Common Internet Scams You Get from Your Shiny New Website
We’re all familiar getting emails from long-lost uncles letting us know about an unexpected inheritance, or a Nigerian prince needing assistance with moving his money into the United States.
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Internet scams are nothing new, dating back to when we would tie up our phone lines and listen to the “screeeeeech… eeeaaawww…. eeeeaaawww… beep… beep” when trying to connect to our brand new AOL account.
However, website owners like ourselves are constantly inundated with new, and often clever, scams that can catch us off guard or send us down rabbit holes we didn’t expect to be dealing with. And the more visible you are online and in search rankings, the more likely you are to get inundated with these spammy solicitations.
Here is a list of some of the most common internet scams that you should look out for. If you see these, the correct response is to ignore them, block the sender, and warn your friends.
The SEO Offers
These are the most common website spam messages I see. Usually, these come in through your website contact form, so it seems as if a real person has emailed you personally. The messages usually lead off with something like, “We took a look at your site and found major errors that we can fix so you can have better Google rankings,” or “We can build 50 PR7 backlinks to your site to make it rank.” These messages come from email addresses like “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org” – they look legitimate and often have keywords in them that are specific to your site or industry.
First of all, don’t panic about your site’s supposedly terrible SEO. The messages are spam. These companies use robots to crawl the web, find contact forms, and submit the same message to all of them. They aren’t giving you a personal, professional review and recommendation for your website. It’s a game of numbers – if they send 5 million messages, and can get 1% of website owners to reply… you can do the math.
Often times, these solicitations come “directly from Google.” and may even involve someone calling you over the phone. Spoiler alert, you will never receive an email or phone call directly from Google about your SEO.
These companies are very low quality, spammy SEO companies that plug your site – and thousands of others – into link-building web robots and content spinners, while charging you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to have the title of your website be something along the lines of “We Are the Best Lawyer in San Francisco Best Law Services from San Francisco Attorney in the US,” with site content to match. We’re familiar with these spammy tactics, and they hurt you much more than they help you.
The Brand Domain Registration
I’ve only seen this one recently, and it’s a fairly clever spam tactic. The email I received just this morning is as follows:
This is a confirmation letter regarding registration of your company name postmm, please read it carefully.
We are an agency engaging in registering brand name and domain names. Today, Our center received an application from Parad Int’l Co.,Ltd and they apply to register postmm as their brand name and some top-level domain names(.CN .HK etc). We found the main body of domain names is same as your company name. I am not sure about the relationship between you and them. Please tell me whether or not your company authorizes them to register names.
We are dealing with the application and we need to confirm whether you have authorized them? If you don’t authorize them, please reply me an e-mail. Looking forward to your reply.
This email follows a few principles of enticing spam:
Appear to be a reply to something you were interested in: Spam emails often start with a “Re:” in the subject line. This makes you think that it’s a reply to something you initiated. They didn’t do that in this email, instead taking the more subtle route of saying “this is a confirmation,” to make it sound as if this a response to a previous conversation.
Personalize the content of the email: If the email has some personal details about you, it seems more likely that it’s written by a human and further gathers your interest. In this case, it’s the mention of “postmm.”
Create fear to spur you into action: If you make your target fear that something bad will happen if they ignore your spam – in this case the possibility of someone stealing my brand name – then they are more likely to take action. This also creates a sense of urgency: If you wait, your brand may be taken by others.
Don’t worry, these emails are spam as well, and there is nobody that is going to try to steal your brand. Secondly, there is no need for you, as a website owner in the US, to register your domain in other countries unless you plan to do business there. Owning branded domains for your company in other countries has no benefit for SEO. So don’t fret about it.
The Deaf Customer
Occasionally, you’ll get an email that says something like, “Dear sir/madam, I am interested in your product or service. Do you work with the hearing impaired? Also, unrelated, but do you accept credit cards?”
This sort of email is a fun one. First, it appeals to your sales-side because they are a potential customer. Sweet! Second, they appeal to your guilt because they are hearing impaired and you want to cater to them and be the best dang business you can be by helping people who are in difficult circumstances. And third, of course you take credit cards – who doesn’t?
The thing is, this one is a financial scam. They purchase your product with a stolen credit card, then cancel the order hoping to get a refund before you are made aware of the issue by the credit card company. And they make it more convoluted by pretending to be deaf, so you can’t pick up the phone and call them (you’d find that they don’t speak English particularly well). It’s particularly devious.
The Best Leads
Hey, you got an email from a company promising the best, most exclusive leads in your industry. What a great opportunity! Even if you doubt the quality, they offer you a certain number for free, so what’s the risk?
Well, think about it this way: You did not request the service – the email came to you unsolicited. Which is exactly what will happen when you email or call those leads – the contacts were usually built by robots crawling the internet looking for phone numbers and email addresses. You will then yourself become the spammer and very likely get your domain blacklisted (meaning it won’t pass many email spam filters). Email best practices (and law) dictate that you only send marketing emails out to customers who have requested to be contacted.
On top of that, those leads are not exclusive. They get sold to hundreds, if not thousands, of business owners just like yourself, and you can bet that the customer will not be one that is engaged in the least bit.