We love digital

Call 0845 485 1219

We love digital - Call and say hello - Mon - Fri, 9am - 5pm

An SEO Scam Uncovered in 2011

Alec Sharratt

by Alec Sharratt on 15th June 2011

Online ScamsIt all started innocuously enough last week when a colleague, Anna George, was contacted by a client whose AdWords account she manages. The client had received a phone call from someone “at Google”; they had been told that three years ago they purchased a few keywords and were currently on the front page of Google as a result.

Sadly their contract was about to expire and would be soon up for renewal, hence the phone call. Worse still if they were not prepared to pay the £99.99, the gentleman from “Google” explained, they would drop to page 40 for their keywords.

The client called us to ask for our advice.  He was alarmed, as you would expect, and was wondering if such a package could have been bought three years ago? Anna advised our client to tell the person from “Google” to call her directly later in the day and to be sure to mention that she is the one who holds the company credit card.

At around 14:00 Anna gets the call, and with the phone on loud speaker, mine recording sound and a room full of Search Specialists eagerly waiting, the sales pitch started instantly.

No sooner was the phone answered, Anna was promptly asked for her card details. The guy turned out not to be from Google. He explained to Anna that his company, “UK Business Directory” is the only UK company officially working with Google. Big claims!

The premise of this pitch, after some hard questions and a lot of pushiness, was that his company will optimise their own website for your keywords, once listed they contact Google and let them know to replace their listing with your website and… voila.

This conversation went on for over ten minutes while the rest of us hushed, passing notes around with questions to ask him. One question which, we can only assume, stumped him resulted in the call being terminated. Assuming again, that he had realised we were onto him, he hung up!

Were we wrong? Nope, he simply called back a minute later blaming us for having a weak signal and moving on as though we had never asked him “So, how do you replace one organic listing with another?”.

‘Scam Google Man’ then tried incentivising us with the carrot rather than the stick by proffering that this was a new government initiative that meant we were actually getting four years free, so the £99.99 of legitimately earned cash was now starting to look like a token gesture. So we get the next five years of… erm… ah… paid for organic switched on listings for less than a hundred pounds :)

It was only when pressed for a phone number, a website address for his business or a means of contacting him that the phone call was ended quickly with a promise to email us more information.

Unbelievably no email was to come, though frequently we checked, the little picture of an envelope never materialised. Soon after the call we discovered that we were not the first to be targeted by this scam. A little digging on the internet unveiled a shocking fact: He was NOT even part of a company called UK Business Directory, who actually have an advisory notice on their website warning people that someone has been using their company name to scam people.

So here are the facts:

  • ‘Scam Man’ is NOT affiliated with Google
  • ‘Scam Man’ he is NOT helping to facilitate government sanctioned subsidies
  • ‘Scam Man’ is NOT here to help

Another website, ‘WhoCallsMe’ who have countless posts about this guy calling them, claiming to be renewing a subscription.

Though we had some fun with this guy on the phone, the truth of the matter is that this is fraud, plain and simple. It preys upon the ignorance of people. He uses fear, pressure, reward, and the most appallingly effortless ability to lie in order to defraud people of their money. In the process of doing this he taints the honest professionals who work in digital marketing.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that there were a number of reasons for writing this post, but the primary reason which out ways all others is to try and prevent anyone from being scammed by this criminal. The number to watch out for if he calls is 0845 5439 508. Do not call this number back. If you do get a call from him, let the authorities know, as we have done.

Image Source

Online Scams in word collage via BigStock

Alec Sharratt

Alec Sharratt

Alec Sharratt will be writing about his passion; the technical aspects of search. Well experienced within the IT industry, Alec has bags of knowledge on everything technical from simple spreadsheets that will save you hours right up to news and tips to make search that little bit easier.

