SEO Mistakes: Unsolicited faxes

Everybody is working on taxes, so I’ll just throw a fun one out for the weekend. Someone I know mentioned that a friend of theirs got an unsolicited fax. It looked like this:

Official internet registry optimization

This fax looks very official, but to the best of my knowledge, there is no “Official Internet Registry and Optimization Bureau.” And I think I would know. ๐Ÿ™‚ Note the fine print, which I’ve marked with red:

This marketing offer (bolding mine) is valid for a limited time. This offer is limited to websites that meet our special criteria.

Maybe the special criteria is “websites that we could find a fax number for?” ๐Ÿ™‚ If someone faxes you an unsolicited bill for SEO services out of the blue, I’d avoid that company. Even if they do have a “official license number” of 7234Z45. ๐Ÿ™‚

63 Responses to SEO Mistakes: Unsolicited faxes (Leave a comment)

  1. Andy Hagans

    Priceless.

    I love getting those “bills” in the mail from registrars to transfer my domain (“Your domain is expiring in 3 months! Transfer now to avoid loss of service”.)

  2. Detecting and eliminating email spam is getting better everyday. Maybe this guy got tired of his paid email tonage being returned ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Freeze! Federal Bureau of S-E-O! Drop the keywords and get your face down in the SERPs! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. So many companies are inadvertently paying for this service. Itโ€™s such a scam that plays by the numbers. Sending these out by the thousand they are sure to trick most accounting personal or those who are responsible for paying the companies bills.

  5. That one takes the prize. Jeez are scammers getting creative….and there are companies that fall for it and pay. unreal.

  6. For shame, Matt! Can’t you keep my official correspondence off your blog? Jimminy cripes.

  7. And to think that so many unsuspecting webmasters are probably falling for this scam…

    I myself get many transfer offers from other domain registrars, but I have never received anything this deceptive.

    I love the statement in the webmaster guidelines at http://www.google.com/webmasters/seo.html where it says that even Google gets emails like:

    “Dear google.com,
    I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

  8. WOW…just wow! I’m sure someone must’ve fallen for it, no matter how ridicolous it is.

  9. Oh, a talking moose wants my credit card info? That’s only fair!

  10. Dave

    I must get at least 100 of these phishing type schemes per day. They must suck in sooo many people the World over. They are one step lower than SE spammers IMO.

  11. There is something similar in Canada where a registrar (not the one where the domain currently is at) sends similar domain renewal forms to company’s accounts payable departments to renew their domain names – at about 10 times the going domain renewal rate on .ca names. They look exactly like an invoice to be paid, and I bet many companies who aren’t very web savvy pay them.

  12. This happened to my parents via snail mail and they payed it… then they get this reoccouring monthly charge for 39.95 MONTHLY… Thank god for Visa and there chargeback policy they were able to recover funds.

    On a brighter note:

    See ya in Boston Matt!

  13. My wife and I have gotten snail mail notices that look VERY similar. Fortunately we were able to easily tell… knowing who my registrar was probably my biggest savior.

  14. Harith

    Good morning Matt

    I see its about time that Google establish a new team, headed by you.

    Matt Cutts
    Google FaxSpam Team ๐Ÿ˜€

  15. There is so much money to be made, and with a little work it can be made pretty easily. Yet, people still feel the need to cheat, steal, and create dishonest schemes to make money. There will always be scum like this and there will always be *trusting* people that will fall for these things. People work hard to provide for their family and it infuriates me when someone can take away from another’s family… Thanks for the heads up Matt.

  16. There is something similar in Canada where a registrar (not the one where the domain currently is at) sends similar domain renewal forms to companyโ€™s accounts payable departments to renew their domain names – at about 10 times the going domain renewal rate on .ca names. They look exactly like an invoice to be paid, and I bet many companies who arenโ€™t very web savvy pay them.

    You must be talking about DRoC (Domain Registry of Canada). They’ve been doing it for years, although they used to do it as Internet Registry of Canada.

    Here’s a link to an Industry Canada statement on their activities back when they were Internet Registry of Canada.

