Online Compliance Issues Facing Small Dollar Lenders Today
Internet Compliance is an essential part of protecting your brand across the web. Businesses invest time and money developing brands and marketing digitally to reach consumers and build trust with their customers. Unfortunately, the Internet creates opportunities for anyone to abuse and exploit companies, misrepresent brands, and take advantage of consumers. You may not even realize your business has been targeted. Today IntegriShield works with over 90 small dollar lender and lead generation brands. We would like to share with you a case study which highlights some of the top issues facing brands on the web today.
A Case Study
False affiliations and online ad fraud are still the leading violations impacting IntegriShield’s online lenders. From January 1-December 31, 2020, 80% of our findings were unauthorized use of our client’s brands on the internet. This is down 8% year over year.
There were 1,757 URLs found to be pages using legitimate lending brand names that were owned and operated by individuals not affiliated or authorized to collect consumer information on behalf of those brands. Besides the decline in the number of sites committing this fraud, the number of repeat violators was also down.
In 2019, 32.4% of the violations were from repeat offenders. These site owners, who already had their violations identified and taken down, put them back up again after the fact. In 2020, the number of repeat offenders was down to 14%.
Upon discovery, IntegriShield’s remediation team quickly identifies the site owner and sends a series of notices to take down the page content. As of December 31, 2020, 47% of the unauthorized use violations have been remediated nationally and internationally. This is down from 87% in 2019. A key challenge with this type of fraud is the number of overseas domain owners who will not comply.
As part of the process, IntegriShield works with hosting providers to identify those sites who are committing fraud and, in about half the cases, the hosting provider will take the sites down. We recommend companies consider obtaining an international trademark as a means of protecting their brands from international bad actors.
Another major challenge in 2020 was the ability to contact site owners. Remediation rates were down year over year for all types of violations due to the pandemic and site owners lack of response. Remediation has continued into 2021 for all violations identified in 2020. As site owners come back online, remediation has begun to catch up to normal levels.
While bad actors will continue to infringe on brands, those companies taking a proactive approach will start to see a decline in the number of unauthorized sites, and with it, a decline in the risk of being a target. Being proactive about compliance doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming. Whether you outsource or run it internally, having a written process is the first step.
A compliance monitoring process typically begins with scheduling a monthly review of your brand presence on the web. Once violations of your brand are found, it is very important to have templated communication to quickly send to site owners requesting your brand be removed or the information about it be fixed. Companies should try to work with legitimate sites as much as possible to keep traffic and maintain brand awareness. For those fraudulent sites, it is best to ask for removal. It is important to keep a log of the websites and actions in case you ever need documentation in the future. It also helps to keep screenshots of the violations because the web is always changing.
Compliance, legal, and marketing professionals will always have challenges and risks associated with running a business. Reduce your risk and take control of your brand by regularly monitoring and remediating. Internet fraud has become a top issue over the last few years, but it can be managed. IntegriShield can help.