When internet fraudsters mimic a legitimate business to trick consumers into giving out their personal information, it’s called phishing. It’s not just a problem for consumers, but for the companies the scammers are impersonating too. The FTC has long provided advice to consumers about steps they can take to avoid phishing scams. But what should you do if customers contact your company upset that they responded to a phishing email from a scammer impersonating your legitimate business?
If consumers fall victim to phishing schemes that falsely invoke your company name, they may look to you for guidance on the next steps to take. Offering immediate advice and support can help you retain the customer goodwill you’ve worked so hard to develop.
How should you respond if your business is impersonated in a phishing scam?
- Notify consumers of the scam. If you are alerted to a phishing scam where fraudsters are impersonating your business, inform your customers as soon as possible. If your business has a social media presence, announce the scam on your social media sites and warn customers to ignore suspicious emails or texts purporting to be from your company. You can also inform your customers of the phishing scam by email or letter. The important point is to remind your customers that legitimate businesses like yours would never solicit sensitive personal information through insecure channels like email or text messages.
- Contact law enforcement. If you become aware of a phishing scam impersonating your business, report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Suggest that affected customers forward any phishing emails impersonating your business to the Anti Phishing Working Group, a public-private partnership against cybercrime. Consumers also can file a complaint with the FTC.
- Provide resources for affected consumers. If consumers believe they may be victims of identity theft because of the phishing scam impersonating your business, direct them to www.IdentityTheft.gov where they can report and recover from identity theft. For more information about recommended computer security practices, direct consumers to resources on the FTC’s consumer information site where they can learn how to protect themselves online and avoid phishing attacks.
- Use the episode as reminder to update your security practices. Data security isn’t just a one-and-done checklist. Threats are ever-evolving, so your defenses need to be nimble, too. For information on securing sensitive customer information, be a frequent flyer on the FTC’s data security portal. Follow case developments and read publications designed for companies of any size and sector, including Start with Security and the recently refreshed Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business. Pressed for time? Pledge two minutes a day to watch a video from the FTC’s resource library for businesses.
The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.
- We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
- We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
- We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
- We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.
In reply to I just got a call. Caller ID by Lisa George