For instance, while helping someone out with a PC problem, they casually mentioned they may have been scammed and would I have a look and give some advice. The following the line in one of the emails from the scammer summed it up nicely.
“As requested please find below the payment details for your renewal of your google listings for the coming 12 Months.”
Now that may sound fairly innocuous to you, but it rang alarm bells for me. For example, there is no such thing as renewing your listings on Google. Google (and any other search engine worth its salt) automatically crawl and list web pages without you spending a penny. They wouldn’t be very good at being search engines if they didn’t. The only times when they don’t list pages is if you have specifically told them not to, or your site has broken so many rules that it has been de-indexed.
Another reason for concern is that the scammer is asking for money up front, without any proof of success or that any work had been done. Additionally, the email in question came from a generic domain (like gmail.com, outlook.com, mail.com, etc) and when questioned I was told the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) specialist didn’t have their own website. Again a major alarm bell echoed in my head.
Unfortunately for my client, the scammer took the money and ran. They fell victim for one simple reason. Fear.
Scammers of all types use fear to coerce people into making decisions they would not otherwise make. The fear is that the your website will no longer be listed on Google and therefore you will lose business. This plainly is not true.
There are several things you can do to protect yourself. The most obvious is don’t respond to cold callers. Speak to friends, relatives and other businesses and get advice before committing to anything. Don’t limit yourself to that one cold caller.
Lastly if you have fallen victim to one of these scams, contact the police. It is a crime and should be handled accordingly and you may be helping someone else along the way.