The most persistent scammer

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The most persistent scammer

Published by on July 16th 2012.

Once upon a time (about 1 year ago) I received a curious email from Zoe titled "Business proposal for RealWorld Graphics". It contained anonymous flattery and a question whether I would like to hear "a business proposal" - a clear spam/scam to every veteran internet citizen. But I was in a playful mood and replied to that email with these exact words: "I do not know if I am interested..."

That was enough for Zoe to continue the conversation. I got an intricate (read: generated from a template) email informing me that they wanted to include "RealWorld Photos" in their web directory in the "Online Image and Photo Editors" category. (RWPhotos is not an online app BTW.) She also gave me an "award". I decided to play a lazy dummy and happily thanked her (having no intention of ever placing it anywhere on rw-designer) and forgot about the whole thing.

Why is it scam?

The real goal of this company (owning hostingobserver.com and webhostingsearch.com) was to get a link from rw-designer.com to webhostingsearch.com. Links are very important for search engines like Google. The more links are pointing to a web site, the higher does it appear in search results. So, Zoe's employer wanted to exchange a worthless award for a link to their web site. Many people are doing this on the internet - every software has won dozens of "awards", but the people behind them are usually much less persistent than Zoe.

This may seem like a fair deal - something what web site admins call a link exchange. But it really was not that case. The link from the webhostingsearch.com directory was redirected and the redirect was blocked from search engines. This was the scammy part.

After 1 week

I considered this conversation closed, but apparently Zoe did not. I got another email one week later informing me that they cannot add the entry into their directory unless I place the "award" somewhere on rw-designer.com. Why did it not surprise me? I have informed them that I would consider it wrong to place their beautiful award claiming that RWPhotos is included among the best online photo editors without actually being there. Why make it easy for them? I got a message that they have added the entry and I received another "award" image in case I lost the first one.

After another 10 days

Yes, I got another remainder email after 10 days (and the award image yet again) asking me where have I placed the award. I decided to actually place it, repay a worthless link with a worthless link. I have created a new page for "awards" and put their award image on it with a link that was marked as "nofollow" to indicate that search engines should disregard it.

Zoe did not like it, telling me that it is required to make it a "follow" link. She told me that their directory is really great and that I would see a lot of customers coming my way (a clear nonsense since nobody was visiting the useless, spammy directory). I suggested that once at least one customer comes from their directory and buys my software, I would change the link.

Care to guess what happened next? Zoe offered me 60 USD to change the link and remove the "nofollow" flag. Buying links for SEO, are we? I did not reply to that email hoping never to hear from them.

2 weeks later

Is this getting repetitious? I though so as well. I got another email asking me whether I would reconsider and take those 60 USD for fixing the link. I said yes, but in the end I got nothing - there were more requirements regarding the placement of the award in the site (they did not like it was on a separate page) and I did not reply to the last email (as usual).

Another 4 days later

Would you believe it? I got another email, now offering me a special page with a review. I was sick of the whole "deal" and did not reply to it.

After yet another 8 days

The same as above. Some people do not know, when it is time to quit.

After 4 months

I got another email from the same company, but this time from Caleb. Basically the same pitch. Amused by the whole thing, I asked him, whether Zoe was still working there. And indeed she was. I got another email from her - basically the same old stuff - I did not reply.

After 7 months

Today, I got another email from Caleb, reminding me that I have not replied to his last email. So, let this blog post by my final reply to hostingobserver, webhostingsearch, Zoe and Caleb. I hope to never hear from you again. I will also go through the web sites in your "directory" and randomly contact web admins, who were unaware of your scammy tactics and added a link to webhostingsearch.com to their web site.

UPDATE: 4 days after this entry was published

The day after I had published this blog entry on Monday, I have received an email from June, a Marketing Director at Web Hosting Search. June apologized for the frequent emails, objected against my use of the word "scam", asked me if I would reconsider changing this blog post, and finally, she has announced that they will be sending 60 USD to me.

In my reply, I have explained why I used the word "scam", refused the money and suggested that if they want me to change this blog entry, they should fix their web directory by removing the link redirects and by promoting the directory on their site. (Basically, to turn it into a useful thing for those included in it and make it fair for everyone involved).

After 3 more days, 2 things have happened: 60 USD appeared on my PayPal account (and I have returned them to the sender) and the web directory was completely removed from webhostingsearch.

Have they removed the directory because they are working on an improved version? That would be really great, though I find it unlikely, because there is no need to take the current version down.

Or are they trying to minimize the damage I could cause by preventing me from contacting the "victims" listed in the directory? If this is the case, I happen to have a copy...

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Recent comments

user icon Anonymous on July 17th 2012

;-) nice post

user icon Anonymous on July 18th 2012

Yeah got the same offer and felt the same way. Turns out Caleb and Zoe, etc., like normal people, depend on their jobs for rent, so I pitied the fools and left them alone.

user icon Vlasta site administrator on July 18th 2012

I feel the same way - I have no negative feelings towards Zoe or Caleb - they are obviously doing what they were told to do.

user icon Anonymous on July 19th 2012

Hahaha, this is great. :-D

user icon JDDellGuy contributing user on July 19th 2012

Oops, that last post was me not logged in. Great post.

user icon JDDellGuy contributing user on July 23rd 2012

This is so cool, lol. Just doing their job, but seriously, there's got to be a REAL occupation that they can be good at instead of this.

user icon Anonymous on July 23rd 2012

y u so cheap? lol

user icon Vlasta site administrator on July 23rd 2012

I believe "people just doing their job" is one of the biggest problems of the current economy. While I fully understand that any job is better than no job when one must pay the bills, there is a dark side. These people (maybe unknowingly) spend their time and earn money by forcing the other side into an disadvantageous deal. Webhostingsearch with Zoe and Caleb are relatively harmless, there are much worse examples - all those people, who ring your doorbell and try to sell you an overpriced set of magical cooking pots or a seemingly cheaper electricity, gas or internet. The main problem with this approach is that while profit is generated, no value is created.

user icon cdl contributing user on January 23rd 2013

Indeed. I'm glad I found this post and I love the way you handled it! You are very much the gentleman and they should be extremely thankful for such!

I may be a lady but I tend to get a bit PO'ed when someone tries to include me in their dirty work and I simply despise liars, cheats and scammers!

icon-image/8311-32x32x32.png image

Way to go Vlasta!! icon-image/7541-48x48x32.png image
And don't fret (lol), you got a way better award here for being the coolest site admin!

user icon Anonymous
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