It’s not just friends lost in foreign countries without money you need to watch out for when it comes to dubious emails.

Remember those fake phone book renewal faxes?

Back when not being listed in the phone book could be crippling for your business, those faxes and fake invoices created a lot of confusion and made some East Coast outfits money long before Nigerian royalty graced our email inbox.

Now they’re back in the form of SEO Domain Registry “renewals” and dubious “Best of” recognitions.

Last week we took a look at some digital marketing horrors stories involving what happens when your online presence — including your Google My Business page — aren’t adequately protected. This week we’ll continue the theme with an eye to spam and scams that we’ve seen or clients have forwarded.

SEO Domain Service Registration Scam

scam-domain-seo-registration-noticeWe consistently receive for domain names that we help manage an “Expiration Offer Notice” from “SEO Service Registration Corp.” that are deliberately designed to look like a domain registration expiration notice.

The intent is clearly to deceive the reader into believing that their domain is about to expire. Using such language as “important expiration notification offer” creates a sense of urgency and, in a stilted outpouring of word-salad fast-talk, we are warned that inaction “may result in the cancellation of the search engine optimization domain name notification offer notice.”

The operative word here, of course, is “offer,” and the real aim of the email notification is to get your credit card information and payment for services that will never be rendered. The expiration referred to was the expiration of a marketing offer (that hadn’t previously existed or been accepted), but worded in such a convoluted way it is clear that this business was looking to trick people into thinking that their domain name was about to expire.

A quick search of the business that sent the notification showed no website for the company itself, but instead turned up page after page of results where the words “spam” and “scam” showed up in the title of the link.

All domain names are registered through a legitimate, bona-fide registrar, approved by The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

How do you know it’s a domain registration scam?

  • You’ve never heard of this company and you know it’s not your registrar. Double-check the domain name used in the “from email”. Quite often there is no active site and the scammers are just spoofing that domain. You will never lose domain ownership over anything related to SEO services.
  • You might remember the year your domain expires, and it’s not this one. As long as you’re not paying for private domain registry, you can always check the public WHOIS record to see your real renewal date. Of course, if you were using private domain registry, the scammers likely wouldn’t know where to find you to send fake offers.
  • The amount requested is wildly expensive. Since the break up of Networks Solutions’ original monopoly as registrar of all domain names, you can pay as little as $7 per year and no more than $15 per year.
  • A Chinese registrar warns you that another company has applied for your domain name with a “.cn” suffix and would you like to buy that domain name yourself?

Falling for scammer solicitation is called slamming and might trigger a domain transfer.

Blogsitestudio.com offers a good summary of the domain registration process along with good information of avoiding domain name scams.

spectrum-award-logo

CityBeatNews Spectrum Award Scam from Stirling Center

A client also recently brought to our attention an offer they received from “City Beat News” that touches a little close to home for us — having run one of the longest, public “Best of” that is tabulated by a well-established, independent accounting firm with double opted-in and verified local consumers.

An email informed our client that their business “wins the 2016 City Beat News Customer Satisfaction Award” in the form of a “Spectrum Award.”

The notice went on to explain in nebulous, wishy-washy language that its Ratings Division “spends thousands of hours scouring the Internet to calculate business ratings.”

We went to the website and started poking around. We quickly found Omaha businesses that had “won” a Spectrum Award where the business name was misspelled. So much for their ability to accurately “scour the Internet.”

We can find no correlation between business’ online presence and this award. The official address for this organization shows an empty storefront in Lapeer, Michigan on Google Maps. Through the clever use of paid press releases and Adwords, they have created something of a phantom presence online.

The real reason the Spectrum Award exists, it would seem, is to sell promotional materials surrounding the “award.”

Quick Tip: If you are approached about winning an award and you’ve never even heard of the honor, beware. So-called “awards” that have no local footprint are all too often schemes that leverage flattery (earned or otherwise) to separate you from your marketing budget.

Or you could go ahead and buy the promotional package jump only to find yourself stumbling for words trying to explain what that heck that window cling on your business means, who decided it and where the awards comes from.

BE CAREFUL, and never hesitate to ask if you have any concerns about questionable email notifications. BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY.