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Cybersquatting & Typosquatting: Where Does The Web Identity Theft End?

This is the 21st Century, the era where a person could very erroneously type a wrong letter in a URL and end up in a rabbit hole of mischievous scams. That’s right. Autocorrect and simply not knowing the right domain extension could lead you into some unfortunate situations that might lead to parting with your hard-earned money.

According to statistics from First Site Guide, as of June 2021, there were 1.86 billion websites registered on the World Wide Web. However, this doesn’t leave a lot to be impressed about since over 1.4 million phishing sites are created every month. It’s mind-boggling to estimate the outrageous number of people falling to these scams and annoying antics every second. Cybercrime is the major disadvantage of the hitch-free methods, incredible ease, and extremely affordability of creating a website today. There’s little to no authenticity assurance (even with the “HTTPS” protocol), the bad has obviously outweighed the good, and of course, we are just getting started.

Rogue websites are one of the many forms of Intellectual Property infringement, where certain individuals or groups may create websites online for various malicious purposes such as selling counterfeits, hijacking brand identities for fraudulent purposes, scamming customers, spamming other websites, and running smear campaigns against individuals and legitimate brands.

Cybersquatting

To understand cybersquatting, imagine a group of kids heading up to summer camp is to share a sleeping hall with bunk beds assigned by name tags. Some of the kids would get to the hall first, occupy their beds and those of others, and then charge other kids $50 each to release corners that already had their names attached. Makes no sense, right?

On a larger and more bothersome scale, cybersquatting involves people occupying domain names of registered trademarks, personal brands, and public figures with the malicious intent to blackmail them into paying for these domains in the future. Other times, the culprits would take over the domains either to drive traffic to another site or to tap into the trademark’s authentic reputation and run scam operations online.

A registered brand may occupy only the .com extension of the domain name, leaving the .net, .org, and everything else unoccupied and vulnerable to online pirates. Many of the world’s top celebrities have been easy victims to these wicked antics. Madonna was forced into a legal battle when a guy named Dan Parisi registered a domain under her name, Madonna.com, and worked off her reputation to create an adult website. Madonna won the court case and had the site handed over to her.

 Jennifer Lopez only runs the .com extension of her name, Jenniferlopez.com, but someone created the .org and .net extensions to coordinate flimsy scams with affiliate links. J.LO battled relentlessly and eventually had the domains handed over to her.

Another variant of cybersquatting is parody sites, where apparently jobless individuals create websites as jokes to mock, mimic, or embarrass a person, brand, or business. It blows out of proportion when the parody starts getting more attention than the actual website and proceeds to spread malignant information or run embarrassing operations.

Cybersquatting has left many businesses unable to reach their full potentials online, losing their claims to domains that promise solid search engine ranking and considerable visibility. For the more malicious cases, it’s also one of the fastest ways to severely damage a brand’s reputation online by registering their trade name and running shameful operations on these sites.

Typosquatting

Typosquatting involves scammers registering the domain names of brands and businesses with highly likely or common spelling errors. This way, they can redirect traffic from the authentic sites and perpetuate all forms of cybercrime and malignant antics. Microwsoft.com, Guccci.com, Adobe33.com, Apple-brand.com, are some of the examples of the alterations that could leave genuine global brands smeared in the mud.

Some of the world’s most famous brands and top companies are daily victims of typosquatting attempts. For example, the number of “Google.com” variants in the world is virtually impossible to keep track of. From misspellings and the inclusion of symbols to number variations and transliteration, Google has an entire department of engineers working to keep these problems at bay. If you erroneously type Googel.com, you’d be redirected to Google.com and this is one excellent way of limiting brand abusers’ access to common misspellings.

Preventing cyber abuse

Just like counterfeiting and other forms of IP rights infringement, cyber abuse doesn’t only affect top-tier brands. Any business or brand with a semblance of an online reputation could be targeted. The abusers would work off your progress, damage your reputation, direct traffic away from your website, and create a mountain of search engine optimization issues. 

