A disheartening business model taking advantage of the naïve

scammer1.jpgYesterday I was handed what appeared to be a bill due for payment. At first, I thought it was some domain registration fee, but the last time I checked we don't pay more than $9 dollars a year per domain. Being a busy person, as I think most business owners are, I would have probably authorized it blindly as I have more pressing matters than some $35 fee. But since it was about search engines, keywords and rankings, I stopped and scanned the document out of curiosity.

I checked it and didn't recognize the company billing me. I did recognize the domain name as one of ours that we have not yet made use of. The 'bill' was for an annual subscription costing $35 dollars. I was shocked to find out that this was a sneaky solicitation in the guise like a bill! At the very least, it seems that a cautious lawyer advised them to put a disclaimer on the 'solicitation bill'. Take a look at the image (click to enlarge).


Now, you can argue with me that this is not a scam, as it is clear in the disclaimer/warning that it is a solicitation. Legally, it is probably not a scam, but let me ask these simple questions:

  • Why do I have a customer number if I have never done any business with them?

  • If it is a solicitation, why are they dressing it up like a bill?

  • Why can't they make it look like a normal ad in which they explain why I should pay them in the first place?

  • Which are these '14 established' search engines where I am listed, supposedly as of August 14?

  • What are the eight keywords for which they are going to provide four ranking reports a year?

I don't know you, but I don't like this type of solicitation. They say they send these bills to millions of site owners. Imagine if everyone started sending bills to all their potential clients—people that have no business with them yet, who don’t know the services or why they might need them—and appending a label saying that it is just a solicitation. That is totally ridiculous.

The reality here is that this is a numbers game. There will always be people trusting enough or busy enough that will blindly pay for services presented like this. With less than a 1% success rate they would still make a hefty sum. But what are the victims getting?

I understand that all businesses are working to make money. But what is the problem with actually delivering value in exchange for that money? Maybe I am old-fashioned or too naïve myself, but I like to put myself in the shoes of my clients and ask: “What am I getting for the money I am paying this guy?” If the answer is nothing, I think I’d better find some other business to be in. I feel most people hate to waste money and time on undeserving things.

What would you do if you got a bill/solicitation like this?

6 replies
  1. Jason
    Jason says:

    Yay, a new scam to pay attention to and ignore.

    Sometimes I don't know whether to admire people that do this sort of thing knowing the scorn they'll incur, or hate them for wasting paper, ink, water and air.

  2. David Hopkins
    David Hopkins says:

    Since I am a tight fisted miser who doesn't spend any money I would probably spot this straight away. However as you say, bills like this will get paid. In large companies where bills are handled by accounts departments it is easy to see how something like this could slip through the net.

    Here in the UK, I have heard of business directories using this scam.

  3. MB Web Design
    MB Web Design says:

    I got emailed an invoice like this the other day (to a Paypal account associated with a Hotmail address, no less!) and shortly thereafter, emails from my clients started filtering back to me asking why I'd signed them up for such a service without their permission.


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