Reputation Management and Protecting Against Identity Theft

reputation managementSolopreneurs and freelancers should know the importance of making a name for themselves. Sometimes, however, that name is being put to use in ways its owner never intended.

“Reputation management” is a new term for keeping a watchful eye on one’s personal and/or business name. Identity theft is a serious problem these days, and prudent individuals would be wise to ensure that it doesn’t happen to them.

For as little as $10 a month, there are a few companies that offer business liability insurance. It’s a good idea to also have personal ID theft insurance to go right along with that. Both are small prices to pay for protection.

Even with that, every solopreneur and freelancer should engage in a Google search for their own name, as well as the company name. While not too long ago such a search would have been considered to be a narcissistic indulgence to gauge one’s importance in the world (still is sometimes), it’s now a necessity and should be done every two weeks. By doing so, you can catch identity thieves and other problems early, before your professional reputation is ruined.

What to Look for In Reputation Management

Be wary of websites that appear in this search that are unrecognizable social media links, unfamiliar blogs or websites, or odd-looking directories. Watch out for malware links—be sure you minimize the problem of clicking on one by mistake by updating your browser with the latest security patch. Should you encounter an unfamiliar link that contains you or your business’s name, try and do some “detective work” to see what it points to. Perhaps you were merely mentioned, or someone is using a name similar to your own. However, someone could also be posing as yourself or your business, taking customers away from you and tarnishing your reputation. It’s your responsibility to know who is writing and posting things about you, and for what reason.

Keep in mind that you leave a sort of “breadcrumb trail” wherever you go online, and that most sites’ memberships are searchable publicly. To that end, to gain more notoriety, many sites offer free information—often in the name of products or reports—because by doing so you’ve given them your email address, which is what they value most. While it’s a good idea to seek out sites that will benefit you professionally, giving up your privacy in the way of your email address can be a problem. Read the site’s terms and conditions to see if they will share your email address, and with whom. Make sure that you are providing your email in exchange for something that you want, instead of a random ad or prompt for a promotion.

What to Do About Business Identity Theft

If you notice that your name is being used by someone you didn’t authorize, then you ought to contact the site owner immediately. If you see a link you want removed, you can ask Google to apply its search removal tool. You contact the owner of the site with the offending material and then activate the tool. Keep in mind that the results are not automatic, and like a negative entry on a credit report score, it can take a long time—many months—for it to go away.

You should also check your own website and articles from time to time to make sure that they aren’t the source of malware or phishing links. It’s possible that a site you wrote for, or have a link to on your website, could have been hacked or compromised in some way. Once you find the problem, remove the link so you don’t drive people to an infected site.

Essentially, the easiest way to ensure that you and your business’s online identity are protected is to be “eternally vigilant.” By staying on top of this issue you can at the least lessen or blunt any impact that might occur.

This is a guest post from Farhan Niazi,