Below are a few tips for preventing cyber abuse:

Invest in buying extra domain extensions:

Don’t wait until you become a million-dollar business to buy the .org, .net, .space, .co, .online, and country-specific extensions of your domain name. This is also really helpful in online growth because clicks on these domains could be redirected to your main website to increase traffic, visibility, and sales.

Buy up misspellings as well:

Many business owners might consider this a bit of a paranoid stretch, but you’d appreciate it when your brand takes off massively and infringers start nosing about for inlets. 

Put out public service announcements regularly:

Always make intentional efforts across social media, mainstream media, and anywhere else you might have customers to disclaim any websites bearing your trademark outside your stipulated list of domains. Forewarn your customers and safeguard your reputation.

Do it the AXENCIS way:

Most times, cease-and-desist letters aren’t always an adequate option. At absolutely zero cost to your business, AXENCIS will deploy the smart brand protection plan to restore your reputation and help you reclaim your lost revenue. Our interdisciplinary team of analysts, scientists, and lawyers could pinpoint the location of the abusers and initiate legal actions against them: freezing the accounts, seizing their assets, reclaiming your domains, and securing large payouts for our brand. Read more about cost-free services HERE.

The Doubting Thomas Syndrome: Why Most Business Owners are Caught Off-Guard by Counterfeiting Problems

“Brand protection is an extremely important yet vastly under-regarded step to business building.”

Like COVID-19, counterfeiting is one of those hard-smacking realities that people never believe could happen to them – until it does. It’s one of those things you read about online, skim through in the journals, ignore statistics in the news, and while you accept that it’s quite real and happening to other people, something this awful simply can’t happen to your business.

Well, until you perform a random search of your patented product online and find 1-100 unfamiliar listings across Amazon, Wish, and Etsy. That’s right, a hard-smacking reality. Situations like this are often attributed to a mild/benign psychological affliction – The Doubting Thomas Syndrome, characterized by the need to see, experience, or witness something to believe it.

In this case, many business owners are at major losing ends by being merely reactive to counterfeiting issues. Reports show that at least 85% of genuine businesses are affected by counterfeiting and IP rights infringement in some form, ranging from full-on brand-jacking and trademark theft to nuisances like hashtag abuse. Many small business owners are convinced that piracy only happens to the top brands, the Chanel, Gucci, Microsoft, and Adobe league. Why spend scarce startup funds and unavailable time implementing anti-counterfeiting measures when the problem doesn’t even exist? “Could it even happen to a tiny business like mine?”

Sadly, even a day-old business could fall victim to leeching piracy. Waiting to actually witness infringements on your IP rights is akin to sitting like a duck in a bullet haze. You’d be left to grow a young business with an already soured reputation. One of the many disadvantages of e-commerce globalization is the ease at which anyone can abuse other people’s trademarks from any location in the world and get away with little or no consequences. 

What to expect from an actual counterfeiting case 

Counterfeiting is one of the many forms of intellectual property abuse and it affects only product businesses (physical and software items). By Wikipedia’s definition, counterfeiting is the act of “fraudulently imitating something authentic, with the intent to steal, destroy, or replace the original, for use in illegal transactions, or otherwise to deceive individuals into believing that the fake is of equal or greater value than the real thing.”

Counterfeiting is not the same as copyright infringement – the use of copyrighted works without permission. However, many elements of trademark infringement can be found in counterfeiting. For example, a person creating fake versions of Nike’s Airforces will certainly use the company’s proprietary design and logo, even though the quality would most likely not be as excellent as Nike’s. In this case, a patent has been infringed, the logo has been abused, and a pirated product will be distributed into the online and physical markets to join the millions of Nike fakes already in circulation. If there’s one way to perfectly describe it, counterfeiting is an exhausting plague.

Here’s what to expect:

Exact copies of your products in circulation:

A counterfeiting problem generally implies that someone is recreating and possibly rebranding your product for sale. Most times, they are exact copies of your original ideas and could be so nicely executed that customers would have a hard time spotting the difference without serious inspection. Other times, they could be shameful attempts at recreation and anyone buying them would either know they are fake or accuse your brand of quality reduction.

