It’s scary how many women I know that are being harassed by online scammer lately. I could write about all the stories I’ve heard but that would probably take up a few hours. And I wanted to write a post about this issue because it’s starting to drift into the influencer space. I know that not all of my readers are bloggers, but almost all of you have emails.
Email spam is very common, but it’s getting more and more aggressive.
It’s not just spam that’s the problem. It’s attempted scams, trafficking, and stealing.
I want to help you protect your personal brand online.
Remember this post? Well everyone has a personal brand. You and me each have a brand – even if you don’t own a business. And protecting yourself online should be something you consider if you spend time on social media, writing emails, or browsing websites.
Recently, there’s been a HUGE scam (more like a trafficking attempt) that has been preying on bloggers and influencers.
I actually received the spam email but deleted it right away – I can spot a fake email from a mile away and I personally know the PRESS email that the brand was claiming to represent.
The “L BRAND” Scam
I got an email last week that claimed to be from “LBrands” which represents Victorias Secret, Bath and Body Works, etc. They were interested in collaborating with me and wanted to get on a call to “chat about the opportunity”
I hit delete and never looked back. The email was a phony. It was formatted weird and I actually know the PR person for Victorias Secret. No PR VS opportunity would come from the larger corporation email.
Last summer I attended a Victoria’s Secret event and I knew the PR person – why wouldn’t she reach out directly to me if she has my email, right?
So into the trash it went.
2 days later, other influencers started posting in some of the Facebook groups I am a part of
“Is this legit?”one of them asked, sharing a screenshot of the exact same email I received. I typed in my response.
“Nope. Scam. Delete it“
My comment wasn’t ever acknowledged and a few days later the horror stories started coming to light….
Influencers were getting on call with this “brand” representative via video chat. The screen would show a woman sitting at a desk and then go dark. The influencers keep the video chat on…then the odd and rather personal questions come from the “woman” who they can no longer see.
“Tell us about yourself”
“Do you have pets”
“What is your wright and size?”
“How long is your hair?”
It gets even weirder…they ask the influencers to “fix their posture” so that they can size the woman for bras.
You can read more about this crazy ordeal in this post written by influencer Laura Pasleywho was a victim of one of these emails.
Like I said, spam is nothing new, but this is most definitely an attempt of some kind and influencers alike need to be careful about the emails they respond to.
Below are my tips on how to protect your personal brand online:
Spotting A Fake
Bloggers are getting their accounts hacked due to a lot of fake emails. Most of them are scammers pretending to be brands and asking influencers for collaborations.
“Check out our product here” they will say, hyperlinking to an instagram page that will then give them access to the blogger’s account. They suddenly change the password and lock the blogger out of their accounts. Next, they’ll send emails demanding money.
Common mistake: don’t click links in emails from contacts you don’t know.
But that’s not all – there are ALWAYS tell tale signs that an email is fake. Always.
1. The Email Will Contain Horrible Grammar and Formatting
You’ll look at it and wonder if this person finished High School. The emails are almost always containing grammatical errors and are formatted in a copy and paste manner. Paragraphs will be indented and contain a lot of line breaks.
Oh yes, they will use your name, but don’t be fooled. it’s not genuine. Is the email colorful? Are things highlighted? Do they include emoji’s and use words like “dear”. “babe”. or some form of that?
Then ignore it.
Sure, some brands really brand their emails. Maybe some do use emojis. Maybe some do call influencers “dear”
But that’s not very professional, is it?
2. Too Good To Be True? Probably Is
Ok, don’t get me wrong. It’s very exciting when a brand reaches out to you and wants to collaborate. I always ask myself “why me?”
There should be a clear cut objective from the brand. It’s likely they want to include micro influencers or perhaps you have a very specific demographic that your personal brand reachers. However, a professional PR email will state these objectives and the specific reason they reached out to you.
When I did partner with a big brand, they always tell me why. Always.
It’s important that the influencer understands the objectives of the campaign and what the brand is looking for in ROI. If they aren’t giving you information like that, do some research on the email.
3. Don’t Click Links and Respond With Caution
Something seem fishy? Respond with caution and the upmost level or professionalism. Never agree to anything right away. Ask questions, a lot of questions.
Never click any links or attachments right away. However above them and see what the link preview address is.
Make sure whoever you are “chatting” with can offer up a professional email back. PR reps like to keep things professional, short, and sweet. Ask for more information. Ask about specific scopes for the project (hey, you need to know this anyways). If this person doesn’t sound like they spent anytime in public relations or dealing with marketing, don’t respond.
If the follow up isn’t trustworthy (such as asking for your personal details RIGHT AWAY) then delete and block.
4. Never Use A Personal Email
If you own a domain, you can get a business gmail account linked to your blog. I have a specific PR email for this blog that I use to respond to all emails. And my PR assistant always replies on my behalf whenever we start the negotiations or contacts. We always run the email address through google and do research on the brand to get a feel of their current public relations and marketing tactics. If something seems off about the campaign, we ask questions.
You can imagine we don’t often hear back once we start asking about “scopes” and “allocated budgets”…
Not only is a professional business email better for privacy, but it also allows you to connect with brands on a more professional level. At the very least, you can protect your personal identity.
5. Get A Contract
Sometimes those fake brands will want to send you things right away. Don’t ever give out your address – ever.
This is smart advice for brands who also just want to send you free things…never do it without a contract.
Get a P.O box and have things delivered to your place of work. But before you even do that, make sure you have a contract from the brand. If they refuse to provide you with one, then you send them one. If they refuse to sign, you have a spammer on your hands (or just a brand who has n0 idea what to do).
6. Never Video Chat
Phone calls only please and when you do call a brand, use a google voice phone number (available in the business suite). A brand does not need to see how you “look” like to chat about details for a campaign. If they’ve done their research they KNOW how you look like already.
If for some reason, you do video chat….mute your mic and block the camera until you have, without reasonable doubt, affirmation you are chatting with the real brand representative. Ask for ID even! Have them show it to you.
Is There Such Thing As Too Much Caution?
Brand collaborations are supposed to be super professional – and that means never overstepping the personal boundary lines that you set up. If you suspect a brand collaboration opportunity is a bit odd, do some preliminary research.
Type the persons name into google: do they work there? What else comes up when you search the email. If in doubt, do what Lauren did and CALL the brand to find out If this person exists or if the email is legit,
I throw away a lot of emails everyday and never give a response if I suspect foul play. To all influencers who read this post, consider saying NO to more opportunities, do research, and trust your gut when something seems off. And most importantly, chat with each other.
A lot of women have posted about the incident with L Brands and that has helped them get protected from this same instance happening to them.