Saving Face: Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com
Fertik, who has all the attributes the media love, a Harvard education and Silicon Valley pedigree, has arrived in the UK. He has just bought an online reputation company in Liverpool and hired well-known Heidi Mallace formerly of Project Associates, a reputation management company to make their high-end reputation.com offering come alive in Europe because they have seen “high-profile names feel the pain in the US‚Äù. The company has two key offerings, one aimed at executives and another at UHNW, the White Glove Picasso offering, which is what Mallace will spearhead. Their costs vary but an executive offering is $5,000 a year but a comprehensive tech and personal service for an UHNW for twelve months in the UK is ¬£100,000.
Reputation.com is an easy sell. What family office, private bank or offshore island wouldn’t want to take advantage of a service that keeps their businesses, clients and families secure on line and out of the public eye as the potential problems increase in this area particularly with the continuous media outing of companies, private individuals and tax evasion stories in the UK? As Fertik says, “Everyone wants to live a peaceful life and ultimately have privacy of their personal or business affairs.‚Äù Reputation.com has 1.6million customers who include top-of-the-world branded banks, hedge funds and private equity organisations. “What we offer is a gold standard reputation-protection service for people who would not want themselves, their family or business dealings targeted by cyber fraud, the press, gold-diggers or gigalos.‚Äù
Fertik warms to his theme: “Cyber criminals have progressed from ATM machines; they now want to move huge sums of money out of your, or your client’s, account and they know how to do it. They have software that can sit watching the keys you tap on your keyboard and may do this for two years in order to take $100million out of an account or take a large mortgage out.‚Äù Fertik continues to explain: “Cyber crime not only takes money but can cause years of annoyance trying to work through legal and banking processes proving you didn’t take a loan or mortgage.‚Äù
Could your family, or a client’s, endure an acute, long-lived public embarrassment?
“People are after information about families in order to compromise them. One case involved photos of a daughter on Facebook,‚Äù explains Fertik, “that would have embarrassed her family and meant a wedding got called off. Another story claimed a son was gay. None of these was true but it was all making it difficult for these children and causing embarrassment to their families and circle. The aim is to blackmail and be paid to stop or go away. Using information on many sites on the web, fraudsters can easily find out who people are, how wealthy they are, who their friends are, and where they spend time. They can then get themselves an introduction.‚Äù
Your delicate and personal information is out there
“There are so many organisations with your personal information. You have property sites with pictures of your home, medical organisations have delicate data about your personal life. The press or fraudsters can build a profile of their target. They can find out that you have a ski lodge in Verbier and what your donations are locally, i.e. to charities or political parties.‚Äù
Criminals don’t use guns anymore they use computers.
“We think there is a two-year lag from the US to Britain on these issues,‚Äù says Fertik. “Maybe as much as three years across some parts of Europe. It’s not about credit card crime now. In reality you just cancel your cards and move on. Now cyber fraud is looking at multi-million-pound mortgages. Data shows there is $10bn in data fraud. Criminal gangs are dumpster diving to get your identity so they can do things like submit your tax return and get a refund. If something like this happens, then the onus is on you to prove you weren’t involved.‚Äù
Problems they deal with
“There are lots of different problems with reputation online which can vary dependent on nationality. An example might be a Russian billionaire fighting a court litigation and ten years later all the bad articles are still on the top of Google and no-one wants to do business deals with them because everyone Googles someone before they deal with them. We know that Google likes court documents because they are factual so they get priority. They prefer older documents as well because they believe they are more trusted. So some things stick on the internet. Clients like this need us to turn this around.‚Äù
How we do it: super computers and learning software
“Everyone has a reputation score so we monitor this for clients and their family names and see if it goes down. If so, we alert clients and get to work. We will work with the biggest online organisations in the world to get material taken down. We also have an algorithmical obsession with all the search engines and social media. We have rooms full of machines that learn how to look for problems and clear them up holistically. We have written our own software and have many patents on our processes and our staff are PhD engineers, statisticians and mathematicians who work with a bespoke team for UHNW clients to make any intervention look natural.‚Äù
White Glove Picasso Service
“We work with technology and humans,‚Äù adds Fertik, who is a Davos devotee, “to see what the issues are for the client, then monitor the computing output to make sure it’s in line with what they want. We call it our White Glove Picasso Service. The machines get better instructions as we move forward with the client and tweak the outcomes. If your name is common then it may take more time to work on a correct formula. A Russian name is easier.‚Äù
Issues around the world
Africa: “Lots of the internet just says they are corrupt. They are trying to be more than a banana republic.‚Äù
Gulf: “Constantly connected with physical threats from Islamists which scares off business and investment.‚Äù
Fertik final word
“90% of all people Google you. They make a decision about whether to engage with you or not. UHNW can hire a PR firm for ¬£5million and still not change the internet reputation. That means a negative reputation will continue. We can work on a client for a week and change what people perceive or think that quickly.‚Äù