One of our clients recently received a search engine optimization scam email. Scammers are always on the lookout for new opportunities. As a website owner, you may become the target of various scammers. RED is here to help. Please feel free to ask us if you think an email you’ve received is fraudulent.
Search Engine Optimization scam
The email on the right is a search engine optimization scam email received by one of our clients. Fortunately, he recognized it for the spam/scam that it is, and he forwarded it on to us, so we can make you aware as well.
Here is what it says:
“This important expiration notification proposal notifies you about the expiration notice of your domain registration for [website.com] search engine optimization submission. The information in this expiration notification proposal may contain confidential and/or legally privileged information from the notification processing department to purchase our search engine traffic generator. We do not register or renew domain names. We are selling traffic generator software tools. This information is intended only for the use of the individual(s) named above.
If you fail to complete your domain name registration [website.com] search engine optimization service by the expiration date, may result in the cancellation of this search engine optimization domain name notification proposal notice.”
This email scatters “domain name” and “domain name registration” throughout, so you’ll think it has to do with your domain name renewal.
Note the sentence, “If you fail to complete your domain name registration [website.com] search engine optimization service by the expiration date…” When scanning the email, “domain name registration [website.com]” will pop out at you. No one wants to lose their domain name, so as you skim, you have that in mind already.
This email is crafted to frighten you into thinking if you don’t pay, your search engine rankings will dramatically drop.
It’s full of jargon-y words strung together, which actually have no meaning, and words like “expire” to urge you to take action “immediately” – that means, “Click here to pay without thinking it through first.” Read this sentence again:
“If you fail to complete your domain name registration [website.com] search engine optimization service by the expiration date, may result in the cancellation of this search engine optimization domain name notification proposal notice.”
What does it even mean? It’s not proper English, and “the cancellation of this search engine optimization domain name notification proposal notice” is just a lot of words, which together, mean nothing.
To further frighten you, they give you two separate payment areas. They put in more threatening language:
“Failure to complete your seo domain name registration [website.com] search engine optimization service process may make it difficult for customers to find you on the web.”
and words like “IMMEDIATE PAYMENT” and “ACT IMMEDIATELY”.
These are manipulative words and layouts meant to frighten you into paying so you don’t get in some type of trouble or your search engine rankings don’t drop – before you look into the veracity of the email. This type of scare tactic and manipulative language show that this is a search engine optimization scam email.
Your search engine rankings depend on what you, your web developer, or your SEO or marketing company have done to optimize your website. They do NOT depend on paying someone, unless you’ve chosen to hire someone for this purpose.
Now read the fine print:
“You have received this message because you elected to receive special notification proposal.”
It’s possible you opted in to this at some point – but probably not. They are just trying to avoid running afoul of SPAM laws.
“We are a search engine optimization company. We do not directly register or renew domain names.”
So they recognize that their email is deliberately misleading, and they add a disclaimer about it.
“We are selling traffic generator software tools.”
There you go. No obligations here. They’re selling something. (In a scammy way.)
“THIS IS NOT A BILL. THIS IS A NOTIFICATION PROPOSAL. YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO PAY THE AMOUNT STATED UNLESS YOU ACCEPT THIS NOTIFICATION PROPOSAL.”
There it is, in uppercase, though in small print.
“This message, which contains promotional material strictly along the guidelines of the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. We have clearly mentioned the source mail-id of this email, also clearly mentioned our subject lines and they are in no way misleading.”
Well, the “no way misleading” is obviously a lie – when a user receives this email, we all know what you’re meant to think. This is a search engine optimization scam, trying to trick you into paying now, and researching later – if at all.
Please note: We are not saying that legitimate SEO companies are a scam.
There are many legitimate SEO companies out there that can help you improve your search engine rankings. However, if you’ve hired one, you know that you’ve done so. And if your SEO company is sending you manipulative letters like this one, we’d suggest you drop them and find one with honest business practices. An honest SEO company has a plan to improve your site’s rankings, and has already provided you with their estimates and their plans. You’ve agreed to those, and they don’t send you scary, threatening emails.
Similar scams may concern your domain name registration, but not come from your registrar.
How can you avoid this scam?
- Read carefully. Is the language 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 hosts allow WHOIS information to be set to private. This keeps your address, phone number, and email from being publicly available as the website owner. If you don’t know how to set this up on your host, drop us a line and we’ll help you out.
- Ask an expert. If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of an email you’ve received, please feel free to forward it on to us and ask. We’ll be happy to look it over for you.