Social Identity Theft – how much will it cost YOU?


As Victorian’s sat glued to their televisions and internet news feeds as former Premier Ted Baillieu resigned from the Liberal leadership Wednesday night, one industrious Cyber Squatter was getting ready to nab a piece of Cyber-Real-Estate that shouldn’t have been on the market. Within minutes of Dr Denis Napthine being named as Liberal Party Leader and the Victorian Premier Elect, a Twitter handle his media advisor should have reserved for him years ago was registered.

And so begins the story of the @DenisNapthineMP twitter parody account.

Parody accounts of politicians, celebrities and other notable members of the public are not a new phenomena; but they do present significant social risk to your online reputation; and as in the case of @DenisNapthineMP accounts can easily be mistaken as genuine.


It’s pure luck that the @DenisNapthineMP account is a wonderful example of great Twitter humour. It could have just as easily been tweeting XXX rated content or being used to cyberbully others on the #springstreet and #auspol feeds.

Even worse, instead of coming straight out as a parody account, @DenisNapthineMP could have pretended to be THE Dr Denis Napthine.

The reality is: they would have gotten away with it for some time – until a savvy journalist got suspicious or the Liberal Party was forced to issue a press release stating that the @DenisNapthineMP account is bogus.

The damage an imposter could cause across your social feeds is catastrophic. Here are some examples;

Budget Australian airline Jetstar is suffering a double dose of cyberpain today. First up was a hoaxer who managed to create a Facebook persona called “Jetstar Australia” and thus to post legitimate-looking comments onto Jetstar’s official pages with sniggering disdain.

In Jetstar’s case, legitimate social traffic was diverted to the bogus site, where customers’ posts were responded to with “sniggering disdain.” The result: bad PR for Jetstar who not only had to content with the Corporate side of Facebook in getting the bogus page shut down, but also manage crisis communications on their official channels, alerting customers to the bogus site and repairing the damage to customer good will. This is of course, was at the expense of their regular social strategy (sales). Add into the equation a social audience whose perception toward Jetstar as being a ‘trusted’ brand significantly diminished via a mismanaged social sphere.

This was an expensive, panic riddled exercise in social media crisis communications, which was largely preventable. Fact in point- I have just registered a ‘Jetstar’ Facebook Page. In under 2 seconds. It could happen again.

Another social risk profile, the hack, can cause Brand annihilation:

On Tuesday, Jeep became the second major American brand in as many days to have its Twitter feed hacked, with the Jeep perpetrators joking that the brand had been sold to Cadillac. The message of takeover by a rival was similar to Monday’s Twitter hack of the official Burger King feed, which said that McDonald’s had taken over its major competitor.

In addition to the public relations damage done by the hack, the scenario with Chrysler being ‘taken over’ by a direct competitor could have led to stock-market impacts. Stocks could fall (or rise) on the basis of the information being tweeted. Although this example is of a hacker; it could have easily been a social imposter with a carefully constructed and well executed social strategy to sink a Brand to a lower share price with the aim of creating a buying frenzy to their advantage before the deception was discovered and trading halted or suspended. This impacts a range of stakeholders: from Mum & Dad shareholder (directly or via their superannuation funds) to the owner of the Brand, market traders and stockbroking firms.

Sounding a little too Hollywood? Read: Environmentalist’s hoax triggers $314m Whitehaven share price fall

How wold your Brand’s shareholders react to being told that due to your social stream being hacked, or your social traffic diverted via hoax, their share values had just plummeted?

How would they react when they learn that this was completely preventable?

Cue: mass Board resignations.

Jamie White, Intellectual Property, Social Media and Technology Lawyer from Pod Legal explains:

“One should secure various extensions of their business domain name, as a defensive strategy. It also reduces the potential for future disputes. Acquiring domain names from opportunists can be challenging and expensive.”

The solution?

  • Buy up Cyber-Real-Estate. Forget about having the worst house in the best street, buy the whole street! Every url variation, every .com extension.
  • Secure your social footprint by registering strategic variations of your brand on ALL social streams: even if you don’t intend to actively use them, securing the rights to YOUR brand’s name is what is important.  This stops cyber-squatters from filling the void you leave in the social sphere when you aren’t present in that space.
  • Get your C-Suite socially savvy: Dionne Lew, CEO of the The Social Executive™ provides a range of services that assist leaders leverage the opportunities and manage the risks associated with the connected world.

As for Victoria’s new Premier… Will the REAL @DenisNapthineMP please Twitter Up? Here’s how…


A special shout out to @DionneLew for spotting my Tweet and inspiring me to write this blog.