The minute you register your new business or your new domain, you are placed on a number of public lists. You may get emails offering all types of website-related services. The same thing happens when high schoolers take the PSAT or when people change their relationship status on Facebook–they are now in a target market and will be inundated with ads and unsolicited mail related to their “life event.”

I think most people can sniff out a suspicious email and certainly a fishy phone call, but spammers and scammers are evolving their trickery to a level I have not seen before. Recently, three very discerning and fairly tech savvy clients of mine have contacted me about notifications they have received from such solicitors. The emails (and one call) were believable enough that my clients thought it was a good idea to check with me on their credibility (and I am so glad they did). Here are the three types of notifications they received, and if you are a website owner, you should watch out for these, too.

The Unsolicited SEO email

Do a Google search for “unsolicited SEO email” and you will see pages and pages of references to emails much like this one that one of my clients received just last night:

Hi [insert domain name here],

My name is Bob [not his real name, and the name he gave probably isn’t, either], I’m a Search Specialist and was doing research for another client when I came across your site.
I wanted to share a few major issues I discovered that are currently harming your website search rankings…

And then “Bob” goes on to list things such as broken links and duplicated content found elsewhere on the web. I have always ignored these type of emails that have come to me, but I decided to take a look at every one of these items listed and it confirmed my suspicion that “Bob” had done no more research on my client’s website than I did for my AP Chemistry exam.

And who addresses you by your domain name, anyway?

Unsolicited SEO Email Disguised as Domain Renewal Notification

This one is really tricky, as it looks at first like a domain renewal notification. Here is a recent notification that a client of mine received. She is aware that her domain and website are registered and hosted with GoDaddy, but this email still made her think twice.

Domain SEO Renewal Notice

To be fair, this email does say that this business does “not register or renew domain names.” However, the visual impact of the format of the email with the payment buttons, and use of words like “failure” and “cancellation” make it look very official to a busy entrepreneur who is concerned about keeping up with bills and keeping their business online.

Know which company you or your web developer used to register your domain. If the email “renewal notice” does not come from them, it is a scam.

Google Business Listing Extortionist

This one is scary for a business owner who has a well cared-for Google My Business listing.

About a week ago a client contacted me to tell me he had received a phone call from someone claiming he had to pay $350 immediately or “lose his Google business page.” He was justifiably shaken, and I assured him that it was not only a scam, but it was outright extortion.

Google makes it clear right here what types of calls are definitely not from them and states in no uncertain terms that it “does not charge for inclusion in Google My Business or in Google Search.”

Know Your Domain and Hosting Providers

Owning a website involves keeping up with notifications and correspondence from a variety of sources and providers. It may get confusing, so it pays to know these things:

  1. The company you used to register your domain
  2. When your domain is actually up for renewal
  3. The company that hosts your website
  4. When your hosting is actually up for renewal

Some people register their domain and subscribe to a hosting plan with the same provider, but in some cases these may be different. Find a safe place to keep this very important information and then refer to it if you get a fishy email or call.

And remember–if nothing else, your intuition will tell you if something isn’t quite right. As spammers and scammers use more sophisticated tactics, you may find that going with your gut is the most reliable source of information in the moment. Once you determine something doesn’t feel right, contact someone you trust. I am so glad that my clients came to me instead of losing time and money to cyber thieves!