Got a Website? Prepare for “Pitch” Scams & Spam
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We will say up front that there are many decent and legitimate businesses who make a business of helping companies of all sizes create and manage their web presence. However, there are also a lot of scams disguised as web managing companies. There are also many legitimate companies who use spam tactics to contact businesses or organizations while trying to market their services. We consider these spamming tactics no different than a viagra spammer. Shame on them! If a legitimate web marketing business wants our business, let them have the decency to look at our site and contact us with a personal message offering their services.
And if you think we’re paranoid (which we are), check out this list of emails received by different people in an organization during a 15 day period. Most of the people targeted by these emails had nothing to do with their company’s website.
1. Your Website Could Be a Great One
a) “Hi,” –Well that’s nice and personal!
b) “According to W3C validator there are 0 errors…” Well then, why are you contacting us?
c) Notice the email contains not a single remark to anything particular about a specific website? This email was written so that it could have been sent to hundreds of recipients at once.
d) Did you notice the line about “i.e. more revenue?” The website in question is a school website!
2. Drive More Traffic to Your Website
This email has the tell-tale signs of a scam…
a) Notice that there isn’t a stitch of personal information to identify the recipient of this email. We get the generic “Hi” and the subject is a lame “Your website.”
b) The email’s sender shows that it comes from SearchExpander.net but below the senders name is the web address SearchExpander.com. First we did a search on the web for both domains using Google and no websites for either domain on the date the email was sent were found. Next we used a WHOIS tool to look up ownership of both domains, SearchExpander “dot” NET and COM. The owner of SearchExpander.net has paid a domain privacy protection service to hide the ownership information. But the WHOIS tool showed that this domain was registered one week before we received the email. The WHOIS tool next showed us that SearchExpander.com was registered in the fall of 2012 and is owned by an organization called NOWYO.com. A search of NOWYO.com indicates that they are a buyer/seller of domain names.
Something doesn’t smell right here. You couldn’t pay us to click that attached file!
3. Helping Your Search Engine Optimization
For those who don’t know, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the ability of a website to show up higher on a listing of sites returned in a search using a search engine such as Google. Many consider it the holy grail for making money online. The higher your business comes up on the list of returned links, presumably the more likely people are to click on your link and visit your page.
a) Once again we get a generic “Hello ,” and a subject line equally as personal “Regarding your website.” How comforting!
b) Did you notice the sender’s email address? Paul.firstname.lastname@example.org. “.de” is the 2-letter country code for Germany (de = Deutschland) This email was sent from Germany. A WHOIS look up of the domain shows that it is registered in Berlin, Germany. Did Paul disclose that point in the email?
Spam at best! Just delete.
4. You Are Not Getting Enough Traffic!
a) “Hi [website name] Team” ….yeah, really personal.
b) This email looks pretty slick until you realize that it can be pitched to any website owner because there isn’t a stitch of personal information in it.
c) We’ll give you 10 points if you can find the company’s name anywhere in this email!
d) MAJOR RED FLAG: “P.S: This is our marketing strategy to use a Gmail account. Once you reply us back we will communicate with you through our corporate Email ID.” You’re kidding, right? And the grammar in this last line leads us to suspect that English is not John Locke’s first language. …assuming his name is John Locke.
Buzz off Mr. Senior SEO Advisor of some unknown company! Delete, delete, delete!
5. We Prepared a Website Study for You
a) Finally, an email with a personal touch… “Dear Joshua.” The problem is that Joshua has nothing to do with this school’s website. In fact, three employees at a school received identical copies of this email. None of them had anything to do with maintaining or administering the school’s website.
b) Do you see a company name? Not really. We used a WHOIS tool to look up website ownership of “emaillistore.com” (Be careful as you read Erica’s email address. It looks like ‘emailliststore.com’ but is actually ‘emaillistore.com’) It turns out that emaillistore.com is registered through a proxy privacy service in Panama. The real ownership is hidden from us by this proxy service.
c) The WHOIS did tell us that the domain was registered on August 14, 2013…. Less than 4 weeks before we received the solicitation. Not such a horrible thing but when combined with these other concerns, it doesn’t inspire confidence in the legitimacy of this email.
d) And hey, why would Erica send an email from email@example.com even though she says it is from firstname.lastname@example.org anyway?
See that little link at the bottom: “click here” if you no longer wish to hear from me? You may be tempted but don’t do it! You’re just going to confirm that you open and read spam emails, making your email address more valuable to the spammers!
Once again, the moral of this story is to keep a healthy dose of skepticism when you open your inbox. Our advice is simple. Never respond to unsolicited pitches for anything. If you need website improvements look for local businesses or do a search yourself to find a company you can verify personally. Or better yet, get recommendations from other business owners you trust.