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Scams and Spam to be aware of when you own a website

After managing several websites over the years, you start to find patterns from scammers.  Usually, my clients reach out to me to check if what they find or receiving is legit and many times it is a repeated scam I see happen with other site owners.  It is good to be aware of these scams and to question what emails or even mail comes to you regarding your site.  If it doesn’t seem right, many times it is a scam and a quick internet search will reveal that others discovered the same thing.

Here are a few scams that I have seen pop up over the last handful of years from website owners.

Scam: Website Listing Service Invoice from Domain Listing

When a privacy product is not purchased for a domain name, the owner’s email address and mailing address is public for all to see in domain searches and databases like whois.com. On these public domain search websites, the expiration of the domain is also public information. This is when companies like “Domain Listing” swoop in and send a fake invoice in the mail to the domain owner and ask them to pay hundreds of dollars to list their domain on an internet directory.  Since the invoice arrives around the time of renewing the domain the offer could be seen as an important invoice for renewal.  For website owners who may not remember where their domain is hosted, they might pay the bill in confusion.  In actuality, this company is not offering a valuable service, and clearly states they are not a domain registrar on their invoice, but I see it as a scam because they are baiting website owners who may not know all the domain verbiage to understand the difference.

 

Scam: Threatening email saying there are stolen images on your website.

This email scam was frightening when a client first sent it to me and to be honest, I fell for this one and clicked on the link in the email. The language was so mean and threatening, and I was really confused because there were no images that were stolen on this website.  Once I clicked on the link and it went to a 404 error, page not found, I became suspicious.   After a little research, I found this email has been sent through other website forms and is completely fake.  What is the point?  The link that I clicked and redacted below, opened a file download or linked to a website that could allow a hacker to take control of your device if not properly protected.  Or it may have led to a phishing website asking for more information.  Since the first time I was made aware of this scam, several other clients/website owners have received similar messages.

Be aware if you receive an email like this below.  Please mark as spam, block the user and delete.

Hi there!

This is Melika and I am a licensed photographer.

I was surprised, to put it nicely, when I found my images at your web-site. If you use a copyrighted image without an owner’s permission, you must know that you could be sued by the copyright owner.

It’s against the law to use stolen images and it’s so selfish!

Take a look at this document with the links to my images you used at {website url} and my earlier publications to obtain the evidence of my ownership.

Download it now and check this out for yourself:

[Removed link to the phishing site]

If you don’t delete the images mentioned in the file above during the next couple of days, I’ll file a complaint on you to your hosting provider stating that my copyrights have been severely infringed and I am trying to protect my intellectual property.

And if it doesn’t help, you may be pretty damn sure I am going to take it to court! And you won’t receive the second notice from me.

Spam: Email noting misspellings on your website

This email was a little odd when a client sent it to me.

Email sent through the contact form:

It looks like you’ve misspelled the word “suprised” on your website. I thought you would like to know :). Silly mistakes can ruin your site’s credibility. I’ve used a tool called SpellScan.com in the past to keep mistakes off of my website.

Why would someone take the time to contact the website owner due to a misspelling, I wondered.  When I researched this email, it seems once again, many others had received the same sort of email.  But what’s the point?  If you think about all the people who go to SpellScan.com because of this spam email, then that website will be getting a boost of traffic from all different IP addresses. The search engines will then see this site as important and popular, and possibly boosting its ranking in search results.

Spam: Unrecognizable links as referrers in your website traffic analytics

If you review your website traffic analytics with a reporting tool such as Google Analytics, Jetpack Site Stats or one of the many other website analytic services, you probably will review the Referrer report or the links that people click to get to your website.  Most of the time, the referring links listed will be google.com or facebook,.com.  Sometimes you will notice a strange or unrecognizable url that is completely unrelated to your website.  You may be curious to why that website has a link back to yours and click on it.  This is exactly what the spammers want you to do.  Just like in the spam above, the more clicks this website has from different sources and IP addresses the more important it will look to the search engines.  It is just another tactic, a bad one, for search results.  The best thing to do is ignore those URLs, don’t click on them, and block them if you can (usually you can do that in Google Analytics).


If you find yourself pausing or questioning an email, link, or piece of mail that relates to your website, follow your instincts and search for a similar pattern in Google.  These scams and spams are sometimes pretty believable and some have been around for years, but there is probably a pretty good chance someone has seen it before and wrote a blog post about it.

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Ann Marie
Ann Marie is a genius at making technology simple. Since 2001, she has run the web design and online marketing company, Cascade Valley Designs just outside of Seattle. She specializes in building, customizing and maintaining WordPress websites. If you are a DIYer, she can help you avoid a catastrophe with her DIY Website training program and monthly Website Freedom Plan.

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