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Government body Work Development Agency (WDA)’s latest national initiative SkillsFuture has been hijacked by doppelganger sites riding on the government-led campaign.
This has led to WDA releasing a statement on its Facebook page warning the public of “bogus” websites and social media accounts with names similar to its recent national initiative SkillsFuture.
SkillsFuture is a national movement aimed at providing Singaporeans with the opportunities to develop their professional potential. This year, the government will be awarding Singaporeans aged 25 and above with an SG$500 credit in a bid to encourage professional development through various government-endorsed programmes.
The initiative’s brand has been hijacked by at least two independent companies unrelated to WDA’s latest national campaign.
One of the sites bears the URL www.SkillsFuture.edu.sg prompting users to sign up on the site to “Get Additional $500 Grant from Aventis Learning Today”. It was set up by private institution Aventis Learning Group. A spokesperson from the company told Marketing that they would be willing to take down the site if requested by WDA. The government agency has not reached out to Aventis for any action.
Meanwhile, the other is a microsite set up by startup Glints with the URL “www.SkillsFuture.credit”. It also urges users to “register for early access” on programmes promoted by the company. Glints has not commented at the time of writing.
Intend to confuse?
Both sites appear on the Search rankings for “SkillsFuture”, potentially confusing the public who are looking for more information on the latest government investment.
Jeff Cheong, president, Tribal Worldwide Asia, said, “I received by SkillsFuture pack last night and after scanning through the brochure I decided to Google it. Usually I skip the ads but I took a second look and saw the varied vanity URL. Looks like some of the service providers have gone ahead of SkillsFuture to market their services.”
Cheong said it was important for WDA to clarify the issue given that some sites may have misleading information for the public.
“Still, we cannot stop search marketing activities can we? I actually think its being opportunistic of the accredited service providers to do so.”
Because the SkillsFuture is still in its launch phase, a huge advertising imaginary currently takes up full screen on the official site. “I was hoping for a needs-based navigation where a matchmaking function can accelerate user’s needs to recommended courses,“ Cheong said.
A case of identity theft?
Ryan Lim, principal consultant and founder QED Consulting, pointed out that by riding on the branding of the government effort, the other “bogus sites” were in fact participating in a classic case of identity phishing in spite of their disclaimers.
For Glints, the microsite includes a disclaimer at the bottom of the page indicating that it is not affiliated with WDA or the official SkillsFuture initiative. In addition, both doppelganger sites feature the official logos of the two companies that are independent of the WDA.
“They are still pretending to be what they are not. And digital has made identity phishing even easier,” Lim said.
Though the sites may not be removed completely on Search, Lim said that the WDA could have taken more preventative measures to avoid other service providers from hijacking the SkillsFuture brand.
“If the sites were set up and intended to confuse the public, then WDA may request for them to be taken down.”
This article originally appeared on Marketing Magazine