Unwarranted complaints from customers:

This is one of the major dividends of a smeared reputation. It’s common on social media to find angry customers firing up comment sections of highly reputable businesses for suddenly selling poor-quality items. These comments are considered negative reviews and would certainly deter potential customers from patronizing these brands. Many times, angry customers unknowingly purchase counterfeit items and inevitably, the authentic brand would pay the price for a crime committed against their own business. The irony. 

It gets worse when these counterfeit products are capable of causing harm or fatalities to people. A business could be destroyed entirely when one life is lost from the consumption or use of a product bearing its trademark. In the heat of public outrage, no one would care if it’s counterfeited or not.

A decimated customer pool:

At some point in the counterfeiting cycle, it doesn’t exactly matter if the customers are intentionally buying knock-offs or they are being deceived by the culprits. The result is the same for your business: lower revenues, slashed sales, and a discouraging lack of brand loyalists. Most times, counterfeits are sold at prices far lower than the original, and sadly, for the average consumer in the currently unfavorable world economy, lower prices trump over excellent quality/durability.

Fake pages and websites springing up with your brand’s name:

Counterfeiters also need spaces to advertise their merchandise online. They build authentic-looking or crappy websites, create fake pages across social media, and dozens of listings on e-commerce marketplaces. Essentially, your brand has been hijacked.

Getting proactive

As a business owner, waiting to react to counterfeiting is one of the most counterproductive plans to deploy as a strategy. This only implies that a certain degree of damage would be done to your brand and reputation before you can swing into action. It’s a better approach to have a solid strategy already in place before these problems occur.

Brand protection is an extremely important yet vastly under-regarded step to business building. It involves a series of activities initiated by a business owner to prevent the illegal or unauthorized use or general abuse of their intellectual property. Essentially, it means to safeguard your brand from leeches working to reap off your progress.

At AXENCIS, we offer our clients a chance to protect their business, safeguard their reputation, and reclaim revenue lost to counterfeiting antics. We stand out by working the 21st-century way, running our cutting-edge proprietary software that performs thorough scans for infringement across all major online marketplaces. AXENCIS does not merely stop at taking down fake accounts and infringing listings – we target, pinpoint, and prosecute the culprits, regardless of their location on the globe. We help our clients reclaim lost revenue through the seizure of the culprits’ assets and liquidation of their accounts. This also allows us to provide our services COMPLETELY FREE OF CHARGE as our service costs are covered in this step. Simply put, AXENCIS, provides a loss-proof solution and long-lasting remedy to the counterfeiting nightmare.

$30 iPhones & $40 Richard Mille’s: Here’s why items are insanely cheap on Wish

Red, orange, and some more red flags should go off in your head if you’re spammed on Facebook with a carousel of sophisticated smartphones with prices as low as $20. Where an iPhone X from Apple should normally cost between $320 and $380 from trusted vendors, you could very easily find listings on Wish for about $30 to $50. A $50 brand-new iPhone.

HOW?

This is because a vast majority of the vendors and manufacturers on Wish are located in China, the poster country for counterfeiting and piracy. Chinese manufacturers have the highest production advantage in the world due to a series of national policies and time-evolved strategies to greatly reduce manufacturing and international shipping costs. It’s generally assumed that Chinese producers simply pay less in taxes and wages when compared to other advanced countries. This advantage only contributes partly to the overall scene, where manufacturers in China pay close attention to learning curves and come up with “innovative” ways to slash down overall production costs. The result is inevitable – low-quality products at insanely affordable prices.

While Wish first debuted in 2010 as an American international e-commerce platform, they began to market wholesale and retail merchandise in 2013. While they never planned to be the no. 1 “online dollar store”, extreme affordability for a wide variety of products became the game plan over time. 

While the abnormally low prices could be suspicious, Wish can be compared to Amazon and eBay in terms of user safety. It was named the most downloaded shopping app in 2018 and is now ranked the third-largest e-commerce company in the United States. This means that you can very safely key in your user details, order products, and they’ll be delivered to your doorstep or chosen pickup station.

