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Secrets and lies: Phishing in the business world

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Deliverability is the Achilles’ heel of the online advertising world. If your message can’t get through, what good is sending it? Heather Palmer Goff, director of ISP relations and deliverability for e-mail marketing company Responsys, weighs in with a common misconception as well as a secret that can help your marketing messages make it through.

Secret: Educating your subscribers about phishing and fraud can help boost your deliverability rate and your subscribers’ trust.

“If your customer trusts you and knows you’re not going to be phishing them, they may feel more comfortable adding you to their address book as a trusted sender,” Palmer Goff said.

How do you get them to trust you? Be an advocate, she said. First, tell your customers what phishing is and why it’s dangerous. Then, tell subscribers exactly what you will and won’t be asking them about.

“Say, ‘We’ll never ask you to disclose things like a social security number, user name or password,’” Palmer Goff said. “The biggest thing here is education and establishing your brand as a protector of their online security.” Depending on your frequency of mailing, you can remind them of this weekly or monthly. Quarterly, Palmer Goff said, isn’t frequent enough.

You can also provide links to additional information that may help subscribers protect themselves. For example, you can link directly to TrustedSource.org, a free service that lets users plug in any IP address and see how their reputation stacks up.

Lie: Phishing is only a consumer problem; businesses shouldn’t worry or care about it.

Earlier this year, some Salesforce.com customers were phished in an attempt to steal their user names and passwords. It’s no surprise because phishers still have free rein. More than 70% of Americans don’t know what phishing is, according to a May 2005 Pew Internet and American Life Project.

This is important because even if phishers aren’t using your brand or attacking your customers, they are impacting the effectiveness of your marketing programs, Palmer Goff said.

“If someone is pretending to be Citibank, and your customer believes it’s really Citibank and they get sabotaged, it’s detrimental to the brand and the channel, but also to the e-mail channel itself,” she said. “It ruins the trust in the very [commerce] channel we’re trying to use to promote our brands. It deteriorates the credibility and security of the e-mail commerce channel.”

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