Protect your company’s reputation in times of crisis
Protect your company’s reputation in times of crisis
Over the past few weeks, companies from coast to coast have been working hard to put in place emergency measures to maintain their operations. At the same time and almost inevitably, online scammers have been busy exploiting this instability and implementing phishing and malware scams, among other things.
The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security has recently issued warnings to inform Canadian individuals and businesses of the increase in these malicious practices.
Two techniques in particular are being used. The first is the sending of fraudulent text messages and e-mails that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a government agency or a known company. Some of these mailings may look exactly like a legitimate organization, including their logo. They also offer normal appearance services (e.g. renewal of a trademark registration). Generally, the prices charged are astronomical and payment details are often outside Canada.
Second, some malicious authors specialize in creating websites using the technique of “typosquatting,” which is the act of substituting or adding certain characters to a well known and trusted domain name so that an Internet user visits a fraudulent site without realizing it given the great similarity of the domain names with the known company.
The use of your company name or trademark for such malicious purposes could obviously have a significant impact on your commercial activities since it could, among others, undermine public trust in your products and services.
The ROBIC team invites you to be particularly vigilant during this period of crisis and uncertainty and suggests a few ways to stay alert and use your intellectual property rights to protect your reputation and clientele.
Monitoring tools, such as GoogleAlert, are available online to help you track the use of trademarks or domain names. Several options, some of which are free and some others which are tailored on more specific needs, allow you to receive alerts when illicit use of certain keywords is detected. Good monitoring of your brands will allow you to react promptly.
Pay attention to the use of your name or trademark for certain malicious practices, including:
- sending phishing emails and text messages claiming to provide information or materials to counter COVID-19;
- sending phishing e-mails to your employees claiming to be internal directives;
- setting up social media campaigns to get people to visit virus-infected or fraudulent websites;
- creating downloadable apps that claim to “track COVID-19 developments in real time”;
- offering fake coupons or discounts to download for online purchases.
These malicious practices may, of course, vary according to the type of business, the value of the targeted brand, the usual consumers, etc. However, they should not be underestimated.
If a scammer has stolen your business name or is using your trademarks, a report should immediately be filed with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre using the reporting system. This will help identify and broadcast important information to better manage potential fraud.
Also, identify the source of this abuse with tools available online, such as “whois” services, that provide information on the entity that registered the domain name as well as the one that hosts the site. Once the hosting service has been identified, you will be able to report this abuse by requesting the suspension of the infringing activities on the hosting service’s website. However, useful information is not always easy to find, and the game’s rules may vary from one hosting service to another, which sometimes complicates matters.
Finally, it will also be possible, subsequently, to initiate proceedings so that your business can recover ownership of the domain name registered in violation of your trademark rights. It is not always easy to act in times of crisis, but the necessary measures to protect your rights can be taken in a timely manner, without waiting too long so as not to harm the trademark.
Our team is available to assist you in these steps and to help you develop the best strategy to protect your intellectual property rights.
Stay on the lookout for malefactors who could be lurking virtually around your precious assets and, above all, take care of yourself in these difficult times!
© CIPS, 2020.
 Nicolas Sapp is a Lawyer, Trademark Agent and Partner for ROBIC, LLP, a firm of Lawyers, Patent and Trademark Agents.
 Catherine Bergeron is a Lawyer, Trademark Agent and Partner for ROBIC, LLP, a firm of Lawyers, Patent and Trademark Agents.
 Rosalie Jetté was an articling student for ROBIC, LLP, a firm of Lawyers, Patent and Trademark Agents in 2020.
Marie Fortin (2020). Arnaques à la COVID-19 : les fraudeurs déjà à l’oeuvre, Radio-Canada. Retrieved on March 20th, 2020 from https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1678555/arnaques-fraude-covid-facture-messages-grc
Centre canadien pour la cybersécurité (2020). Pratiques exemplaires en cybersécurité pour la COVID-19, Centre canadien pour la cybersécurité. Retrieved on March 18th, 2020 from https://cyber.gc.ca/fr/orientation/pratiques-exemplaires-en-cybersecurite-pour-la-covid-19
Jonathan Zhang (2020). Typosquatting Protection: A Necessary Defense Against Coronavirus-Themed Campaigns?, Cybercrime Magazine. Retrieved on March 18th, 2020 from https://cybersecurityventures.com/typosquatting-protection-a-necessary-defense-against-coronavirus-themed-campaigns/
David E. Weslow and Ari Meltzer (2020). COVID-19 Internet Scams Are On the Rise, But Intellectual Property Rights Provide a Tool to Fight Back, wiley. Retrieved on March 20th on https://www.wiley.law/alert-COVID-19-Internet-Scams-Are-On-the-Rise-But-Intellectual-Property-Rights-Provide-a-Tool-to-Fight-Back