top of it, and always be proactive.
What is the difference between individual and brand impersonation?
Brand impersonation is an attempt to use the identity of a brand or organization for malicious purposes (such as to sell counterfeit goods).
Impersonating a brand or organization is not the same as impersonating a person.
Fraudsters use individual impersonation to make money (such as contacting the victim’s family to ask for money or get a loan in their name) or hurt someone (for example, by posting embarrassing material).
What is online brand protection?
Online brand protection services counter online threats and protect your intellectual property assets.
Whether you wish to fight counterfeiting, protect your domain name, prevent trademark, copyright and brand infringements or combat gray market selling and knockoffs, use Wiser Market’s online brand protection services.
Effective online brand protection protects your brand’s revenue, profitability, reputation, customer service and brand trust and loyalty.
How does website impersonation impact brands?
- Profit loss – With online traffic diverted from your legitimate website to illicit websites, you lose sales and profits. Sales lost to counterfeits result in damage to consumer trust, which attributes to a loss of profit.
- Damage to brand reputation – When unsuspecting customers are duped by illicit websites that claim to be you, their poor customer experience hurts your brand reputation. They may also share this experience with others, such as through online customer reviews.
- Less visibility – Criminals who engage in brand impersonation can use the same marketing techniques as the genuine brand, like paid ads. They are also more likely to use other means to divert web traffic to their fake business. These tactics can lead to less visibility for your brand on search results.