Wish Infringement: The actual problem

While your products may safely arrive (usually takes forever due to the super-low shipping fees), no one promises they are going to be what you saw on the product listing. Hundreds of user reviews on the site and Quora contain bitter complaints about the abysmal quality of clothes, products not being the same sizes, electronics malfunctioning within a single day of use, and when you order a Gucci bag for $5, don’t get upset when a Versace purse arrives.

Wish prides itself as a company that pays attention to the counterfeiting problem. However, a disclaimer in IP rights protection policy states that “as a passive platform, Wish is not actively involved in the listing, sale or delivery of items offered by its merchants.” A nicer way to say, “We are not responsible”.

While Amazon, eBay, and other top sites also deal with counterfeit products and fake listings, Wish has a more complex bite of the problem because it doesn’t supply as many American and international brands as the other platforms. Also, its niche of the market and stronghold lies in supplying products at heavily discounted prices. The only way to sustain the target market at the beginning was for vendors to offer irresistible low prices directly from their factories without resellers or third-party vendors.

However, this means it also has a strong reputation as the “low expectations” kind of e-commerce website. Generally, for actual Chinese brands and companies, the products are cheap, relatively good and if you’re not buying something with the potential to explode or cause harm, you should be quite satisfied.

However, an illegally disappointing situation blooms when registered international brands are counterfeited relentlessly on Wish. These days, it’s almost as if there’s no filter for these vendors as they sell regularly-priced $100,000 Richard Milles and $1,700 Apple products for as low as $20. Sadly, thousands of customers intentionally seek out popular brands as knock-offs – fully aware of the highly likely inferior quality. You can only hope the item would look a little presentable and last longer than 3 days.

How does Wish protect authentic brands?

Wish reserves the right to remove any listing infringing on legitimately registered IP rights from its platform, without the permission of the vendor. Merchants and brands whose rights and trademarks have been abused can file a report to Wish, providing evidence of infringement and identifying the counterfeited products. Upon verification of the report, Wish may disable the infringer’s access to the products or listings and if the culprit user is a repeat offender, they may be totally banned from the platform forever.

The major problem all e-commerce platforms encounter with counterfeiters is recurrence. The algorithms may be able to ban an IP address from creating more accounts, and some technologies are sophisticated enough to fish out VPN users. Sadly, most counterfeiters operate off several devices and it’s only a matter of time before they pop up again.

Simply put, your brand protection responsibilities remain largely up to you.

At AXENCIS, we provide business owners and anti-counterfeiting managers with a 21-st century inspired solution for tracking, verifying, uprooting, and prosecuting cases of infringement and brand abuse. Where traditional methods mostly stop at removing listings and manually searching online platforms for future pop-ups, AXENCIS offers the smart brand protection solution, where an expert team of investigators deploys our cutting-edge software to constantly scan all major marketplaces online – Amazon, eBay, Wish, Alibaba, Joomla, etc. Following the removal of counterfeit listings, we step up the notch to target, track down, and prosecute the culprits, regardless of their location in the world. Their accounts are frozen and assets seized, allowing us to secure compensating payouts for our clients to reclaim their revenue.

AXENCIS offers all these benefits – and then some – completely free of charge to our clients. ALL our operational costs are covered from a percentage of the culprits’ assets, allowing us to offer the ultimate no-loss solution to relentless counterfeiting. 

As a customer shopping on Wish, here are some tips rules to avoid purchasing disappointing items:

  • Always read product reviews. They are not always truthful or authentic on every platform, but they could be very helpful.
  • The product sizes can be very deceptive – or non-existent. Items are usually smaller than they look in the pictures.
  • Edited pictures make low-quality products appear sophisticated.
  • Pay attention to the seller’s information and Wish ratings.
  • If it’s an obvious fake, don’t go for it. It’s usually not worth the toss of dignity.

