“Congratulations! We’re calling from WhatsApp and your number has won a lottery of 25 lakh!”
Does this message or call sound familiar? Welcome to the world of the Internet or online fraud which costs individuals lakhs of rupees. Such scams are continuously evolving, and India alone has witnessed 65% of businesses losing money on account of online fraud. According to NCRB’s Crime in India report, 2019, fraud made up over half the cybercrime cases in the country.
In one such case of a cyber scam, fraudsters are using WhatsApp to con people off their money. These scammers call themselves representatives of WhatsApp and Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian adaptation of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’) team and inform the victim that their number has won prize money by participating in the quiz. Not only this but it is also informed to the victim that names such as Mukesh Ambani, Narendra Modi, Amitabh Bachchan are funding the prize money. The victim is then asked to deposit somewhere between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000 as tax money or processing fee at SBI bank to enable the KBC team to send the prize money of Rs 25 or Rs 30 lakh. Thousands of individuals have fallen prey to such scams.
In the quoted incident, the scammers are banking upon the trust and reputation established by these brands (WhatsApp, Reliance, Amitabh Bachchan, SBI). Companies who only look at this issue from a prism of brand protection miss one major point, ‘Customer is God’. In such scenarios, their customers are being defrauded, phished, and even sold counterfeit goods that they think are coming from their trusted brands. In India, the internet user base stands at 624 million and India is also WhatsApp’s biggest market with 340 million users. Now, one can only imagine the vastness and extent to which these frauds have penetrated the market
The anonymity being offered by the internet presents an advantage to criminals for they use fake trademarks, tags and emblems and even bogus certification labels to convince the victim of the genuineness of the brand, often referred to as identity theft or infringement, which again becomes a major issue for a brand. This also brings to light another component of brand safety keeping the above incident in mind- privacy. What measures are taken by a brand to make sure that the consumer data is held safe, and their privacy is honored? With scammers having access to personal information and databases of their victims, does this not become a major aspect of brand safety for companies?
Brand safety — keeping a brand’s campaign as well as reputation safe from online frauds and scams — has become one of the most important components in the marketing industry today. In these incredibly challenging times, brand owners should step up to the plate by deploying necessary brand safety measures- tools to analyse the content and intention of these scams, fraud detection mechanisms to ensure that they are getting visibility into the threats against the brand.
A scammer is doing this under the garb of a brand. This is one of the ‘safest’ frauds for any scammer. A scammer has nothing to lose. The identity created online is fake and it reaches out to people in the name of a reputed brand. Such frauds happen because common internet users entertain such messages only because they have confidence in the brand being infringed. In the example, shown in this writeup, the fraudsters are using a mix of endorsers who have emotional, social and business appeal. Such a mix makes the possibility of someone falling to it high.
A brand has to act responsibly and ensure its brand cannot be misused or abused by scamsters digitally or otherwise to fraud people who have high esteem for it. Brand safety may not be perceived as having a direct impact on the Balance Sheet and P&L statement (though it has). However, brands must ensure the safety of their name and other trademarks and set it out as a practice of business ethics – a set of principles governing the conduct of a business.
The current situation presents a ‘dream opportunity for scammers and a nightmare for brand owners’ to identify these threats in real-time. Real brand safety lies in the blending of protective elements. Stay vigilant!