Search Engine Optimization Scam

Search Engine Optimization Scam

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a huge surge of search engine optimization scam emails. While this scam has been around almost as long as the internet, scammers are always on the lookout for new opportunities. And with the current global crisis, scammers are hoping your attention is elsewhere. As a website owner, you may become the target of one of these type of scams. Please feel free to ask us if you think an email you’ve received is fraudulent.

Search Engine Optimization Scam

The email shown is an example of a search engine optimization scam email received by one of our clients. Fortunately, they recognized it as scam and forwarded it to us. While the actual layout and wording of these will differ, they are all designed to look like an invoice with payment due and tend to share some common elements.

The emails try to combine “domain name” and “seo registration” in a way that you’ll think it is your domain name renewal.

This particular email starts off with the line - “This solicitation is to inform you that it’s time to send in your search engine registration for [domain name]”. This is more obvious than most scams, in that it actually includes the word ‘solicitation.’ More often you’ll just see something along the lines of “If you fail to complete your domain name registration [domain name] search engine optimization service by the expiration date…” Setting aside the sentence structure that would give my high school English teacher a heart attack, this again is trying to make you think this is an invoice for your domain renewal.

The emails are crafted to a) make you believe it's an invoice for your domain name registration, or b) frighten you into thinking if you don’t pay, your search engine rankings will dramatically drop. “Failure to complete this order by [date] may result in the cancellation of this offer (making it difficult for your customers to locate you, using search engines on the web).” The confusion as to the actual purpose of the 'invoice' should be big clue #1 something is a bit sketchy here. Also note the ‘Act soon!” and “Act today!” text. These are manipulative words and phrases meant to scare you into paying quickly so your search engine rankings don’t drop. Ideally, for the scammers anyway, before you read the document thoroughly and understand exactly what it is.

The truth is, your search engine rankings depend primarily on your site content and ensuring your site uses the appropriate tags and organizational structure to make it SEO friendly. They do NOT depend on paying someone to have your site ‘ranked’ or ‘listed.’

Please note: We are not saying that all SEO companies are a scam. There are many legitimate SEO companies out there, but you will remember hiring them! And they won’t send unsolicited ‘invoices.’

How can you avoid this scam?

  • Read carefully. Is the language clear or confusing and manipulative? Does it describe a service you’ve requested? Does it come from a company you know, and with whom you do business?
  • Take privacy precautions. Most domain registrars allow WHOIS information to be set to private. This keeps your address, phone number, and email from being publicly available. If you don’t know how to set this up with your registrar, contact us and we’ll help you out.
  • Ask an expert. If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of an email or mailed invoice you’ve received, please feel free to forward it to us. We’ll be happy to look it over for you.

Edit: To illustrate how prevalent this is, not 2 minutes after I posted this I received another one for a client domain I manage. I think that's almost a dozen now I've personally received for domains I manage over the past week. Unbelievable.

Notice how this one clearly announces 'Domain Expiration' with the domain name and an 'expiration date' right at the top. It's only lower in the main paragraph that the 'optimization submission' language, a bunch of tech jargon, and a serious lack of understandable sentence structure shows up. Read carefully before you pay!

Contact us now for a free, no-obligation consultation on your project. We can help!

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Posted on March 30th, 2020 at 9:15 AM
by CodeMonkey