Choosing an IP Rights Enforcement Plan – Here’s what to consider

There are far too many possible scenarios through which a brand’s intellectual property rights could be abused or infringed upon. Some are small-scale, possibly negligible, and others may threaten to destroy the growth, progress, and overall success of the business.

For example, a big company running a massive followership on Instagram may have one loyalist set up an unauthorized fan page out of genuine love. The fan page proceeds to garner a considerably large following by reposting content from the brand’s main page. They also never pretend to be the actual owners of the business, sell items, or divert customers. The page was created entirely to promote love and draw attention to the business. However, they are using content without permission, not giving due credits to the original business, and while they are not hurting the brand, this kind of behavior should not be encouraged.

To solve the problem and not lose a solid following of loving fans, the business owners privately send a gently-toned yet firm letter to the fan page’s administrators, instructing them to always credit content to the original brand and also appreciating their efforts at promoting the business. This fan page complies, and the issue is solved.

However, a more problematic situation turns up when a fan page begins to run a side business off the reputation of the main brand. They are selling a wide variety of their own merch designed with the brand’s logos and ideas, running ads on the page, and diverting a significant cut of the customer pool. They’ve become parasitic and would probably cause the business to lose a chunk of revenue.

The problem is solved with the deployment of a full-on brand protection strategy, beginning with the removal or deletion of the page by Instagram, collation of evidence against the page’s administrator, and a prosecution process to secure a compensating payment from the culprit to the original brand.

The cases above are two different IP rights infringement scenarios handled with different scale-suitable strategies. Essentially, you don’t exactly need to bring a gun to a knife fight or vice versa. Coming up with an enforcement or protection plan might be a bit tricky for many entrepreneurs, and so, below are a few considerations to keep in mind.

The nature of the problem

As described above in the example cases, a simple letter could totally solve one infringement case while in another, a full-blown court case spanning through several months would be the only option. It all depends on the nature of the problem – how serious or minor was the infringement on your IP rights? A culprit that’s merely using your brand’s special hashtags and another that’s counterfeiting your merchandise for sale couldn’t possibly be handled with the same approach. The severity of the infringement largely determines what plan to be deployed.

Generally, a product deployment manager, anti-counterfeiting representative, or HR manager –depending on the size of the organization – could work with a legal advisor to draw up notices and cease-and-desist letters for simple cases. On the other hand, a business might have to outsource its entire brand protection department to an external service. For larger businesses with considerable visibility, this is best done before the situation arises or gets out of hand.

Handling within or outsourcing

This decision depends on the size of your business and of course, the nature of any issues that may already be in play. Sometimes, a brand may not exactly have the resources or capability to internally handle or dispel IP rights abuse issues. Consider connecting with a company that specializes in brand protection. For many businesses, this may not be the most budget-friendly or cost-effective plan – outsourcing usually costs a lot of money.

However, at AXENCIS, the smart brand protection plan is deployed by our team of expert investigators using our brand-developed, monitoring and surveillance software to scan all major online marketplaces for infringements. We constantly monitor the web and run background checks on possible infringement cases for verification, prior to the full take-down and prosecution procedures. We also secure substantial compensations for our clients through the seizure of the culprits’ assets. All our services are rendered free of charge to the client, totally free of any hidden costs as our operational fees are covered from a percentage of the seized assets.

Not every outsourced service would deplete your revenue. For example, AXENCIS works to help you reclaim it.

Customer loyalty

It’s important to consider the possible impacts of IP rights enforcement on an existing fan base or customer pool. Referring back to the case of fan pages, if the community is not necessarily malignant to the progress of the company, a forceful approach might just cause the company to lose a significant number of loyalists. In this case, a diplomatic approach is wiser. Recall that this fan page is actually drawing attention and loyalty to your business – taking nothing for itself. Harshly uprooting them would most likely turn out to be counter-productive.

Future occurrences

When it comes to intellectual property problems, they are not exactly situations you can simply wish away. It’s important to always be ready for the worst because the larger a business grows, the more likely it is to be bothered by antics from people looking to tap into its success. Any strategy being implemented in the present should have some solid plans for preventing infringement cases in the future and protecting the brand in the long term.

