Q&A: Brand and reputation protection

Michael R. Stanfield is the Chairman and CEO of Intersections, a provider of consumer and corporate identity risk management services. In this interview he discusses brand and reputation protection as well as identity theft.

Let’s focus on an old question – what’s in a name? How important is brand protection?
A brand can be a company’s most valuable asset. It represents the integrity of that company and influences the perceived quality by and loyalty of the customers and businesses that associate and conduct business with it. Brand protection is extremely important, particularly in the digital world where there are few boundaries, and issues can surface daily such as intellectual property misuse or infringement, auction scams, and counterfeiting. Fortunately, there are services available to help monitor and track brand abuse.

How exactly do you protect a brand, both online and offline? How problematic is it to do it on a global basis?
To protect a brand online, a company should find an effective service provider to monitor different types of online activity, to aggregate and interpret that data and to report findings so the company can respond appropriately. Protecting a global brand adds an extra layer of complexity due to both language barriers and the ability to take action. The good news is with the right technology; a service provider can effectively monitor and track brand abuses online.

Can you give us an example of how a company’s brand can be damaged on the web?
Every successful brand has specific identifying factors such as quality, price, customer service, and messaging. A brand can be jeopardized if it is marketed outside of the established parameters set by a company. For example, an unscrupulous reseller may mislead consumers by promoting a branded product with claims that exceed the products capabilities. This can result in customer dissatisfaction, reduction of loyalty and even customer attrition.

Reports keep outlining a dark forecast and showing how dangerous identity theft is. Based on your experience and your clients, how dangerous is today’s situation and what can we expect for the rest of the year?
According to a recent study by Javelin, we have seen the highest increase in identity fraud cases since 2004, up 22% from 2007. With a troubling economy and rising unemployment, coupled with sophisticated online fraudsters, our risks for identity theft and fraud will continue to increase. And with the younger generations identifying themselves and their personal information through social media networks, with very little protection, identity thieves have an arsenal of information at their fingertips. All a thief needs to steal an identity is a name. They can then filter through the Internet’s open window to build an identity and to steal your money and take over your life. There’s so much information out there, all they have to do is connect the dots.

The good news is that consumers can minimize the impact of identity theft and identity fraud through vigilance. They need to manage, monitor and protect their credit data, personal information, computers and online transactions. First they need to frequently monitor accounts and personal data which include records that don’t show up on a credit report like utilities, cell phone accounts, driver’s licenses, criminal records and so on. Second, they need to protect their personal computers by installing and updating anti-virus software, anti-spyware, anti-key logging software, and they need to protect their passwords.

With the constant evolution of threats, what kind of technology challenges does Intersections face?
Today’s reality and tomorrow’s challenges is a digital world of increasing connectivity where data and information is readily available, instantly obtained and easily exchanged. Consumers and businesses alike need flexible, innovative, identity management products and services that look ahead in reducing security risks. We are leading the charge in integrating advanced technology, blended security products, mobile services and PC protection. We strategically align ourselves with vendors and partners whose technology can enhance our services and keep us well positioned to deal with tomorrow’s threats.




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