With the line between a legit blog and scam blog getting harder to detect, how do you really know when the blog you are reading is a scam blog? As part of this ongoing series on blog scams, we’ve covered how blog scams are growing and the impact on the economy and job market for stay-at-home workers. Learning to tell the difference between a legit blog and a scam blog is becoming more and more important as the work force moves online looking for jobs.
You begin the process of detection of a scam blog by checking the facts. I covered a lot of information previously on how to check the facts in:
- Web Browser Guide: Scams, Hoaxes, Rumor Mills, and Online Trash – Check the Facts
- Blogging Resources and Sources to Help You Blog
- Blog Resources: Researching the Research, Finding the Facts, and Seeking Supporting Evidence
Some of the sites I recommend you use to check your facts when it comes to the hoaxes, scams, and snake oil claims some blogs can make include:
- US Better Business Bureau
- US Federal Trade Commission
- US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team) – Current Activity on phishing, blog, and computer scams
- Consumer Reports WebWatch
- About.com’s Urban Legends
- Current Netlore: Current Internet hoaxes, email rumors, urban legends
- Fact Check – Annenberg Political Fact Check
- Better Read That Again: Web Hoaxes and Misinformation
- Snopes – Hoaxes
- Truth or Fiction
- Urban Legends – Hoaxes and Scams
How to Spot a Scam Blog
Sometimes, it’s just a feeling that tells you it’s too good to be true. It usually is. Then why do so many people not listen to that screaming voice in the back of their heads warning them before they hand over private information or their money to scam artists?
Since we tend to not listen to our intuition, let’s look at some of the visual clues and hints that the blog you might be viewing is likely to be a scam blog.
- Evaluate the language used. Are the words used in the post full of hype, promises, and too much excitement? Does it use sensational language? Does it say “the best”, “the most”, “most popular”, “unbelievable”, “too good to be true”, “you’ll have to see it to believe it”, and other dramatic words and phrases? Or are the words serious, calm, and stating “facts”. If they are working too hard to convince you with grandiose claims, be warned.
- Over use of bold in the middle of paragraphs and statements. Using bold text to emphasize keywords is a Page Rank scam as Google’s algorithm used to score words in bold higher than non-bolded text.
- Long pages. A traditional blog tends to feature two to four screens worth of content. The longer the page, going down 5-15 screen lengths, combined with exagerated claims and testimonies, the more likely it is to be a scam.
- Exaggerated Use of Fonts and Colors. Large, colorful font text is another visual clue of exaggeration and attention-getting efforts that could be indicative of a scam. The harder they work to grab and hold your attention with visual graphics and text, the more desperate they tend to be.
- WHOIS no match. The WHOIS account owner doesn’t match the name or author of the blog. This could be true of a legit blog, but check the WHOIS information as it often contains warnings and alerts if this site has been reported and received complaints.
- How old are you? A two month old site could be legit, but it could also be a sign of a scam. Look in the WHOIS registry information for the history and age of the site. Many blogs will come and go within a few months. You want to work with someone with some history, not the baby on the blog block.
- Non-domain email. Their email is a non-domain account, such as using Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL or a different email account rather than their domain name such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
- No easy-to-find contact information. No contact information or loops to jump through to communicate directly with the owners/bloggers.
- Requests for personal and private information: Forms that request too much private information. Contact forms should request no more than name and email, URL optional. Protect your password and security information at all times.
- 4,503 blog posts in one month. Too many blog posts in a short period of time is a clear sign that a machine is at work and not a human being. 4,503 blog posts in the month of September and one in August is a clear clue that something is wrong here.
- Are sources credited? Are there links in the post referencing the source of the information? Or just claims without sources?
- Check search engines. Hit the search engines to find out who else is talking about the subject and what they have to say about it. Those with more information than you and the blogger you are reading may have more to say, thus become a better source, or debunking the claim.
- Ask the right questions. Are the right questions being asked and answered? Or are presumptions and assumptions being made? Look at the material and evaluate whether or not they are honestly answering the questions with facts or fiction. Then you ask the right questions and find the right answers.
Any one of these characteristics and clues are not indicative of a scam blog. If you add up enough points to the scam score, then it could be very likely these are scams. If your blog has any of these characteristics, maybe you are legit but sending the wrong message to your visitors.
Scammers aren’t stupid. Some are paying close attention to how blogs work and working hard to design and implement them in a way to make them look “normal” and legit while they steal your personal information and lead you astray.
In Canada, you can report online scams via RECOL, the Tool for Canadians to Report Fraud Online, and find current scam activity information from Canada Online – Scams in Canada – Consumer Scams and Fraud in Canada.
Do you know where to report online scams in your country?