What is “Corporate Catfishing”?
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It’s as simple as that to retrieve images or information from a person or business online and pass it off as your own. This isn’t news, there are movies and TV shows specifically based on the phenomena of catfishing. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, catfishing refers to misrepresenting oneself in relationships of a personal nature by using others’ images and even life events to gain favor from an unsuspecting person.
But what do we call it when it happens on a business level? Slimey. A scam. Unfortunate.
Sure, these are all true. But why is it that when an individual behaves this way it’s film-worthy and when people represent themselves falsely for financial gain, we blame the victim? They should have known better, right? When a person or company’s name is used in a falsified Facebook advertisement or company page, who should be held responsible?
The truth is that social media companies have a responsibility to their users.
Facebook Scam Examples: An Anti-Scammer’s Struggle
Martin Lewis, creator of MoneySavingExpert, has spent his professional life building his brand and doing so with integrity. According to Newsweek, he has also spent the better part of a year fighting against online scammers who use his likeness and brand name to scam unsuspecting users out of millions of dollars.
Time and time again, Lewis has notified Facebook of false advertisements and scams using his image and name to trick users into sending money to who-knows-where for nothing. Users believe they are purchasing sound financial advice and guidance from Lewis, when in reality they are falling victim to one of thousands of online scams. They aren’t the only victim, however. When the user realizes they’ve been swindled, they often believe the criminal to be Lewis himself rather than an imposter.
Upon notifying Facebook of the numerous scams, Lewis was told that the social network does not allow false advertising, and if he were to report such an incident, they would promptly remove the ad. More often than not, however, users have already given (and lost) their money, and Lewis’ name has already been defamed.
The damage is done.
Furthermore, as a multi-billion dollar corporation, it’s not unreasonable to assume Facebook’s ability to monitor and stop these scams before they’re posted is much more powerful than one man searching the potentially thousands of false ads and hoping to catch them before customers are duped.
Working Toward a Safer Online Experience
Facebook holds strong to its policy to act after-the-fact, but Lewis is hoping to change that. He is currently in the process of suing Facebook for defamation over these fake, “get rich quick” schemes. He says he hopes it will force the company to see that their lax policies need to be changed by demanding a reward that can’t be seen as “the cost of doing business.” Lewis says any amount won in the case will be donated to charities involved in putting an end to such Facebook scam.
“I’m not the only public face this has happened to. It’s time Facebook was made to take responsibility . . .My hope is this lawsuit will force it to change its system. Nothing else has worked. People need protection.”
Keeping Yourself Scam-Free
Unfortunately, Lewis is right.
He’s not the only public figure to be used in this way, and for every “famous face” or brand used, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of users being taken advantage of by these scams. While Lewis and others fight the good fight, it is best for individuals to stay vigilant.
For complete protection from scammy advertising, you can easily block ads.
However, if you are keen on seeing some ads, do your homework before sending any personal information or money online. If the advertisement seems sketchy, it probably is. In the same vein, if the advertisement seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you can’t verify who is receiving your money, if they are difficult to contact, or if they are asking for unnecessary personal information, don’t continue.
There are new threats surfacing online everyday, and these scammers are banking on the fact that you are only looking out for the newest scams. Don’t fall victim to false advertising scams, verify, verify, verify.