“Brandjacking” Trend in 2021 – Rarely Beneficial, Mostly Destructive

For some context, imagine going through your Instagram DMs on a random day and you spot a message from the username: VersaceTrivia”. They claim you’ve been shortlisted for some contest organized by the global Italian fashion company, Versace, and all you have to do is pay $20 to a CashApp account to enroll in the trivia game. After this, you stand a chance to win $10,000 and free gifts from any Versace outlet in your locale.

From a mile away, many people would smell a scam being run by some dingbat who probably hasn’t paid his electricity bill for the month. There would be no need to link any of it to the actual, legitimate Versace. Sadly, not everyone would get the drift and you’d find people on forums, websites, even in Versace’s comment sections, calling them out for trying to scam customers and prospective patrons of an embarrassing $20 token.

Essentially, Versace’s reputation has been considerably dragged in the mud because their brand was hijacked, or, as MarkMonitor termed it, they got brandjacked. This is exactly what happens to companies on Amazon, eBay, and Wish when apparently, their products are being sold in hundreds but they only make meager profits. They are “sharing their identity” with dozens of other sellers and take-downs won’t always solve the problem.

By proper definition, brandjacking describes an activity or series of actions geared toward assuming the identity of a business, brand, person, company, or entity – totally or partially taking over certain elements from their name and logos to ideas and concepts. Basically, brandjacking means pretending to be a brand you are not. It’s like catfishing, but for businesses. Brandjacking is classified as a major form of IP rights infringement and brand abuse. Brandjackers always infringe on at least one or possibly all of a genuine brand’s trademarks, sometimes tapping into their customer pools, slashing revenue, ripping off customers, or smearing the reputation of the business.

However, brandjacking is a broad term and is not always performed with malicious intent and in rare cases, it could be beneficial to authentic businesses.

Since Instagram’s best functionalities were previously only on mobile phones with poor provisions for web-viewing on tablets and PCs, software developers Pek Pongpaet and Brandon Leonardo launched Pinstagram – a mash-up of Instagram and Pinterest. Users could then view Instagram feeds in the waterfall layout of Pinterest, resizable to fit different screen sizes.

While it certainly contributed to the popularity of Pinterest, Instagram benefited greatly as it had more people viewing across multiple devices. The brands never commented on this mashup, but they never sued or complained, either. This is one of the rare occasions where brandjacking causes no harm. Another instance is people creating fan/update pages of businesses and personalities on social media out of pure loyalty and love – with no intent to scam customers and fans or discredit the brand.

With the rise of the internet and the ease of creating fake pages and websites, brandjacking is at an all-time high and a major source of concern for businesses at all levels. Instagram alone records over a billion users on its app as of 2021, but in reality, only about 50-60% of the accounts are real. The rest are bots and fake accounts created by people for various reasons, one of which is brandjacking. On Facebook, the reality is the same and it’s seemingly worsening with time.

Categories of brandjacking (with example cases)

Identity Theft

This is the commonest form and the major scenario both in the physical world and in the online sphere. Infringers would assume the name, logos, social media usernames, associated designs, and general identity of another brand with the intent to steal customers and corner patrons to fake websites, stores, and pages. 

Consumers lose estimably $60 billion every year to identity criminals posing as legitimate businesses.

In 2017, a case went viral of a man who got scammed out of $100,000 when he made a one-time payment into a fake account for a luxury Mercedes Benz car. One of the numerous fake Mercedes pages on Instagram had built a pretty convincing and solid profile over a few months. From the Mercedes three-star logo to the exact website URL, the page had hijacked every facet of the German giant’s identity. Despite being unverified, 250,000 was pretty convincing and a guy parted with $100,000, only to find out the next hour that the page had been dissolved.

Fake employee/manager

One of the most common instances of this is on social media, where random accounts with AVIs of people sitting in front of PCs, wearing headsets, and looking all prim would slide into your DM. They’d claim to be employees or “verification managers” at Instagram/Facebook/Twitter, and with only $15,000, you could get the coveted blue tick on your account.

