How to Avoid Online Reputation Scams

Emphasis on the good. Unfortunately, as complex as the online business has become, even the quest for good web integrity is plagued with a few scammy situations. Here’s how to spot the latest trends in these and how to avoid the nasty consequences of accidentally running across them.

Practice transparency to avoid traps.

Your brand is the best-suited entity for handling its own reputation. Many of the critical problems your online reputation could face can be prevented with practical transparency. If there is a clerical error on a post, it should be reported as soon as possible. If there is a misunderstanding with a social media manager or online customer service manager, it should be addressed politely. This prevents you from falling into an ugly public situation that scammers can twist to their advantage and use as bait.

Discretion is well advised.

Likewise, not every issue should be addressed publicly. In some situations, apologizing to a customer’s complaint directly is advisable. Engaging with an awkward situation head-on helps you to evaluate whether the one lodging a complaint is a legitimate customer or a scammer. Rejecting a public forum reaction to a loud complaint gives you the option to block a scammer without the explosive feedback from other customers.

Apply a rule of thumb.

Online reputation management revolves around real-world integrity. You should always apply a basic rule of thumb. If something looks too good to be true, then it is.

It is ironic that a service offering to help you maintain a good online reputation must be brutally screened for reputability. Still, this is the basic rule you will need to apply. Every service you encounter must be heavily vetted before it can be trusted with your brand.

Watch out for fake news.

Any type of company that offers to write you up to a glowing review on principle is bad news. It’s better to have no online feedback than the phony kind.

Aside from the old adage that “the truth always comes out in the wash”, this can turn out to be quite costly. Deadly serious, in fact.

Fake news, once discovered, is completely irrevocable. Your brand may be able to recover from a PR slip-up or the accidental misuses of a hashtag. What you cannot replace is consumer trust.

Extortion comes from bad information exchange.

If you don’t believe in the snowball effect fake Online Reputation Management can have, reconsider. Many initiatives some shady Online Reputation Management services use “provide” are outright bribery. In this Forbes article, the author brings to our attention what happened when a supposed Online Reputation Management agency used DUI photos to extort a company into accepting their services.

Extortion can only come through the exchange of information. If a company you never contacted presents you with information that never made it to the press, instantly report it. Never be guilted into volunteering more information about incriminating evidence the service “found” by their thorough “skills”.  A fire only burns as long as you feed it. Anyone that has information about you that is not publicly known is an extortionist by proxy.

Crunch numbers always.

Sometimes the illegitimacy of a thing is hidden in the numbers. Many Online Reputation Management services are scams because they start out charging a low fee for services and then they roll in many hidden charges that oversell the product.

Appraise the value of the services you need from a general financial resource. Don’t let the company tell you that hidden fees are normal. Find out for yourself what the services are economically worth. You should not pay more for added packages you didn’t solicit, to begin with. This is parasitic at best and at worst could be stealing your information at a slow bleed.

Make a note of absent behavior.

Online Reputation Management requires consistency or it is simply pointless. One of the usual scam suspects is the absentee Online Reputation Management service. They soldier your brand’s cause at the beginning, but after a while, they only passively monitor your web presence.

You will have to vet a company carefully before you hire and watch for absentee warning signs early. Request a portfolio and some recommendations from previous clients. How long does it take you to get it back? Make a note of the time-lapse. If there is tardiness in the initiation, then there’s a great chance that they will be tardy in all facets of operations. That’s no good for saving face in the online space, where everything moves at a mouse click.

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