    I pulled a cool trick with them once, though, just to get them riled up. They kept bothering clients of mine so I gathered up all of their “invoices” from my clients, mailed them back to DRoC in one of their postage-paid envelopes (do they still use those? Haven’t seen any DRoC spam in a while) and invoiced them for the time it took me to explain that these were scams.

    Never did get paid though…they want everyone else to pay their bullshit invoices on time, so why can’t they pay MY bullshit invoice on time? ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. There was a similar thing going on over here in the U.K., happening through snail mail. It’s probably not the sort of thing that catches out too many webmasters (I’d hope), but when these letters get passed straight to finance departments there’s probably a higher chance they’ll get paid without questioning.

    Rob.

  18. It’s incredible how some people can to invent new systems for to have money from other company or people that don’t know the internet world!

    Last month I received an email where a company wrote that my web site could be in 1 position in google… It’s a little shame for them because I konw very well that isn’t possible and with furtune for us!

  19. So far i didn’t get any fax ๐Ÿ™‚ but recently i got some mails from unknow person asking for SEO service. is that a spam mail? but it is asking for “Request receipt” ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Ralf

    Actually this was daily food for our organization.
    They bought the fax numbers from our Chamber of Commerce
    Quote Chamber of Commerce:

    Interested in getting access to the trade register? On our website you can search the trade register for specific organisations

    Big Business for the Chamber of Commerce
    Thatโ€™s why we removed our fax number from the register, itโ€™s quiet now.

  21. cornwall

    Love these sites, Matt’s friends offer a money back guarantee

    “Purchase this vital package an implement the recommendations in the quarterly reports and if you do not see your organic search engine rankings improve we will refund 100% your purchase price for the Website Monitoring Bundle. ”

    Then in the small print

    “SEO Programming hourly charges, by one of our web designers, are not refundable due to the nature of these customized changes to your website.”

    Bet their programmers are expensive.

  22. that’s just spam like any other one as well. The “method” to use a sort-of-official style is years old now, at least in Germany this is so old that it’s not used any more (I think it’s already prohibited by law – you know, we Germans like to regulate everything).
    As that “company” was so kind to add their website URI to the fax as well, I’d suggest google removes them out of their index, just as a signal how much you like SEO spam like this ๐Ÿ˜‰

  23. I would fax them back the cash ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Eternal Optimist

    I got similar mail from a so called ‘official’ trade mark association [ based in Germany ] when I registered the company trade mark [ UK based company ] with the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market [ Europe], asking for some 1900 euros to register with them. I wrote to OHIM and they asked me to make people aware of this scam, so I hope this post does just that!

  25. Hey Matt –

    I received the same “fax-spam” earlier in the week. Check out my post here: http://blog.karlribas.com/2006/04/case-of-seo-fax-spam.htm.

    What a joke.

  26. Harith

    Hi all

    Just a quick off-topic note ๐Ÿ™‚

    Matt Cutts Breaks Into The Top 100 !!!!!

    Congrats Matt.

  27. Something similar happend in Australia a few years ago. I received an unsolicited promo notifying me that I needed to renew my URL address with this company.

    The thing was, the letter was formatted like a bill. And for that they got in trouble with the authorities for deceptive conduct by the consumer bureau.

  28. Hey Matt,

    Congrats on the T100 placement. Maybe you should thank your friends at the OIROB for getting you there. And they did say “Please”

    Cheers, Chris

  29. Well, you guys could use some page title help on the sub pages in this section
    http://www.google.com/webmasters/

    Not that it is in my own best interests, but if this page
    http://www.google.com/webmasters/seo.html
    had a decent page title it would be hard to try to outrank it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  30. Just wrote my first checks for my business out to the IRS and boy is it a depressing thing. ๐Ÿ™

    ALL unsolicited email, calls, faxes from SEO companies are spam, unless they are from me. ๐Ÿ™‚

    ๐Ÿ™ and ๐Ÿ™‚ kinda day.

  31. I saw that–pretty cool, huh Harith?

  32. Actually, there was some outfit calling on the phone with an official sounding name saying they needed to verify domain information (with the name of the domain) and insisting on giving them the fax number to get some important information.

    I told them I had no fax and asked for their email address -they gave me a lame excuse of why their site or mail server was having a problem and was off-line.

