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5 Tips for Fighting Brand Impersonation Online

By: Adiba Ashraf | 5 mins read |

We live in an era where people can’t be apart from social media for too long. We access these platforms to engage with friends and family, learn about what’s happening in the world, and shop. 

Social media has become an irreplaceable marketing channel but it comes with risks such as fraud and impersonation, which means it’s paramount for brands to be vigilant and safeguard their reputation to maintain consumer trust.

Of all challenges that companies face, brand impersonation becomes a big hurdle in social media marketing.

What is brand impersonation?

Brand impersonation, or brand spoofing, is a type of phishing cyber attack where fraudsters,  scammers, and hackers falsely portray themselves as a well-known brand or its representatives. Here are a few of the most common goals for scammers impersonating a brand:

  • Alter public opinion
  • Affect stock prices
  • Spread misinformation
  • Trick people into revealing sensitive or confidential information
  • Solicit fraudulent or illicit activity

One of the most effective ways for online scammers to reach their victims is through social media. Last year, Facebook alone took down almost 6 billion fake accounts! And when these fake accounts impersonate your brand, it can wipe off billions of dollars from your market cap and cause massive reputational damage that can take years to rebuild.

Impostors use various methods to trick people. Some send promotional codes to consumers, which later turn out to be malware. There are also cases where brand impostors made false hiring announcements to scam hopeful job seekers. Others will DM consumers saying they won a contest and that to accept the prize, they need to provide their banking info.

Big brands aren't the only targets of online impersonation because fraudsters can create fake accounts for any type of entity or business. Below are some useful tips to protect your company's brand from impersonation attacks.

5 ways to protect your brand against online impersonation 

The following strategies are some of the most effective ways brands can fight fake accounts and impersonation online. 

1. Train your employees

Human error still reigns as the biggest security risk for brands. So, training your employees on cybersecurity best practices is necessary to safeguard not only your brand identity but also your reputation.

Many companies hold regular cybersecurity seminars to keep employees informed on policy updates, common types of phishing attacks, and the latest news and tips for staying safe online. Also, ensure that every employee knows that they should quickly inform their supervisors if they notice any fake brand profiles or if their company accounts have been compromised. 

By having employees keep an eye out for fake accounts and suspicious activity, they become another integral part of your brand’s reputation protection strategy. 

2. Make your customers aware

Brands can help protect consumers by educating them on the risks of fake social media accounts. The simplest thing to do is to list all corporate social accounts on your official website with links and then urge your employees and customers to only interact with those listed accounts.

Be sure that your customers are well-informed about the potential risks of disclosing personal information or banking details unless they are confident they are dealing with your company. You could even take a page from the financial industry and clarify that your company will never ask for their password or personal information through email or text.

Spread this information as far as possible in different formats that are optimized for the platform such as an infographic carousel on Instagram or a short video on TikTok. Besides protecting your consumers, you will boost your company's reputation by showing them you take cybersecurity seriously through high-quality educational content.

3. Register your trademarks and copyrights

If you haven’t yet, your brand needs to protect its intellectual property (IP) with the applicable copyright or trademark. This includes your brand name, logo, tagline, slogan, product or service names, and other critical components of your brand identity because it gives you a huge advantage if you need to take legal action against the fraudsters.

Keep in mind that every country has different trademark and copyright laws and the costs of registration vary per location. Therefore, it's best to check with your legal team how much it might cost your company if you do get caught up in an impersonation lawsuit.

4. Own your online presence

If your brand isn’t on social media already, you’re making it so much easier for impostors to impersonate you. Establishing social media accounts on key platforms is non-negotiable, so find out which platforms are most popular with your audience and make sure you’re active on there.

For instance, create Instagram and TikTok accounts if you target a younger audience because Gen Z loves these platforms for their emphasis on audiovisual content. They also love YouTube as 96% of Gen Z users have a YouTube account.

However, simply existing on these platforms isn't enough. Customers may not believe your account's authenticity if you aren’t actively posting, so make sure to produce content on a regular basis to establish your presence online. 

Encouraging employees to create content on their own accounts is another smart way to build your company’s online presence. Teach your employees how to produce employee-generated content (EGC) that flaunts your brand’s values and corporate culture. In a positive light, of course.

5. Automate social media monitoring

Billions of users are active across various social media platforms. Experts encourage brands to regularly monitor social media across platforms to actively locate and take down fraudsters. With the right tools and automation, brands can respond to impostors and prevent reputational damage in a timely manner. 

Detecting fake accounts just got easier

Viral Nation_Secure™ has introduced a new Impersonation Detection capability that proactively scans major social media platforms to identify fake brand accounts. The Impersonation Detection solution reports the number of impostors on every major social platform and allows the brand to initiate takedown requests for those accounts.

This solution is super easy to use; enter keywords, images, and account handles associated with your brand to start running a scan. You can also type in specific URLs you don't want to include in the scan, preventing your actual website and other brand-related landing pages from getting flagged as impersonators.

The seamless integration with Viral Nation_Secure™ allows you to generate reports quickly and submit takedown requests directly from the platform.

High-profile examples of brand impersonations 

Impersonations of big brands aren't new. Here are two recent examples that show the serious consequences of online impersonation:

Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly found out the hard way after a fake Twitter account posing as the company (complete with a blue checkmark) falsely claimed that it would distribute insulin for free. While the post was removed within hours, Eli Lilly's stock price plunged the next day

Gaming companies Nintendo and Valve have also fallen victim to brand impersonation on Twitter, with fake accounts making false claims about new game releases, which caused major disappointment for excited fans.

Safeguard your brand identity with Viral Nation_Secure™ 

Viral Nation_Secure™ is the most advanced AI-powered social media monitoring and screening solution. Effortlessly scale content moderation and protect your brand reputation online.

Proprietary AI technology scans social media content for inappropriate language or content in any account, analyzing audience sentiments in text, audio and video formats. In addition to impersonation detection, it can alert you to potential copyright infringement in social posts, and continuously monitor multiple profiles of anyone representing your brand or associated with it, such as influencers and employees, across major platforms. 

Check out our latest press release for more information on Viral Nation_Secure™’s new Impersonation Detection feature.