Brand Misrepresentation of your brand online can be extremely detrimental and costly, and many business owners have discovered that it can be extremely difficult to get the fraudulent/phished site removed from Google’s index and the web. If another company is using your brand name in their domain, meta content, social profiles, or is in any other way acting as your company online, there are a few steps you can take to help Google, the site’s host, and even the FTC become aware of the fraudulent or spam site. It should be noted that brand misrepresentation is a serious offense and should not be handled lightly. Do your homework and consult with a legal professional if necessary.

 

But First, Legal Stuff:
This post and the contents therein are by no means professional legal advice. There is no guarantee any of the steps below will be effective against fraudulent sites. The content on this site is offered only as a public service to the web community and does not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice.  This site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. You should always consult a suitably qualified attorney regarding any specific legal problem or matter. The comments and opinions expressed on this site are of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.

 

Step 0.5: Evidence Collection

Scour the web for any and all evidence of the brand misrepresentation. Get in the habit of taking screenshots of the misrepresentation on social media, the SERPs, websites, advertisements, etc. Save evidence of all communication with the fraudulent brand. This evidence may come in handy later on!

 

Step 1: Manual Outreach

Depending on the situation, it may be advisable to manually reach out the company doing the misrepresenting. In the case with bad links, it’s advised that contact attempts are made between companies as the start of a paper trail. Look for contact info on the website’s contact page, in the privacy policy, or any social media channels. If necessary, use a service like whois.net to find contact information.

 

Step 2: Report to Google

The first step to take in reporting the fraudulent site is to report it to Google. First, take screenshots of the brand misrepresentation anywhere it occurs. This can include meta titles and descriptions, ads, social media profiles, blogs, etc. Next, report the fraudulent/spam site to Google. To report site found through Google Search, visit https://www.google.com/safebrowsing/report_phish/ and fill out the form.

 

Step 3: Report to ICCC and FTC

Should you chose to escalate the issue further, you can report the site to Internet Crime Complaint Center and the FTC. This is where you may need to provide tangible evidence of the misrepresentation/spam.

From Google Support FAQ: I’ve been scammed. What should I do?

You may wish to file a report with the appropriate authorities and/or your regional fraud reporting center — such as the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov)

You may also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/contact, call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to the following address:

Federal Trade Commission

CRC-240

Washington, D.C. 20580

If your complaint is against a company in a country other than the United States, you can file it at http://www.econsumer.gov/. You can also find information on where to report in locations outside the United States at econsumer.gov.

 

Step 4: Reach Out To The Host

If you are able to prove your rights to the brand name and have evidence of the brand misrepresentation, you may be able to reach out to the site’s host and ask them to stop hosting the fraudulent website. Use whois.net or builtwith.com to find the host name, and reach out to customer support. Checking with a host’s privacy policy and quality control policy before outreach is advised. Evidence is key here, and ideally, the outreach can come from a legal professional.

 

Step 5: Legal Action

If the steps above are unsuccessful, you will likely need to take legal action to have the fraudulent company’s website taken down. Contact your legal team for more info.

 

More Helpful Info:

5 Things You May Not Know About Misrepresentation 

Business Identity Theft Protection Guide (scroll to “Protect Your Business’ Online and Public Presence”)

 

Good luck out there!

 

Do you have other tips for protecting brands from identity theft online? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or on our social media channels.

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