    I know that phone sales and market research people get lists from list brokers (targeted, or they wouldn’t get repeat business), so I assumed that this outfit was some kind of spam list broker, telemarketing to gather fax numbers to sell.

  33. Harith

    Hi Matt

    Yes..very cool.

    More Grab bag threads.. more Widgets and you shall be on Top 10 soon ๐Ÿ™‚

  34. Don’t encourage him, Harith. He’ll block his arteries full of McWormParts and then what of this blog? WHAT, I TELL YOU? ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. KJ

    I had someone at work come and ask me about something very similar to this but almost as if it was a U.K version. Rather peculiar until I read the fine print which was worded similarly to the one that you have recieved… it then went straight into the recycling bin.

    There are people who are going to be taken in by this and i’m fairly sure that had my fellow employee not approach me about this that she too would have fallen for it.

    They are getting bolder and bolder.

  36. In college I worked as a manager of a Wendys… Yeah yeah laugh but it paid 30k/yr with tuition reimbursement and benefits….. great job for a 19 yr old right?

    Anyway…somebody had a brilliant idea of faxing a purchase order for lightbulbs to every Wendys in the area… Now, most managers never stocked enough lightbulbs (or even know where to order them from), so you’d be suprised at how many paid the bill… They actually got the lightbulbs though, at 5X the cost of the normal bulb!!

    The saddest part is, lightbulbs were part of our standard food order… on the same form as meat that we ordered 3 times / week… and every manager knew how to order stuff the correct way.

    So, if it works here.. I’d think it would have a lot higher success rate with anything technology based.

    // side note: If you ever need to make money, go get your suit dry cleaned.. copy the bill and send it to every restaurant in town with a note saying “Here is my dry cleaning bill for my suit and my address”. Nothing else… then just wait for checks to arrive. You’ll be suprised.

  37. I get that kind of thing for student loans all the time. “Urgent information bout your student loans” or “Final Notice”. When I open it up someone is just sitting there insulting my intelligence. One of these days I’m going to go on a road trip to the address listed on the envelop, find the jerk who’s idea it was to send these out, and knock all of his teeth in for annoying me for all of these years.

  38. Haha Ryna, that’s classic, I’ll try that next time I need $.

    This might be the worst scam ever. Even IF 1% of people fall for it, you are only getting 1% of all the sites that have fax numbers on them….

  39. lots0

    Not really in the area of “SEO”, more like a Internet Scam using an SEO theme.

    SEO does not equal Scam.

    So Matt if you are targeting ‘Scams” that target webmasters then great, if you don’t mind me saying so, it is about time. If you guys at google spent 1/2 as much time taking down scam/ripoff pages in your index as you do going after search engine spam, the internet would be a far far better place.

    But you really should not call every webmaster scam out there an “SEO Mistake”.

  40. now that I think of it.. I almost fell for this scam with Maxim Magazine last month..

    I got a letter that appeared it was from them, and said “do you want to renew your subscription?”. It had their logo, and didn’t ask me for a CC number or a check, so I hit yes and dropped it back in the mail.. it was postage prepaid.

    Then 2-3 weeks later I got a thank you for renewing letter.. and a bill for 5 years of the magazine, at $34/year. The regular cost is $9 /year… and it didn’t say to make the check payable to Maxim.

    I think I’m in the wrong business.. Maybe next year for lent I’ll give up my morals instead of beer and get into scamming, adsense, and black hat SEO.

    At least I could do that job from the beaches of Mexico instead of the cubicles of Detroit.

  41. “Pro Forma” scams are nothing new, but the faxing of them seems to be on the increase. After all the user is required to pick them up, swear and count the cost of printing spam!!! Drives us mad.

    We used to fax out promo stuff to targetted companies and while tools like winfax made it incredibly easy (ran my ante-natal coffee group the same way) we didn’t generate many sales.

    We had a series of high pressure calls to renew some directory advertising last year and I intervened only to find there was nothing to “renew”, pure scam. Had a talk to the owner about 6 months later who didn’t like some of my comments but made no effort to counter my opinion. I guess he’s happy that the companies that he fleeces don’t Google.

