While I can excuse those who overhype their Plugins, Themes, and contests on their blog, I have a hard time forgiving those who use their blogs as scams. As the blog platform becomes more ubiquitous and easier to use with a lot of automatic content generating tools and comment and trackback spam tools, blogs are being used more and more for the dark side of blogging.
In The Thin Line Between Legitimate Blog Models and Scams, Weblog Scout writes that there is a think line between a scan and legitimate blog model as scammers tend to use the same tools as legit blogs do, such as autoblogging WordPress Plugins, auto-pings, mass site submission tools, and feed scrapers:
Of course, there are huge differences between real blog with splogs but sometimes the line is so thin even some bloggers fail to realize what they use is actually cheesy.
Your mileage may vary, but with a basic understanding of what is a blog and how it works, you soon will realize that every tool that tries to automate things will either get you nowhere or even bring bad things to your business.
The last thing you want is to be banned by search engines, deleted from blog search engines or simply being avoided by readers, who are one of the most important currency for your blog.
I went searching for information on some recent blog scams and found a wide variety of phishing, scam, splog, and get-rich-schemes reported.
The SANS Internet Storm Center alerted online users and the public on possible Hurricane Gustav donation scams. With the sudden spike in domain name registration with Gustav and Hurricane in the name, it’s a clear sign that more than long standing support services are reaching out to help the victims of the storms, just as they did with Hurricane Katrina and the tragedy of the terrible earthquakes in China, and other natural disasters.
The US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team) works with the US Department of Homeland Security to provide a frequently updated Current Activity page on online phishing, blog, and computer scams. Their warnings are filled with alerts on natural disaster scams, email scams, and blogs gone bad.
According to TrendMicro:
Because it’s an industry now, Web criminal activity is conducted through every means available — the more common examples being spammed email messages and bogus Web sites. Generosity is a wonderful thing, but making sure that donations go to their intended recipients should always come with it.
In WARNING Main Street Host Scamming Georgia Businesses, Allen Harkleroad reported on a SEO web hosting scam:
Main Street Host has been cold calling Statesboro and area businesses regarding search engine placement (aka SEO or Search Engine Optimization). These folks will charge you upwards of $600.00 a year (or more), make a bunch of promises and not do what they say they will do.
Main Street Hosts is a scam outfit, they will take your money and run. They prey on the naivete of small business owners.
Harkleroad says that the best defense is to “NEVER buy a product or service from a company that emails you or cold calls you.” He also recommends you contact the site’s state or country equivalent of their attorney general’s office, the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, or equivalent for your country and theirs.
While it is often easier to ignore emails, as they all enter one place and you can easily clean out anything from someone you don’t know and don’t recognize, stumbling across a scam blog is often much harder to detect.
An iPhone phishing scam resulted in hundreds of iPhone user’s having their account information grabbed because they didn’t realize they were not really on the legitimate iPhone site but a scam site. The iPhone Blog reported that Apple has now released an announcement warning their customers and have provided a support document to help users determine if they are on the real iPhone site.
In 2006, Wired reported on a MySpace phishing attempt to gain access to usernames and passwords through a false MySpace blog, reporting, “MySpace estimates that more than 100,000 people fell for the attack before it was shut down.”
Many are using the web to find love and getting caught by scams, including blog scams. In “Are you being scammed by Russians?“, Kathryn Lord of “Find a Sweetheart” covers indepth information and tips on scams and scam protection as well as what to look for when cruising for dates and love on the web through blogs and email, especially when it comes to many of the scams coming out of Russia. She even points to a blog scam using DNA matching to find your true love online.
She recommends that if you are trying to find love through blogs and online, you need to ask the right questions before committing, passing on private information, or sending money. One of the important questions is to find out if the girl’s street address contains “Lenin street”, “Lenina street” or “Sovetskaya street” as those are known scam addresses.
With blogs becoming big business, scam blogs are giving the blogosphere a bad name. Whatever interests you probably has a blog covering the subject, but is it a legit blog or a scam blog? How would you know? Have you stumbled into a scam on a blog, mislead by the similarities to a legitimate blog? Have you found ways to spot a good blog from a scam blog?
In the next article in this series on Blog Scams, I’ll look at the impact of get-rich-quick and work-at-home scams are having on the blogosphere and economy.