Beware Email Impersonators

Social media gets maligned for infringements on privacy, but for all its transparency there are still mirrors among the glass walled maze that offer reflections that are not genuine.  If so inclined, with just a few minutes and fewer dollars, I could cloak myself with a new email address on a privately owned domain (say: and begin sending email to brand managers claiming to be Lindsay Lohan offering “endorsements” for free product.  After getting a Coach purse, a set of fascia Skull Candy headphones and a 12-pound bag of grapefruit Jelly Belly candies, my digital masquerade could dissolve long before anyone files a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center.

So, if a firm gets a cryptic email from a pseudo-celebrity, what should be done?  In most cases, nothing.  However, let’s just say, the person claims to be someone with a Twitter following of a couple hundred thousand people who just might look at your product if a tweet mentioned it.

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This happened to some associates of mine recently.  The team is working on an accessory for mobile phones and a recent email came in from someone claiming to be a celebrity, of sorts (None of the team recognized the name, as they aren’t big fans of the “sport” with which he is associated.).  Fortunately, one of the partners is well-versed in social media.  He suggested the president write a simple note responding to the inquiry.  Basically, they asked the celeb to send a private tweet from the Twitter account that has an established provenance associating it with the actual person.  Within minutes, the tweet arrived and the team agreed to send beta versions of the product.  Now they hope the celeb likes the product and tweets nice things very publicly.

Obviously, a little logical forethought and simple processes can make it easy to avoid being duped, yet still take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the evolving social media environment.

The other option might be to send stuff to anyone claiming to be someone, but isn’t everybody somebody?