  42. I’m pretty sure people will fall for this ๐Ÿ™‚

  43. In some states you can sue in small claims courts, $500/per unsolicited fax.

    Pretty easy to win, it’s collecting that proves difficult at times.

    later,

    tom

  44. >But you really should not call every webmaster scam out there an โ€œSEO Mistakeโ€.

    Or, to be fair, it would also be worth pointing out the search engine submission ads Google accepts in AdWords are generally being nothing but a scam. Just to be consistant with the policy.

    I doubt I will see a blog post with a picture of an AdWords ad for search engine submission titled SEO Mistakes: search engine submission scams.

  45. I have always preached to avoid any email or (Adwords Ad for that matter) that begins, “I noticed you don’t have any rankings in the search engines”, or “get a top 10 ranking on Google in 48 hours”

    The sad thing as others have stated is that some of these “scams’ look so official that people waste money and fall trap to them, but I agree its not warranted to label all SEO’s an SEO Mistake. There are great companies out there that do good work, are honest and help bring more business to comapnies that lack in the internet side of marketing. (If all SEO was a mistake then Google would not participate in events like SES)

    The funny thing is the majority of the so called SEO Comapnies out there that do this have no PR, no one linking to them, and some are even black-listed on Google. That would be a good indication to RUN right there. Just a thought in trying to help others decide who is legit and who is not when it comes to SEO.

  46. I just got a copy of this fax. good times.

  47. I recently got an invoice in the mail for a domain that I bought at 3am.. You know, one of those “it sounded like a good idea at the time” type things.. Anyhow, the invoice I got was from a place called ListCorp, and they were trying to charge me an annual fee of $34.95 for “search engine submission” into Google. I actually saved the letter and hung it up, because it had to be the funniest peice of snail mail I’ve ever gotten. I can just imagine that if they mailed it to the millions of other business owners, and only 0.5% sent a check back, they still would have made millions of dollars.

  48. I’ve gotten a couple of those over the years. Even gotten some via snail mail. Although must of us can see it for what it is, it actually confuses the heck out of novice webmasters. I’m sure these guys make a pretty penny from these things.

    I will note that if it was sent from the US, it may be illegal. There are some pretty strong rules on fax blasting people without a prior relationship. Might be worth making a phone call or writing in to the state to let them know if they are based in the states.

  49. Dear Matt Cutts, 4/24/06

    In reply to your april 14th blog.

    As an expert in the field of SEO, we like thousands of others value your opinion, and commitment to excellence in your work. A blog is a place where people can voice an opinion, and your carries more weight than some in this SEO field.

    Our goal as an internet registry and optimization company is to separate ourselves from people who promise to submit to 50,000 search engines, get you #1 placement and
    Or other ridiculous promises.

    On April 5th, 2006 an independent marketing company ACCIDENTALLY sent out an unapproved document designed for CURRENT CUSTOMERS, to a very small list of companies. This was never approved, and we have fired this company for their error.

    We immediately posted an alert on our website, that this document was sent in error;
    we sent an apology letter to everyone on the list by fax or e-mail (including your friend who forwarded that document to you),.
    We even sent a letter of explanation for this error to be kept on file in EVERY Attorney Generalโ€™s office and every consumer protection agency in the United States.

    We are a multi-national company providing an excellent service and feel that you should be fair enough to post this explanation.

    If we were trying to hide or scam as some of your devoted bloggers thought,
    why would we send letters to the Attorney General, or even to YOU, explaining a marketing error?

    On your april 14th blog, I think you laughed at our name, but in fairness is Federal Express a Federal Entity or a Federal Company?

    We like Federal Express desired a powerful name to represent a powerful idea.
    The โ€œOfficial Internet Registry & Optimization Bureauโ€ can be a voice for Quality legitimate SEO in an unregulated market.

    Please Visit our website and decide for yourself, in fact give us a domain of yours and see how we do for you. We will do it for FREE.

    In closing I would like to remind you that we have never had a complaint logged against us from a state agency or from and of our clients in regards to our service.

