If you’re reading this you likely just got an email along with a sneaking suspicion of its legitimacy.
Often times that suspicion alone is enough to let you know what you’re reading is some sort of scam— but some of these emails are well disguised and prey on your fear making you wonder if you should reply, click a link, or if you really do have some sort of issue with your website.
One thing is for sure— you’re not alone.
If you own or manage a website it won’t take long before you start getting unsolicited emails from people telling you how they could improve your rankings, fix errors on your site, or publish content for your readers.
Even I get them pretty regularly.
How to Identify a Scam
While there’s no single way to identify it immediately with 100% certainty— there are some obvious tell-tell signs that what you’re reading is spam.
- No Contact Information
Typically these scammers will just sign off with a name, a fake title, and sometimes a company name. Rarely will they include a link to their website, company name, email address, or phone number (things most real humans have in their business email signature.
- Poor English
Chances are your spammer isn’t a native English speaker and their communications look like they are straight off of FreeTranslations.com. You’ll notice broken English, poor grammar, and obvious mistakes a legible business isn’t likely to make.
Often times these emails will pull information from your site, and you’ll see when they reference your website they’ll list out the full URL (sometimes over and over). Or they’ll refer to your business name over and over again. You’ll notice the message seems like it’s not uniquely written for you.
Why Me & What Do They Want?
Most just want to get you to sign up to some kind of serve and scam money out of you. If you were to show interest (don’t!), it wouldn’t be long until they started asking for your credit card details.
Keep in mind, these people aren’t seeking you out personally. This is a numbers game. They’ve likely scraped your email address from your website or a public record (like your domain registration details).
They don’t care about you, personally, they are just sending out hundreds (if not thousands) of emails a day in hopes that they will get one or two people to reply.
In some cases they might tell you that there is a problem with your website and offer to fix it for you. They might want your login credentials to your website or hosting account… DO NOT GIVE THEM THOSE DETAILS.
If they are able to get in the back-end of your website or hosting account, it’s like you inviting a burglar in your house.
Lucky for us, these scammers aren’t too original most of the time. The same themes tend to come up over and over again. Here are some common ones that should usually raise a red flag.
- SEO or Search Ranking Improvements
Many scam emails will claim they can get you to the top of Google search results and might even offer some guarantee. While legitimate SEO companies do some cold outreach, most established companies you can trust won’t write you out of the blue and make promises.
- Found “Errors” on Your Website
Another common theme is that they have found “errors” on your website- but these will typically be very vague. They might say something like “We found a number of errors affecting your site”. Unless you’ve signed up for a service like Google Search Console (which will notify you about errors) these emails are usually a scam.
- Offering to Write Content for Your Audience
Although less common, sometimes they will write you offering to write content for your website. Listen, ain’t no one doing nothing for free unless there’s something in it for them. This could be a scammy way to get links to their site, or just trying to get access to the back end of your site by publishing content.
- Phishing Attempts
One of the most dangerous emails are ones that ask you to click a link and login. Sometimes companies will even pose as a recognizable company in order to steal your login details. Unless you requested a password reset, be very skeptical. Check the URL of the link, often you’ll notice it’s not the real company’s URL even if the website looks very similar.
What You Should Do
If you notice some of the signs of spam email, or you can tell it’s trash right away, make sure to mark it as spam in your email. Many email providers (like Google) use a system to “learn” as you mark things in your inbox. They can begin to detect these things for you and reduce your administration time spent on these scams.
Of course, you can just delete the email too.
Above all, just do not reply to the emails or click any link they provide. Even if you think you are just being nice by telling them ‘no thank you’, or you think they may leave you alone if you tell them no- that’s simply not true.
Any time you respond you are confirming with them that they have a valid email address and they are likely to start emailing you more frequently.
If you’re unsure if it’s a scam or not, feel free to forward the email over to me and I’ll have a look for you.
Sometimes It’s Not a Scam
Unfortunately, you could also get legitimate emails that look a little spammy too. Automated emails from your hosting provider (or WordPress itself) sometimes look robotic and might be telling you it’s time to renew something.
Hopefully you’ll recognize these companies and know if it’s time for a renewal or not. Again, most legitimate companies (like your hosting provider) will include contact information about their company (because they aren’t hiding anything).
If you are unsure try copying and pasting the subject line or a sentence or two from the email into Google. Because these spammers aren’t very unique, the same email script has probably already been identified online as a scam.
Be Careful Out There!
There are a number of scams out there. Most of them are harmless, but some could be trying to infect your computer with a virus. The best rule of thumb is to be skeptical of companies reaching out to you that you don’t know or haven’t dealt with before.
If you’re a part of my Continued Success Program, you’re always welcome to reach out to me for help and guidance- but better than that, I’ll likely be fielding all these emails for you so you don’t have to deal with them.