Online Username Squatting and Phishing: How to Stop and Avoid
Phishing and username spoofing have become an increasingly common problem for businesses today. As businesses struggle to maintain an online presence, they often become vulnerable to unwanted online behavior such as phishing and username spoofing. Phishing generally refers to the misuse of a username on social media platforms with the intent to trick others into believing that the account belongs to someone else (for example, the user registers an account under the name of a celebrity and proceeds to post updates as if he were that celebrity). ). By contrast, username spoofing typically involves the pre-emptive registration of a specific username or account, with no genuine intent to use that account, followed by attempts to sell the username to the named/affected party to a third party. inflated price. Another strategy is to divert online traffic that would otherwise have been directed to the username spoofing victim.
Because there are no uniform legal statutes addressing this issue, social media platforms are free to respond to these issues as they please. As such, navigating these hurdles can often be confusing and time consuming for businesses that need to retrieve specific accounts or usernames in a timely manner. Most major social media platforms provide removal mechanisms and related processes. However, some social media platforms allow parody accounts, making it difficult to delete or recover certain types of these accounts.
If success cannot be achieved directly with the social media platform, the victim may need to consider hiring an attorney to pursue a trademark infringement, unfair competition, online defamation, or related claim against the impersonator. One of the fastest paths to resolution is to hire an attorney familiar with the social media platform’s in-house attorneys. Often a phone call or email can resolve basic issues quickly without the need for litigation. For more complex username spoofing and phishing issues, a lawsuit may need to be filed. Texas is one of the few states that allows pre-suit depositions. So, instead of filing an expensive lawsuit, a victim can file a proceeding to take deposition from the alleged username impersonator/squatter. Often the threat of such proceedings or a lawsuit is enough to get quick assistance from the social media platform.
One of the best defenses against phishing and username spoofing is to proactively register social media usernames to prevent spoofing or spoofing in the first place. In addition, Internet lawyers can help protect trademarks by implementing procedures to determine unwanted behavior by third parties or through litigation, as necessary.