How to protect your online identity – even if you don’t have one

By Justine Fedak, Head, Social Media and Sponsorship Marketing, BMO Financial Group

Whether or not you’re active online, your online identity – or lack of one – may have impacts to your reputation. While we’re all at risk of having our online identities compromised, high net worth individuals and their families are at greater risk. Why? Because there’s more benefit to be had by stealing the identity of somebody influential.

Imagine this identity theft scenario

Say you’re the CEO of a large bank. Somebody creates a LinkedIn profile using your name. They upload a headshot of you that they find on the web. They then invite influencers in the world of finance to connect, and of course, they accept. Why wouldn’t they? After all, you have a great reputation.

Next thing you know, this fraudster is defaming your character by posting inappropriate messages using your name, and you’re in the midst of a media nightmare. You’re forced to make a public apology to save your reputation and the bank’s. Still, it’s unlikely that all of the damage will come undone.

This actually happened to a CEO of a large manufacturing company, and it could just as easily happen to you.

Justine Fedak suggests taking the following measures:

  1. Verify your social media profiles. Let Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks know that you are the real you. Follow their individual verification processes and they’ll place a checkmark (or other symbol) next to your profile name so visitors know they can trust your account.
  2. Set up a Google alert on your name. This way you’ll get notified whenever your name appears online. While sifting through legitimate references may be tedious if you have a high public profile, you’ll be thankful for the alert if someone is impersonating you, making fraudulent statements, or sharing your private information.
  3. Conduct a reverse image search. Literally drag and drop an image of yourself into the Google search bar, hit search, and Google will let you know where that image (and similar images) appear. Again, you may have to do some sifting, but if you find your head shot associated with somebody else’s LinkedIn account, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
  4. Protect the identity of your family members, too. Apply the above steps to your children and spouse, because any misappropriation or defamation of their online profiles may have repercussions for you.
  5. Last and definitely not least – be active online. Contrary to what many think, hiding your head in the sand won’t protect you. If you’re not active online and someone types your name into their browser, your reputation may be susceptible to whatever others have to say about you. To prevent unfavourable content from rising to the top when your name is searched, you must take ownership of your online presence.

Like the artwork you cherish, the property you own, the business you’ve built and the wealth you’ve acquired, your digital identity is an asset that should be protected. In addition to the steps above, consider talking to your BMO Relationship Manager about incorporating your digital assets into your Will, because even when you’re gone, your online persona will live on.