The Internet is a wonderful thing. It’s dramatically changed the way we think, act, communicate, and do business.
It’s also changed at a dizzying pace, and if you aren’t a professional who works in the space we do, it’s easy to get lost in everything going on, especially if you don’t understand all of it.
Unfortunately, some people will take advantage of business owners. Scams have been present since the early days of the Internet. Today, they’re not always as recognizable as the foreign prince who wants to give you his fortune.
As a business owner, you will encounter some of these scams. Some will be easy to spot, some will be better disguised. To help you protect yourself by recognizing these, here are some of the most common Internet and marketing scams designed to target business owners, and how to respond to them.
I got this email from Google, what does it mean?
This could definitely be legitimate! Google (and Bing, and Yahoo) will email you about new products offers, changes to terms of service, notifications about billing changes, etc.
If you’re working with PHOS, and if you don’t understand it, go ahead and forward it to us. Depending on our scope of services, there’s a good chance we actually got the same email, and there’s a good chance we’ve already taken action if action is needed.
That said, there are scammers who impersonate emails from Google, and they can look pretty convincing. So again, it can’t hurt to forward to us if it’s saying it requires action, we can spot the fakes.
Someone called me from Google and told me I was about to be removed.
Google does not do this. Ignore this person, especially if it’s an automated voice.
Google does occasionally impose penalties to websites that appear to be violating best practices – a bunch of spammy text, hidden text, known spam sites linking to your website, etc. These are known as black hat SEO techniques.
If PHOS is managing your website, you’re at no risk of penalties for any of these techniques, because we just don’t do them. We care too much about our clients.
So if you get a call that you’re going to be removed from Google, it’s not legit.
A company told me they could get me to the first page of Google GUARANTEED within X months.
This is one of the more common issues. While it doesn’t technically fit into the category of scams, it’s certainly illegitimate.
This is one of the more black-and-white items on this list. Nobody, and I mean nobody, can guarantee specific search rankings in a specific timeframe. That’s just not how it works.
This could come in the form of an email or a phone call, or potentially a Facebook ad. The funny thing is, we get these emails, too. People blindly email us that they can do SEO for us. Go figure.
Think about this: if they’re so incredibly good at SEO, why do they need to do cold calls? ????
Someone told me our website is broken and nothing was being done for SEO. Aren’t you guys doing SEO?
Take this one a little more seriously than the one above, but not much. Call it a 2/10 seriousness.
If you’re working with PHOS to improve your SEO, you can bet we’re aware of everything going on with your website. If you’re a new client with an existing site that hasn’t been managed well in the past, we’re aware of any and all issues, and will work to correct them. If we’ve been working together for a while, well, let the success speak for itself.
I got a call saying I need to pay them $XXXX so that…
This depends on who it’s from. If it’s from “Google”, it’s a scam. Again, Google won’t call you and demand payment.
If it’s for web hosting and we’re not hosting your website, there’s a chance they’re legitimately calling about an overdue balance. Check with us first.
I got an email saying that my domain is about to expire.
Potentially legitimate! If we’re actively maintaining your website, everything is already taken care of, so ignore this email or call.
If not, domains do expire. Sometimes this can sneak up on business owners. You bought your domain five years ago, you probably didn’t set a reminder to renew it in five years.
Either way, forward the email to us and we’ll help determine if action is needed to maintain your website.
I got a charge for my web domain, is it legitimate?
Again, it depends who it’s from. Domains do expire, and when that time is nearing you need to renew.
These can be tricky, because they’re often physical pieces of mail that look very official. It will have your name, a return address, a logo, maybe an “account number”, and maybe a falsified Better Business Bureau logo (remember, we’re talking about scammers here).
If you get one take a closer look:
- Do you recognize the company? Have you ever worked with them in the past?
- Is there a phone number? Sure, they have a return address, because they expect you to mail them a check or your credit card info. But if you can’t call support, it’s because they aren’t real.
- Can you look them up? If it’s a real company, you’ll be able to search their name and quickly find out everything you need to know about them. If it’s not, you’ll likely be confronted with results that shout SCAM.
Check out this piece of mail one of our clients received:
It actually does look pretty legitimate at first glance. A trained eye will notice a few oddities (“Annual Website Domain Listings on internet directory” doesn’t quite make sense).
A quick Google search immediately pulls up results like “Domain Name Scams”, “Web Domain Listings Scam” and a poor BBB rating.
Of course, if you still aren’t sure, do exactly what this client did – ask us. We’ll help you figure it out.
As a business owner, you may be the target of all kinds of business scams. As a website owner, at some point, somebody will attempt one of these. As with anything else, look at things with a critical eye, and if you see something you’re not sure about, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team to figure out what’s going on.