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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).

scambill1.jpg

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?