What is Brand Impersonation? - and How can I Protect my Business?

One important trend that we've been seeing through police reporting in recent months is Brand Impersonation.

What is Brand Impersonation?

This is where an e-commerce website or social media account is imitated for fraud.

During busy online purchase days such as Boxing Day or Black Friday, fraudsters use this technique to drive traffic to the fake website and attempt to steal credit card details and personal information or charge fraudulent purchases to people's cards.

Consider a start-up gift shop that's established itself with customers and sells their products through their online store. Criminals will create a fake social media account and copy all the material from the real online store and start to follow the real store’s customers. Criminals will then send a link to their fake website to the real customers. When everyone is in a hurry to go online and purchase gifts it's easy to fall for this trick and find that personal credentials and card details can get stolen.

What examples of Brand Impersonation have occurred recently?

Brand Impersonation has a long history within fraud, it’s a well-known technique and it can be very effective. When voting for TV shows by phone was first popular, phone lines were set up by fraudsters (with similar phone numbers to the real TV show phone line) to charge victims as high as £20 per call. This tactic relied upon victims to miss-dial the phone number.

A good example was a website set up to target government services. Fraudsters created a fake DVLA driving test website and used Google adverts to promote it. The web address they used was very similar to the real DVLA website and when a victim googled “Book a driving test” the fraudulent site was number one in the search results. After visiting the website the fraudsters would charge victims twice as much as the actual DVLA website but with no test so it cost victims three times as much in the end.

If your business has been targeted through Brand Impersonation or you want to discuss ways to prevent this from happening. Please contact us today.

Worryingly we’ve also seen similar examples pop up around Covid Tests, Covid Recovery Loans and Tax Credits and are now expecting to see loads of fake sites associated with the new Covid Vaccines.

How can I prevent Brand Impersonation?

To avoid this, e-commerce site owners should make their clients aware of the threat and encourage them to be vigilant when they shop online. It's also good practice to monitor such activity by simply googling their brand. Criminals often purchase web addresses that are close to the actual brand's domain to fool customers. Simply by googling their website and brand they can see if there is any suspicious activity going on and report this to Action Fraud who work with internet providers to remove fake sites. Its good practice to do the same on all social media platforms to see if there is a fake copy of your brand out there.

Bear in mind that these attacks normally happen during an event when there is a high volume of shoppers during the year so you could even schedule in checking for fake sites around key shopping dates like Valentines Day, Black Friday or Christmas.

Here at the CRCGM, we are proud to support businesses from across Greater Manchester. Click here to join as a Core Member to stay updated with the latest events, news and guidance.

The contents of this website are provided for general information only and are not intended to replace specific professional advice relevant to your situation. The intention of Cyber Resilience Centre for Greater Manchester (CRCGM) is to encourage cyber resilience by raising issues and disseminating information on the experiences and initiatives of others.  Articles on the website cannot by their nature be comprehensive and may not reflect most recent legislation, practice, or application to your circumstances. CRCGM provides affordable services and Trusted Partners if you need specific support. For specific questions please contact us.

CRCGM does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information or materials published on this website. CRCGM is not responsible for the content of external internet sites that link to this site or which are linked from it.

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