3 Tips to Protect Your Business From Holiday Scammers
Limited time! Unbeatable prices! Once-a-year opportunities! These are the bread-and-butter of many holiday season marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, these same ideas are also served up as the main course in most of the scams that will try to lure unsuspecting consumers to share their personal information during the busiest shopping season of the year. Therefore, given that the bad guys are out in force, what steps can retailers take to defend their reputations, customer trust and bottom lines during the holiday shopping season?
First, brands must understand what makes up the recipe for a holiday scam. You start with an unassailable brand or a must-have product. You add a generous helping of emotional urgency. And you serve it to the public via as many online channels as possible. The bigger your brand, the broader your reach, the more online marketing you do, and, unfortunately, the more likely it is that fraudsters will pose themselves as your brand and prey on your customers.
How can you limit or stop them? There are three specific actions that you can take that will help you protect your customers not just this holiday season but throughout the year:
1. Ensure the places you find your brand online are the places where you've put it. Monitoring for your brand online is a big task — one not easily done on your own. There are dozens of mobile app stores and global domain registrars, for example, that need to be searched frequently for fraudulent or nonauthorized brand use. There are data streams on social media (e.g., Twitter) as well as phishing emails carrying your brand and sent out to millions of shoppers weekly. This activity requires constant monitoring.
Unfortunately, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of additional channels through which scammers can reach unsuspecting consumers. Adding to your troubles is that each of these has its own takedown procedure. To really protect your reputation, customer trust and bottom line, you must monitor for online fraud as broadly and as deeply as possible. If you can't spare the time or people to do it yourself, there are trusted brand protection partners that can provide you with expert-level monitoring, threat validation and mitigation services.
2. Support your customers like crazy; help them help themselves. Implement and promote a special section of your website where your customers can see all of the holiday deals that you've authorized, special sites that you've launched, mobile apps that you've created and other online programs that you've initiated. Ideally, link to this section directly from your homepage. In addition, if you provide your customers with a special email address, they can use it to forward a suspicious-looking offer to you or your brand protection partner for rapid validation. Invest in your customer support team; provide them with the education and resources they need to quickly validate inquiries about too-good-to-be-true offers.
3. Remember, this isn't just a holiday issue; it happens all year long. While it's true that fraudulent activity and scammer schemes spike during the holiday shopping season, the bad guys are at work year-round, diverting your customers and trying to use your brand to gain access to their credentials. It's a mistake to only implement robust brand protection and fraud mitigation programs from October to December. Monitor your brand throughout the year. That's the very best way to protect your reputation, customer trust and bottom line. If the scammers learn you're aggressively defending your brand and reputation, they'll look for an easier target next time.
Greg Mancusi-Ungaro is the chief marketing officer of BrandProtect, a provider of online brand protection services.