Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Perils Of Linkbuilding - Scam 2012

A part of SEO is linkbuilding, and often backlinks are created are from online directories such as Freeindex.

I had a call last week in the early morning and I just had an interesting telephone call from my local 'Community Services' team working for the local council.

What follows is what happens in a scam attempt:

They called my personal mobile and asked to speak to the business owner [bearing in mind my new pink website went live just 3 days ago] and it was clear from the start the caller was relying heavily on the words 'local' 'community' 'supporting' 'new' 'businesses' and he was selling advertising space.

Confused how he had my personal mobile number I asked how he found my website [the number is displayed on there somewhere temporarily] and he said that Thompson Local provide him with leads when he asks them E.g. Location: Weston-super-Mare Industry: Home & Garden.

But I have not done any linkbuilding for the site per se, certainly not with Thompson, and only whacked up the basic business details on Freeindex this morning over my coffee.

[I went on to make a connection between Thompson Local and Freeindex, to be commented on a member of the Freeindex team within the hour:

"Hi Nina.

FreeIndex here. Just to let you know, we don't have any contact, partnership or affiliation with Thomson Local, absolutely not. This is the kind of tactic we hate and spend a considerable amount of time trying to stop.

We traced the user who called you (their number is 07983 391556) to an Orange Broadband account in Barnsley who had indeed been going through some recently added businesses. They are now banned from FreeIndex.

We do all we can to try and stop this annoyance, but we can't beat them all the time. By letting us know, we can certainly do something about it, so thank you.

All the best,


I also had a call from Search Engine Easy only an hour later, saying my number was on 'a spreadsheet' and even worse for them they called my landline number which is TPS registered.

They said they do use directories for leads, they did mention Freeindex but it was included in the list along with Thompson Local and others, just to let you know.

.... here's the forum link

Following this, I had a lovely personal response to my email thus:

Thanks for getting in touch.
I have searched for the mobile number you've provided in your message, and found the following webpage, which gives a little more information:

From your message (and your post on UK Business Forums), and from the information supplied by other people who have been called from that mobile number, I think you may possibly have encountered a notorious scam operation. This scam is discussed on our forums and elsewhere - it's often referred to as the police magazine scam, or the community / charity magazine scam. Searching for either of those terms should give you plenty of results from other businesses who have received cold calls from the same people.

These scam operators work by browsing a range of directory websites and obtaining contact telephone numbers for active business users. When they call, they usually claim to represent an official organization like the police or the local council in order to appear credible. They will try and sell you advertising space in what they claim is an official magazine, often telling you that your business will be the only one in your sector / industry that is featured in the magazine. If you agree to the advertising, or even if you just ask for more information, then their normal practice is to send you a large (and illegal) invoice after a few months. Sadly, a few businesses will simply pay the invoice without question, or will consider it easier to pay without challenging the company about their actions. That's how the scam operators make a profit.

If you were contacted by these scammers, then they would have had no qualms about giving you false information, such as telling you that they are located in Weston-super-Mare in order to make them seem like a local organization - I see that your own FreeIndex profile lists your business in Weston-super-Mare.

The scammers would also not hesitate to claim that they were given your phone number directly by a reputable company such as Thompson Local, when in fact they appear to get all of their contact numbers by searching directory websites like Thompson Local, FreeIndex, and others.
I can assure you that FreeIndex has absolutely no business relationship of any description with Thompson Local. Nor do we distribute your telephone number (or any of your contact details) to any third parties whatsoever. When you enter your contact details into your FreeIndex business profile, those details are only ever shown on your FreeIndex profile page.

I don't have any special knowledge of how Thompson Local operates or of any partners that they work with, but I would say that it is highly unlikely that Thompson Local were involved with the cold call you received in any way. The cold caller probably got your phone number from your FreeIndex profile page, but pretended that he had been officially given your details by Thompson Local, again, probably in an attempt to appear credible.

Unfortunately there is very little that we at FreeIndex can do about this scam, apart from continuing our security measures to deter cold callers (such as only allowing a user to view a limited number of telephone numbers in a set amount of time). The scammers seem to constantly change their telephone numbers and there seems to be more than one person operating this scam. As the caller in this case claimed to represent your local council, what you may want to consider is reporting the incident to the council directly. The council will probably confirm for you that they have no association with the call that you received, and they may be able to advise you about further action that you can take.

I will also pass all the details you've provided on to our site management team to add to our records of reported cold callers. We use this information to try and identify users who make cold calls and, where possible, to bar any such users from accessing our site in future. Thank you for taking the time to let us know about this issue. If you have any further details which may be relevant to this case, then we'd welcome that information as well.

I hope that's helpful information, and I'm sorry we can't be of more assistance to you over this issue. If you're concerned about receiving cold calls in future, then you can always remove your telephone numbers from being displayed on FreeIndex completely, by going to My FreeIndex > Account Settings and using the option provided under the heading "General Preferences" on that page. And of course if you have any further queries at all then please don't hesitate to get back in touch. Thank you

Which made me a very happy person, that I had caught a scammer out.

Also, just to explain as mentioned up there ^^ Search Engine Easy also tried scarily similar tactics of calling a few hours after I had uploaded to Freeindex, but the thread has disappeared I discovered.

Anyway, this evening around 6pm I had a blocked call which I ignored as usual.

02871211150 called immediately after I had the blocked call.

I Googled the number and came up with results from 2011 so this number must have been kept and then bought back into service.

Make your own judgement - should I answer out of curiosity this time just to see who the company is? Answer = No. Maybe, like me, you may feel ever so slightly miffed when it's not something I needed, or even knew the existance of. Spend your time being more productive, like getting the kettle on for a brew.