Brand Protection
4 mins

Website impersonation: what can brands do about it?

Website impersonation: what can brands do about it?
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Website impersonation is becoming an increasingly automated process and bad actors don’t even have to be a tech expert to pull off the scam. 

The reason why website impersonation remains popular even with so many newer sophisticated schemes around is because it works and it’s fairly easy to execute. Therefore for new and upcoming businesses, it has become more important than ever to actively protect their website and take strict steps against any website impersonation attempts.

In this article, we discuss:

  • How are websites impersonated?
  • The consequences of website impersonation
  • How to report someone for impersonating on a website
  • How Red Points can help handle website impersonation

How are websites impersonated?

While there are different ways websites can be impersonated, each of them can impact your business negatively at least in some way or the other. 

Cybersquatting: Cybersquatting involves claiming domain names in order to ‘squat’ over someone else’s trademark or brand name. 

Bad actors can either make profit by selling the domain back to the actual brand/ trademark owner at a higher price or they can impersonate the original website to drive traffic away from it and sell counterfeit products/services.

Even if you are the owner of the main domain name, cybersquatters can buy different extensions of the same domain to squat over your brand name and eventually make profit. For instance, even if you own the domain name yourbrandname.com, bad actors could end up buying other domain extensions like yourbrandname.co or yourbrandname.co.uk 

Typosquatting: Typosquatting involves registering new domain names that are very similar to popular brand names, but with common spelling mistakes or errors. That way, when a prospective customer searches for the brand with a typo, they will be unknowingly taken to a fake website.

Bad actors can also use paid ads to target more unsuspecting customers and get more traffic to their website. Since typosquatters aren’t really infringing on the company’s trademark and using a misspelled name instead, it can also be rather challenging to shut them down. 

Domain spoofing: A type of phishing attack, domain spoofing happens when an attacker uses the company’s domain name to impersonate the company itself or one of its employees. The attackers can create a fake website or even set up fake email addresses for the spoofed domain to make emails appear legitimate. Domain spoofing is usually done to access sensitive company information or personal information of customers like their credit card details. 

With domain spoofing, attackers can pretend to be a trusted employee of the company and trick customers into clicking malicious links in order to get access to sensitive data. They can also impersonate a high-level company executives to trick entry level employees into revealing sensitive information.

The severe impact of website impersonation

Lowered search visibility

Website impersonators can use promotional techniques like paid ads, spam web pages, and black hat SEO to attract more people and divert traffic away from the official website. All of this combined can lead to a loss in search visibility which can make it difficult for your prospective customers to find your business online. 

Loss in profit

With more and more traffic diverted from your website to impersonated websites, you will inevitably lose profit. Not only would fewer people be purchasing from your business online, but as people fall victim to impersonation and counterfeit products, their trust in your business will decline as well.

In fact, according to a report, one in five customers will boycott a brand if they even mistakenly purchase counterfeit products from that brand.

Damaged brand reputation

When unaware customers buy counterfeit products or get cheated by impersonated websites that claim to be from your business, it can directly impact their customer experience and damage your brand reputation.

After all, when customers unknowingly buy counterfeit products or lose their money while trying to buy products, they will blame your business and even write bad reviews online – all of which can affect your brand reputation and make you lose customers. 

Moreover, when a business does not take any strict action against impersonators even after knowing that innocent customers are getting affected, it also says a lot about the business itself which can also in turn impact the way prospective customers view your brand. 

How to report someone for impersonating on a website

Contact the fake website owners

The first thing you should do is try contacting the impersonated website owners to alert them that they are infringing on your copyright/ trademark. You can remind them that not only can you report the website to ICANN and get the website taken down, but you may also have to take legal action if the domain isn’t taken down and transferred back to you. 

Contact the website hosting provider

Get in touch with the website hosting platform that supports the impersonated website and inform them about the infringement. You can find the details about the hosting platform along with information about the registrants of the domain by searching for them on the ICANN database.

Web hosts are all required to comply with the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) rules and they take infringements and copyright violations very seriously. 

If the web hosts fail to respond to the impersonation, they open themselves up for litigation and you can also file a case against them for copyright infringement as well. 

File a UDRP complaint 

You can also file a UDRP complaint against impersonators to take down the website or get the domain transferred back to you. Uniform Domain Name Resolution Process (UDRP) helps settle domain name disputes and it applies to all the top-level domain extensions. 

Introduced by (ICANN), it is possible to file UDRP complaints by resolution providers like National Arbitration Forum (NAF) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Report infringement to law enforcement

If all else fails, you can also directly report copyright infringement to the law enforcement in order to effectively take down impersonated fake websites. Although it’s important to note that this option can be the most time-consuming and expensive since you will have to get a legal counsel to handle the case.

Use anti-spoofing technology like Red Points 

Protecting your copyrights from scammers is a full-time job which many individuals and brands simply cannot handle on their own. Domain takedown services like Red Points scan the web for infringements, catching them as soon as they occur and beginning the takedown process for you. This can save you the stress and hassle of enforcing your copyright and ensuring you’re well-protected at all times. 

What’s next

Domain impersonation can eat away from your business’s bottom line and chip off all your revenue while also severely affecting your brand reputation. Manually scourging the internet for website impersonation cases can be extremely time-consuming and often impractical. Before you even discover an impersonated website, it may have already caused severe damage to your business revenue. 

Red Points’ Revenue Recovery software automatically scans the web for any kind of infringements and impersonifications. The software then initiates the takedown process automatically to save you all the stress and make sure your business is always protected at all times.

See how you can automatically find and remove fake accounts, apps, sites, and domains, to protect your customers and reputation with Red Points.

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