If you fall prey, you’d part with your precious cash.

Even in physical markets, many brands, especially small/growing businesses have gone under due to marred reputations caused by brandjackers. For example, a person could create a false ID and assume the identity of a real estate company, receiving down payments from eager homeowners, and eventually, they’d disappear with accumulated funds, leaving the company in trouble and dozens of payees, stranded.

Copy websites and fake online stores

You’d often see warnings from tech experts online, telling people never to enter their information on websites preceded by “http” instead of “https”, which is the more secure version. While this is great advice, it’s not foolproof because scammers now go as far as creating https sites and verifying online stores with similar extensions to existing businesses.

If an authentic business owns the URL, https://www.sandy.com, brandjackers could purchase https://www.sandy.net, https://www.sandy.org, or even https://www.sandyy.com, either to spite the business or scam its customers.

Smear campaigns

This usually happens when rival businesses take the competition too far. In 2011, Apple sued Samsung for $2.5 billion for smearing the former’s image in an ad campaign. Apple had just released the iPhone 5 and Samsung also debuted the Galaxy S3. The latter created a video showing a line of Apple’s fans queuing up to buy the iPhone 5, but somehow, they got confused about the specs and new features. Then enters the Galaxy S3, all bold and superior, taking the shine. Apple had none of it, and so the controversial lawsuit was slammed heavily on Samsung.

Subtle immersion

This involves tiny, seemingly negligible acts performed by a person or group to tap into the reputation of another business, geared toward increasing popularity and profit. While it comes off as non-parasitic, using the hashtags of another business repeatedly on your social media posts is a subtle form of brandjacking. 

Using the hashtag #burberry in all your posts would connect you to Burberry’s hashtag pull-up when customers search the brand. So your posts are getting promoted for free and instead of seeing exclusive Burberry content, fans would have to sift through your brand’s items as well – and it’s extremely annoying when this infringing content is not even related to fashion.

Staying ahead of brandjackers – what can you do?

The first question is, “Should every business, including the small ones be worried about brandjacking?”

The answer is YES. Even a one-month-old struggling business could be subject to brandjacking antics, and at this stage of the journey, it’s easy to pack up from the ripple effects of an early reputation smear. Many business owners believe that brand protection strategies should only be deployed when real problems occur. However, this would mean that a degree of damage has already been done. These safeguarding strategies should be deployed at the earliest stages for maximum protection.

Constant or periodic surveillance of the web

You need to virtually get some “boots on the ground” to monitor the internet and all major platforms for people posing to be you and abusing your brand. At AXENCIS, our smart brand protection plan is deployed by a team of expert investigators using our proprietary monitoring and surveillance software to scan all major marketplaces for infringements. We constantly monitor the web and run background checks on possible cases for verification, prior to the full take-down and prosecution procedures.

Buy up extra extensions and related domains

It’s not a waste of funds to invest in purchasing the .net, .org, .store, and .online extensions of your brand’s URL. This would prevent brandjackers from taking advantage of the free domains, afflicting your SEO progress, and possibly scamming your customers. As your visibility increases, you may also purchase common misspellings of your business name. For instance, Google.com owns the site googel.com, a common misspelling of their URL that redirects to the actual site.

Send email alerts to customers

This is another reason why virtual “boots on the ground” are important. Having all your loyal customers on an email list is essential for alerting them when possible scammers come up on your radar. Paypal employs this method regularly to warn its millions of customers around the world. Banks do this all the time, and it’s extremely helpful in keeping your patrons abreast of every possible identity theft situation.

Be prepared

Again, it doesn’t matter if your business is only a day old. Brandjacking doesn’t merely affect global giants or top public figures. Everyone could be a victim, on any scale, at any stage. Always be ready with a strategy to prevent infringers and brand abusers from taking advantage of your hard work. The best approach is to safeguard your reputation before it’s smeared. This way, you’d put up a stronger stand against brandjackers.