Phishing scams: How detrimental are they to your brand?

Phishing scams seem to be on the rise.  Just yesterday, Malaysia Airlines (MAB) had to once again warn consumers to be wary of social media posts and phishing websites that seem similar to its official website - MAB said the fake websites would entice consumers by extending free air tickets as prizes, before requesting for personal data.

This comes shortly after Singapore Airlines also warned customers of phishing scams and advised them to “exercise discretion” when revealing personal data to unverified sources. Despite the numerous attempts brands make to safeguard their consumers, these fake sites promoting great deals and games still make their way to the screens of consumers.

While there is perfect answer of how to safeguard both the airline and consumers against such phishing scams, Justin Peyton, chief strategy and transformation office, Digitas APAC said  airlines are being attacked on two fronts. Individuals are often trying to hack their systems to steal identity and payment details - information that consumers trust the airlines to safeguard. Also, individuals try to falsify websites to steal consumers identity details, login details and payment information. Peyton said that the latter is "much harder" to protect as the entire process occurs outside the airline's control.

Services such as website certificates and security tokens are designed to provide a layer of protection and to demonstrate authenticity to consumers, but if consumers do not know to look for those items then it risks not being enough. Nonetheless, it is important for brands to make an effort to protect consumers with "clear services and communication" designed to drive awareness of the problem and help educate consumers on differentiating between real communications and digital services from those that are fraudulent. "Furthermore, they must be persistent in identifying fraudulent websites so they can work to have them removed," Peyton explained.

Not only do phishing scams impact consumers, they are also detrimental to consumer trust and loyalty, which ultimately can gravely impact the bottom line of businesses.

Cheska Teresa, managing director for Lion & Lion in Malaysia, said it is crucial to train employees and consumers to spot an attack. According to her, those trained to identify and report attempted phishing attacks only have a 5% susceptibility rate even with these attempts growing year by year.

Meanwhile, consumers are also required to be educated in identifying common signs such as poor spelling, suspicious URLs, mismatched sender address, grammar and writing as well as lack of trust seals, among others. Teresa also advised brands to have technical protection layers such as strong authentication and verification processes, regular security checks, and even always-on social monitoring around negative and scam topics.

Also weighing in on the issue is Kelvin Koo, regional CEO of Asia, FALCON, who also advised brands to put in place listening protocols to enable them to spot the fake sites early and proactively issue a notice to their consumers about the dangers.

"In reality though, such sites are first spotted and reported by consumers. In such cases, it is important that brands act fast to first inform the public and then work with providers to take down the offending sites," he noted, adding that Google has also launched a safe browsing page to warn users of potentially unsafe sites.

MAB also previously fell prey to multiple false ads spread by “unscrupulous parties with the intention of fraud and theft” and clarified that it has no relation to them.

Separately, Lion Air Group also recently alerted the public about an airline recruitment scam using the Lion Air brand without authorisation, luring the public to participate in its scheme. The scammer circulated a recruitment notice through a leading newspaper in India on 6 January 2019, about a walk-in interview between 12pm-5pm from 7 January 2019 onwards at Salt Lake City, Kolkata and included a demand for security deposit of INR 30000 to INR50000.

The group strongly advises the public to disregard such scams as the Lion Air India does not operate in India. Neither does the airline engage external agents for recruitment nor charge for job interviews. Also, no member of Lion Air Group will be held liable for any claims pertaining to the false scheme.

"All official announcements of Lion Air Group are made via the relevant airline’s official channels and credible mass media. Lion Air Group will not hesitate to take legal action against individuals or groups who organize illegal schemes using the Lion Air brand," it said in a press statement.