This article is originally published on the blog of Communiqué PR, EloQ’s fellow member in the Public Relations Network (PRN). As social media usage continues to grow in Vietnam, brand impersonation has become a problem. This article will outline how brands can proactive tackle this issue to protect themselves and their consumers.
As the saying goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” But when it comes to your brand, imitation (or rather, impersonation) can cause serious damage.
What is Social Media Impersonation?
Impersonation in social networks is when accounts use the name, image or other identifying elements of an individual, company or organization for fraudulent purposes. They are not to be confused with legitimate pages like those for fan accounts, parodies or criticism.
There are many different types of impersonation, ranging from phishing scams that ask for personal information to be sent to a third-party account, to online fraud that tricks consumers into buying illegitimate products.
Impersonators create fake accounts that look like their target brand – complete with copied logos and fake account-validation symbols. It is also common for them to impersonate support or customer service pages or run raffles and promotions. When Apple released the iPhone X, for example, criminals created more than 500 Apple-imposter social media accounts to promote fake iPhone giveaways. Hopeful victims followed a link to a website that secretly stole their credentials, took their payment data, or installed malware on their devices.
Social media impersonators can also embarrass a brand. For example, a bad actor can create a fake account and share misinformation about the company. One such scenario might be if the fraudulent account shares a tweet during a real company crisis and the tweet goes viral. It could confuse customers and damage the brand’s reputation.
How to Mitigate Impersonation on Social Media
Most social media platforms have reporting tools for affected accounts, but the onus is on the user to identify and report any impersonation of them. In this regard, the first step to mitigating impersonation is to be proactive.
Outlined below are three best practices to help protect against social media impersonation:
- Monitoring: Use social monitoring tools to keep tabs on brand mentions and conversations. Report scam accounts when they appear and delete comments on your pages and posts by accounts impersonating your brand.
- Communication: A best practice is to outline a safety policy in customer-facing emails, on your social media accounts, and/or on your website. The policy can state that the company will never contact customers and request login info, payment card info, etc. And if they receive a message along those lines to report it immediately. Lastly, if scammers target your brand, let customers know what to look out for and respond quickly to customer reports of scammers.
- Security: Utilize strong passwords for your brand’s social media accounts. In addition, keep a running list of who has login access and update passwords at a regular cadence.
Fake social media accounts can cause organizations embarrassment, lost customers, damage to reputation and eat away at customer trust. Protecting your brand from impostors requires attention to what’s happening in your communication channels, as well as regular security updates. These efforts are a good way to drive scammers away from your brand in search of easier targets.