Small Business Scam - One of the Oldest Tricks in the Book!
The other day I received a very official looking letter from a company out of Las Vegas called Domain Listings. Calling it a letter really is not descriptive enough. It is more of an invoice / solicitation / scary looking kind of thing.
Here at Black Dog IT Solutions we see a lot of scams. Typically, they are in the form of emails, as this is the way most scammers get into small and medium sized businesses. 94% of malware is delivered via email, and 32% of breaches start with a phishing email.
This one is very different.
This scam is very old, very clever and very low-tech. It isn’t even a scam per se. In fact, it is completely legal, but entirely deceptive.
It starts with a letter arriving at your business. The letter looks very much like an invoice, it includes an amount total, a please remit by date, and a customer number.
Prominently displayed at the top of the page is your domain name in big bold letters. You can see ours at the top – “BLACKDOGITSOLUTIONS.COM”. This grabs the reader’s attention immediately and he/she obviously knows it has to do with their website.
Next up is the “Description of Services”. Like the domain name above it, this too is in all bold and capital letters. The service they are providing is “ANNUAL WEBSITE DOMAIN LISTING” at a cost of $228. The listing is good from September 1, 2020 thru August 31, 2021.
Below that is our “TOTAL FOR ANNUAL LISTING”. Just in case Bold and CAPS were not enough, Domain Listings hit the ITALICS button on this one for good measure! It lets us know that we owe $228.
How many of you know what that an “Annual Website Domain Listing” is? I would guess most of you have no idea. Do not feel bad! I wasn’t even sure what they meant! It sounds important right? Like if you neglect to pay it, maybe your website will get shut down. Which is exactly what this company hopes you think!
The next line describes what the subscription includes. It is your “Annual Website Domain Listing on internet directory”. Notice the words “internet directory” are not capitalized and they have dropped their bold font on the whole line. They either want less attention paid to these words or they simply can’t decide on what should or should not be capitalized.
Their next section of text is more understated and crams a lot of information into a relatively small space. Domain Listings does a good job of making this look like legalese – the kind no one reads! Trust me, they do not want you to read this! Here, they are actually describing to you what their offer is, and what it is not. You will also find a disclaimer (in lighter color text) that this letter is not a bill and you are under no obligation to pay it.
So what is it?
What it is, is an offer to have your business listed on their directory page. $228 gets your business listed on their web page with the hope that it may increase traffic to your website.
Web directories, for the most part, have not been relevant for many years. They began as a way for web pages to get links from other web pages and pump up their standings on search engines. Today, because they have been abused so much, Google actually penalizes websites that use them.
Paying for this “service” will do little to nothing for your website and may actually hurt it.
I would be okay with them selling space on their directory if they were more upfront about it. Actually, sites like Nextdoor, Yelp and BBB are pretty much just directories – a lot more reputable and valuable to your business, but still basically just directories. However, by sending out marketing materials that are designed to look like invoices, Domain Listings is trying to dupe you into something you really don’t need or will benefit from.
At Black Dog IT, we help small and medium sized businesses with their technology infrastructure, cyber security and more. This particular scam isn’t really something that we could ever help you stop with our tool set, but we thought bringing it to light might help a few of you!
If you have questions about making your business safer from online threats please give us a call! We’d be happy to sit down with you and discuss your options!