As an entrepreneur, you have probably spent a lot of time and effort building up your business brand to where it is today.
You may be thinking that the only thing left for you to do is sit back and watch how your brand will continue to grow by itself. Well, think again! Because if brands did not exist, every good business out there would continue to sell their products or services at dirt-cheap prices. Why?
Because nobody would know who they are dealing with; thus making the price almost always the most critical factor in any purchasing decision, right? Then what would happen if there were no brands around? How would people know if they’d get ripped off or not?
What happens when competitors start offering their goods or services at prices much lower than yours? How would anyone know they are dealing with the real deal if there were no brands to identify products or services?
Well, that’s precisely what is happening to you now, but not because of your competitors. Your brand is being ripped off by cybercriminals who use your name online to promote their business activities without your permission.
This means even though you might have already built a strong brand name for yourself, people will still get conned into buying from others who use your name without regard for customers’ safety! Yes, it sounds insane.
But do not worry about them anymore because, in this article, I’ll teach you how to easily protect yourself from these kinds of online scams.
What is Brand Impersonation?
Brands are an integral part of our lives because they provide us with identity and give us a sense of belonging to certain groups, organizations, communities, or societies. These brands also serve as symbols that people can use to tell others who they are dealing with whenever they come across certain products or services offered in their locations.
Because brand names are used so often throughout the world, cybercriminals have started using them for their gain by impersonating the real owners of these brands to promote their fake wares, which results in losing loyal customers for whoever’s name has been misused!
Unless you take immediate action, your business might even lose its credibility if enough damage has been done to your brand’s reputation!
What’s The Difference Between Copyrights & Trademarks?
Brand Impersonation is commonly confused with Copyright Infringement. Although both crimes might share the same symptoms, they are two very different things that do not affect everyone in the same way. That’s why you need to learn about what each crime entails so that you can protect yourself from falling victim to either one of them.
Let us start by taking a look at what copyrights are:
Copyrighting something means establishing legal ownership over original work, including literary, musical, artistic productions, and any other original production capable of copyright protection under U.S laws (e.g., movies, books, plays, paintings, sculptures, and compositions).
Copyright gives the owner of such work the sole right to control who may (or may not) use the copyrighted material. The owner can authorize or deny permission to reproduce, distribute or perform their work in any way they choose, and that is all the extent of what copyright protects for most people.
This means if someone steals your copyrighted material without your permission, you would be able to demand damages because they are copying something that belongs to you. Copyright infringement does not affect everyone equally either! That’s because it only affects those whose works have been infringed upon by others.
Nevertheless, it is still a crime committed against whoever holds legal ownership over an original piece of work, regardless of whether they are affected by the crime or not.
On the other hand, trademark infringement is something much different than what copyrights are because trademarking does not give you any legal ownership over specific trade names, images, or their designs, and this means trademarks do not grant their owners either exclusive rights to use or to prevent others from using it.
Trademarks can only offer protection against people who try to imitate or pass off someone else’s product as their own!
So if your business brand has been used without your permission by someone trying to sell their products using your name, it would be considered a case of trademark infringement, requiring you to take legal action against them for them to stop using your name or risk having their assets confiscated.
How To Prevent & Identify The Insidious Strategies Used By Cyber Criminals To Steal Your Brand Identity?
So, what do you need to do to have brand impersonation protection? Brand identity is an essential aspect of your business because it tells potential customers who they are dealing with every time they buy something from you! Unfortunately, just like many other things that can be easily stolen nowadays, thieves have started using technology to steal brand identities all over the internet.
This online crime has become very common in recent years. So, what kinds of strategies do these criminals use to steal your brand name? Let us take a closer look by taking a look at some examples below:
Loading Their Websites With Keyword-Rich Trade Names That Are Almost Identical To Yours
Websites loaded with key phrases that are used as search queries for your industry are one of the ways some criminals can trick people into visiting their online business instead of yours. This is because most people would not bother reading the entire title before clicking on a link to a particular website!
Thus, those who have stolen your brand’s name and run an online business using it often rely on similar trade names and keywords to attract unsuspecting victims.
Websites loaded with keywords that consist of your brand’s name followed by other commonly searched words, phrases, or topics would likely end up on page one or two of search results. This is why these websites often manage to stay a top-visited website even though they offer nothing unique or different from what you already provide!
Here are a few examples:
- “Your Brand Name” + “Tutorials”
- “Your Brand Name” + “Reviews”
- “Your Brand Name” + “News”
Luring People To Click On Their Ads That Look Similar To Yours
As mentioned before, those who have stolen your online business name know that most people who search for your industry also tend to look for trade names that are either almost identical or similar to yours. This is why they often use ad links that are very similar in color, structure, and graphics!
These ads are often designed on purpose to trick people into clicking on them because they think it’ll lead them to your legitimate website.
Copying Different Aspects Of Your Website (e.g., The Layout, Color Scheme & Logo)
Since criminals know how vital brand identity is, they would likely try to copy different aspects of your website so you wouldn’t notice the difference when you visit their site. This is usually disguised as an entirely new business offering something else than what you offer, such as a different type of product or service!
This is why you must stay on the lookout for even the tiniest details that may seem out of place because those little things might be the only clues you’ll need to identify and locate their fake business before it’s too late.
Now that we’ve taken a look at how cybercriminals use different strategies to trick people into thinking they’re dealing with your legitimate website, it should be pretty evident by now that having your trade name, logo, and other distinguishing features copied can have serious adverse effects on your brand identity!
How to Protect Yourself From Trademark Infringement or Misuse of Your Brand Name Online
If you were able to come across any cases of trademark infringement or brand misuse online, then you should immediately reach out to the owner of the site who uses your brand name illegally so they can fix their mistake.
If they refuse, then it may mean that there is already a case filed against them for trademark infringement! So how do you find out who owns an online website? There are quite a few ways:
This site lets you search for all sorts of domains and IP addresses registered under different providers. The best thing about this site is that all the information displayed on it looks pretty official, which means that if any other sites linked to yours also used the same WhoIs information as what was first found on Who.is, it would only help strengthen your case!
Check The Site’s Contact Details
Since most websites have a ‘Contact’ page, you can always leave a message and inquire about its owner by asking for their full name/company name.
Furthermore, if they refuse to give away their personal information even when confronted with a direct question, then it could mean that they’re trying to keep things undercover, which only means one thing, you’ve caught them red-handed using your brand name illegally!
Of course, whenever contacting someone online, you’ll want to make sure that none of your contact details are posted on their website because once it’s done, you’ve pretty much permitted them to do whatever they’d like in an attempt to deceive other people!
So remember: If you don’t want your name and number shared, don’t share them in the first place.
Having a replica of your online business can not only hurt your brand identity but may cause a lot of confusion if things aren’t handled properly. This is why businesses & startups need to understand that a strong brand identity is necessary for any successful marketing plan!
One of the biggest reasons why impersonation protection is so important these days isn’t because criminals are out there trying to steal your trade name, but rather because cybercriminals have become more intelligent over the years by using advanced methods such as spoofing, phishing & impersonation, which makes it all too easy for one to take advantage of your brand’s good name!