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Six Email (and Snail Mail) Web Scams to Avoid

by Nate Hoffelder

After a decade of running The Digital Reader, Nate is a veteran web publisher with experience in design, maintenance, recovery, and troubleshooting. What little he doesn't know, he can learn.

May 20, 2021

Are you worried that that email you just got may be real?

While a lot of scam emails have obvious flaws, some are more subtle. I’ve seen scam emails that were almost good enough to fool me, so I have started compiling a list of scams so that everyone would know what to look for.

Here are six different scams that have crossed my desk.

Note: The original inspiration for this post was a paper letter I received in 2019 from a company that was trying to convince me that I owed them $180 for the cost of hosting my website. I have since expanded on that original post to include other scams.

The “Your website or a website that your company hosts is infringing on a copyright-protected images” Scam

This is technically not an email scam. It actually comes through your website’s contact form, but it is nevertheless a scam.

The way this scam works is that the scammer will fill out the comment form on your website with a message like:

Your website or a website that your company hosts is infringing on a copyright-protected images owned by myself.

Check out this document with the links to my images you used at www.techlicious.com and my earlier publications to get the evidence of my copyrights.

Download it now and check this out for yourself: (link)

I am leaving out the link because it leads to malware which will attempt to hack your computer, or so I have been told by experts. The one time I tried to click the link my firewall apps blocked me from downloading the attached file.

If you are concerned that the message you got is real, I recommend that you copy one or more paragraphs into Google and run a search. You will find there are hundreds of other duplicate messages out there.

The best option here is just to ignore this message.

The “YourWebsite.com is about to expire” Scam

One type of scam email that I frequently find in my spam folder is from scammers who are trying to convince me that I owe them money for the renewal of some type of service. The scammers usually pretend to be the company I registered the domain with, and the email will usually be framed as a helpful reminder.

Sometimes they will have a message like:

Your Domain SEO-listing shown below are set for renewal and need to be processed in the next 48 hours. No worry, please click on this link and follow the instructions.

If you get an email like this, delete the email. Then go visit the site where you registered your website’s domain, and make sure that all your fees are up to date. It’s better to be safe than sorry, but whatever you do, don’t click on a link in the suspect email.

The “Main Street Web Pros” Scam

There are companies who will send you fake bills in an attempt to convince you that you owe them money for a service they are not providing.

For example, on 19 February 2019, I got a paper letter from a Florida-based web design firm called “Main Street Web Pros”. The letter closely resembled a bill, and was designed to make me think MSWP hosted my website, and that I owed them $180 for this service.

I have never done business with this firm before nor have I heard their name, but after looking online I found that MSWP does have a rather sparsely filled out website. Their online presence provides a veneer of legitimacy, but it is really just a cover for the scam letters they send in the mail.

This company has tried to convince at least two other people I know of that we ow MSWP money for their services.

 

If you get a letter like this, the best thing to do is contact the USPS by visiting the U.S. Postal Service Inspection website, or by calling 1-800-275-8777. You will need to give the investigator information from the letter so that the scammer can be prosecuted.

You might also report this scam to your state’s consumer fraud protection service.

The “Domain Notification for YourWebsite.com” Scam

Another type of scam email that I get all the time is from scammers who try to sell me a worthless “domain listing” service. This time the scammer doesn’t try to convince me they are a company I already do business with, but they are selling me a worthless service.

The emails frequently read something like:

Attn: Nathaniel Hoffelder As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification for your business Domain name search engine registration. This letter is to inform you that it’s time to send in your registration.

Failure to complete your Domain name search engine registration by the expiration date may result in cancellation of this offer making it difficult for your customers to locate you on the web.

If you get one of these emails, just go ahead and delete it. The service they are selling you is worthless, and you have better ways to spend your money.

The “We Can fix Your Website SEO” Scam

I always get a giggle when I get one of these scam emails.

If you own a website domain long enough you are bound to get an email from random companies that claim they can skyrocket your site to first place in Google. (Others will claim they already did, and demand payment.)

The thing about this scam is that if the company really could do what they say then they would be charging tens of thousands of dollars for their service, not $149 or whatever they asked from you. SEO is a huge industry, and there are some legitimate companies who really do know how to put a company at the top of Google’s search results. The thing is, those companies don’t send blind emails to random website owners; they have customers beating down their door – customers will pay a lot more for SEO services than you can afford.

The only SEO companies who send blind emails are cheats who will take your money and run, and the crooks who will use blackhat SEO tricks.

You are better off avoiding both.

The “We recorded you watching Porn” Scam

This scam is my favorite.

Every so often I get an email that claims I was tricked into installing malware on my computer the last time I visited a porn site. The email claims that the malware captured a recording from my webcam that showed, well, you get the idea.

The email is usually written in semi-literate technical gibberish and ends with a blackmail threat along the lines of if I send the scammer $500 in Bitcoin, they won’t release the video of me doing you know what.

If you get this email, just delete it – I always do.

The thing about these emails is that it comes in two flavors, neither of which are convincing. One type is sent to randomly generated email addresses – I have in fact gotten the emails via email addresses that don’t exist (they show up in the “undeliverable” folder on my email server).The other slightly more clever type is sent by a scammer who found your email and password in one of the security breach tracking sites – the scammer included those details in the hopes you would be folled into falling for the scam.

The scammer doesn’t actually have an incriminating video; instead, the scammer is counting on a few gullible victims falling for the lies in the email.

If you are really concerned, ask for proof. The scammer won’t have any, and they may not even bother to respond. In fact, there won’t actually be a way to contact the scammer!

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Have you gotten a scam email not mentioned above? Let me know in the comments!

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Hi, I'm Nate.

I build and fix websites for authors, and I am also a tech VA. I can build you a website that looks great and turns visitors into fans, and I can also fix your tech when it breaks. Let me fight with tech support so you don’t have to.

My blog has everything you need to know about websites and online services. Don’t see what you need. or want personalized help? Reach out.

 

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1 Comment

  1. Allen F

    I’ve seen/laughed at the porn one. My ‘online’ system is a netbook that does indeed have a camera; but it’s normally sitting on a shelf ‘closed’ as I type this, as I send the video to a larger monitor as I pound on a wireless keyboard.

    More often spotted by me are the ‘click this link if you need to contest this $799 Amazon order’ sent from random hotmail and gmail accounts. 😉

    Reply

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