    We thank you in advance for your help.
    Mr. Pedro Guerlamo Melendez http://www.internetoptimizationbureau.com.pa

    PO Box 0816-02128
    Panama City
    Republic of Panama phone 1-877-290-2454

  50. Joe Cuviello

    So Mr. Pedro Guerlamo Melendez, are you inept, or you don’t control your marketing contractors, or are you just lieing to cover your rear end? Which one is it?

    Today is May 10th, 2006 and I just recieved one of these faxes from your company that are mentioned being incorrectly recieved by others. I am reporting your company and the Junk Fax I recieved to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission by use of their web site. If any one else has recieved on of these garbage faxes I receommend you do the same:

    http://svartifoss2.fcc.gov/cib/fcc475.cfm

    This page on the FTC web site is capable of taking complaints about more than just Junk Faxes too. I hope everyone sends a report to them that recvieves one of these junk faxes.

    Thanks.

    Joe

  51. Fax

    I received the same fax yesterday and filed a complaint with the FCC and the Do Not Call Registry (which my fax number is registerd on). Mr. Melendez should understand that violating Federal Laws does not support his opinion that his business is legitimate. If the fax was sent “accidentally” it does not eliminate his liability.

    The fax I received has multiple violations which make the minimum statutory damages (per the TCPA Law) on this fax $1,500.

    If you receive this fax or any other unsolicited fax please register it at the FCC site listed above.

  52. H Albertson

    This โ€œOfficial Internet Registry & Optimization Bureauโ€ had a fax on my machine this AM … with NO identification as to from WHERE (phone) it came, NOR a number to call to remove my number from their fax system.

    I called the number (above) 877/290-2454 which was NOT on the fax, and was asked to leave a message to be returned within 24 hours. We shall see if this is a LEGITIMATE operation which honors the message posted above.

    H.

  53. Charles L

    I received almost an identical fax on 5/18/06 which was routed to my inbox (A/P). I of course didn’t pay it because they aren’t in our system as an authorized vendor and I don’t have any backup paperwork (purchase requisition).

    Besides the violations mentioned above it is also unlawful to have a solicitation look like an invoice without the required (This is not a bill.) disclaimer. There are also laws regarding disclaimers required if using a seal that appears to be a governmental seal. For more information see: http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cos65.htm

  54. jc

    Fax still going strong months later. Received 07/11/2006. Thanks to all for giving info for reporting

  55. Jon Watts

    They have a contact number 877 290-2454 from their web site so I dialed it and left the receiver by the radio with Rush Limbaugh to leave my message to them. I believe he was ranting about John Kerry. I hope they pay for this service by the call.

  56. David

    Hello Matt

    Today is October 17th and my company got their first copy of this fax – with a few extra’s added to make it look more official and urgent.

  57. Melanie

    Today is October 18th and we just got our first fax of this letter, which looks basically the same as above, but the 12 easy monthly payments was changed to $55.00 per month (or $660.00 per year) and it had an option for ***Semi-Annual*** Payment (normally $329.97) and save 20% by paing ONLY $265.00. Less people must be falling for it since they had to double their prices!~

  58. Dan

    Looks like this scam is still going strong heading into 2007… just recieved it via fax and posted the photos here: http://www.dancooper.org/seo-scam-official-internet-registry-optimization-bureau/

    Thanks,
    Dan

  59. Kipper

    I just received one of the same inflated prices “Official Internet Registry & Optimization Bureau” faxes on Oct 13th and filed with the ever so helpfully above provided FCC website. I found this thread on google, near the top, so this thread does not need the services of the dreaded company with horrid, illegal fax/business practices!

    Thanks guys/gals

    Kev

  60. Allan

    Thursday, December 21st, and the large corporation that I work for just received this fax. Luckily, the person who received the fax forwarded it to the IT department, rather than the AP department. I didn’t even flinch at it. I saw that the website was listed with a Panamanian domain name, yet the address to remit payment to was in New Jersey. Maybe they chose a Panama domain name because most Americans would interpret the .pa as Pennsylvania? Either way, they can take a flying leap and all of our AP staff was made aware to not remit payment on these.

  61. It appears that the above bill is FAKE and it is very obvious!

  62. Lol, what companies will do to make money. I wonder how many people actually fell for it and bought the service?

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