10 Comments

  • SEOSherlock 15th June 2011

    I warned my tweeps about this a couple of weeks ago after one of our marketing dept.s recieved the same cold call. I ousted the company involved and contacted Google directly about the matter.
    The guy called himself Adam calling from 0161 425 8185

    Below are some links relating to the scammy b*st*rds:
    - http://whocallsme.com/Phone-Number.aspx/01614258185
    - http://www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk/forums/archive/index.php/t-162837.html
    - http://phonenotes.org/01614258185
    - http://phoneowner.info/Number.aspx/01614258185

    Reply to this comment

  • Caroline Bell 15th June 2011

    New scammers but an old scam:

    Position Gold beat them to it.

    http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/investigations/2008/12/position-gold-accused-of-keywo.html

    I actually went for an interview at Position Gold when I was just starting out in SEO. Kind of glad I never heard from them………

    Reply to this comment

  • Alec Sharratt

    Alec Sharratt 15th June 2011

    Thanks for your comments, these SEO Scammers are prolific, the more people that read this article the the full range of their scams are revealed. Hopefully if enough people promote this information they won’t be able to carry on so effectively.

    Reply to this comment

  • Caroline Bell 15th June 2011

    The problem is that the man on the street will probably never know it’s a scam until it’s too late.

    Maybe the Mirror would be interested in doing an up to date story/investigation based in the new info that you have.

    All in all though it’s just one more company giving SEO a bad name :-(

    Reply to this comment

  • Peter Unitt 15th June 2011

    Don’t you hate these types of companies, they tarnish our industry!

    I infact used to work for a similar company, I.e. One that sold directory listings and would often lie to customers saying they would be no.1 on Google etc. In fact the company had a partnership with Yahoo and provide all the Yahoo local listings on the UK and although they are not legally allowed to call and say they are calling from Yahoo, they still do it.

    Luckily the SEO department which I managed was totally separate and didn’t involve any dodgy sales pitches. However there were still so many battles I decided to fight because I thought they were being totally unethical e.g. Asking for money to add a customer to Google local and then asking for money every 6 months or risk deletion.

    I learnt so much in my time here on what goes on and just how many people are being scammed but after a while I couldn’t bare working for them anymore and decided to leave and set up my own SEO company! At least this way I can provide ethical services and warn people of scams on my blog.

    The main thing I would advise people is never to trust anyone that rings you up asking for money or tries to sell you something like mentioned above. A good SEO company doesn’t need to rely on cold calls and will never guarantee SE rankings, if a company is guaranteeing rankings be very wary.

    Reply to this comment

    • Alec Sharratt

      Alec Sharratt 15th June 2011

      Hi Peter, sounds like a nightmare company to work for and as you rightly say it tarnishes all of us with the same brush.

      Reply to this comment

      • Peter Unitt 15th June 2011

        The final straw for me was a product they call “Keysites” basically a keyword rich domain for a low competition keyword, with the aim of ranking high for that term, they are not cheap either!

        Let’s hope Google do something about keyword rich domains in the near future.

        Sorry about the ranting I’m quite passionate about people being scammed in this industry.

  • Mike Essex

    Mike 15th June 2011

    Thanks for the insight Peter, it’s fascinating to hear from someone who has seen the other side closeup. This scam was focused around keyword rich domains, and isn’t the first one that we’ve been called from.

    If there’s one thing Google need to fix it’s the priority given to Exact match domains, as this is yet futher proof it’s a flawed algorithm.

    Reply to this comment

    • Peter Unitt 15th June 2011

      There are a few out there, and the annoying thing is that I’m prettysure Google know! I’ve done a post on SEOMoz UGC about them (all be it very biased).

      When I was working at my old job I felt like emailing all the people who had been contacted about buying one and saying ” don’t fall for it, you can do it yourself for a couple of quid” unfortunately contract law prevents me from doing anything like that!

      By the way the company on question is likely to fail soon, their business model is so out of date. I will probably celebrate that day! I hope the same can be said for all similar companies.

      Reply to this comment

Subscribe To The Koozai Blog