Telegram Auction: Everything seems to be up for grabs
In August 2022, Telegram launched its Fragment platform and TON blockchain ecosystem that auctions off usernames to the highest bidder. Telegram founder and CEO Pavel Durov reported that in the first month, the platform sold over $50 million worth of usernames. Some usernames have sold for substantial amounts, with the @news username auctioned for approximately $2.4 million, @auto for $2.185 million, and so on.
Brands are not protected
The sale of these usernames has raised concerns about intellectual property rights, as Telegram is auctioning off brand names without consideration of their ownership. There are no rights protection mechanisms, and brand owners need to participate in an auction to secure their Telegram brand name. In the top 10 sales, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international governing body of association football’s username, was sold for $1.45 million, and Meta for $982,000.
Brandsec looked at Australian brands being promoted for auction, and here are a few examples (for reference, 1 TON is $1.58 USD at the time of writing this blog):
- Commbank (commbank.t.me): 104 TON
- Telstra (telstra.t.me): 104 TON
- Optus (optus.t.me): 104 TON
- Auspost (auspost.t.me): 104 TON
- Woolworths (woolworths.t.me): 104 TON
- Billabong (billabong.tme): 515 TON
Brand impersonation on Telegram is not a new thing with scammers pretending to be everyone from Apple, Google, and Binance support to Walmart customer service. Given that Telegram is a cybercriminal hotspot, controlling your brand on this app is especially important.
Anyone can register a Telegram account and a mobile number is the only requirement to set up a new account on the app, with no additional verification procedures. This means that anyone can claim to be anyone.
Telegram is not safe, and auctioning off branded usernames makes it worse
Telegram has over 700 million active users and offers end-to-end encryption and self-destructing messages. Anyone can register a Telegram account and a mobile number is the only requirement to set up a new account on the app, with no additional verification procedures. This means that anyone can claim to be anyone.
The popularity and features attract cybercriminals and make it challenging for digital forensics and threat intelligence. It’s important that brands must know the risks posed by Telegram, including unsafe digital collaboration, anonymity, encryption not being a safety net, criminal coordination, and tele-scams. Fraud is rampant on Telegram, and scammers create fake channels and groups to dupe customers into providing personal information and financial data or buying counterfeit products.
How can brands protect themselves?
Brand owners can report impersonation accounts to Telegram using the official bot channel called No To Scam. Once you find the bot, start typing in the chat window by tagging the scammer account or channel and explaining the reason behind the report. Our experience is that it’s a guess whether you will get a response, which at times makes it frustrating to enforce a client’s intellectual property rights.
The other option is to purchase your brand name and avoid third parties from acquiring and using it. Auctions start at around 104 TON, which is around $240 USD, and while an annoying upfront fee, there are no renewal fees associated with the username.
Brandsec is a corporate domain name management and brand protection company that looks after many of Australia, New Zealand, and Asia’s top publicly listed brands. We provide monitoring and enforcement services, DNS and SSL management, domain name brokerage and dispute management, and brand security consultation services.