Is this a scam? Technically no… it’s great marketing.

There’s a new email scam hitting the streets this morning.  I’ve gotten TWO emails in the past hour about this particular email scam, so I’ll share this here as well.

I’ll begin with this:  TECHNICALLY this is not an ” email scam”.

Technically, this is a masterful marketing campaign.

However, I would tend to classify it as definitely “scammy” because it’s success depends upon on a lack of knowledge on the part of the “mark” in order for you to take them up on the offer.

It’s my personal goal to increase your level of knowledge about the internet and using it to market your business so when these email scams come to my attention, I vet them with gusto!  [Be sure to subscribe to my feed so you’ll never miss one of these “important” educational announcements!”]

The target of this “marketing campaign” is business owners who are not technically savvy. Of course, there’s no way to segment this market so if you ARE technically savvy and you’ve gotten one of these – you probably just ignored it.  (Mine hasn’t arrived yet – so I’ll be using one of the ones forwarded to me by a technically savvy colleague who noted the creativity behind the campaign.)

Because I’m all about transparency and authenticity – and because the perpetrators of this campaign would not recognize either if it hit them in the face – from here on out, I’m going to refer to this “marketing campaign” as a “scam”.  The reason it’s not technically a “scam” is that if you read carefully – and if you’ve got years of internet experience – you’ll know that this offer isn’t worth the price of the paper it’s NOT printed upon.

The email will arrive with an ominous subject: This is your Final Notice of Domain Notification

Your first clue that this is not on the level is the wording – DOMAIN NOTIFICATION is not the same as DOMAIN EXPIRATION.

However, if you’re like most business owners – there aren’t enough hours in the day and you tend to scan most of the stuff that comes in through email anyhow.

If you click on the email, you’ll see something similar to this:

scam

This is where scanning will cost you a LOT of money.  IF YOU READ CAREFULLY – you’ll see that this is a solicitation – a.k.a. marketing piece.  They say right there in the main copy “this is not a bill or an invoice”.

However, if you’re SCANNING the email – your eye will be drawn to the underlined portion of the email…

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.

“OMG!!  I really, really WANT my customers to find me on the web.  Tell me more!!!”

You might even think you’ll lose your domain name if you don’t take action.   (They didn’t SAY that- but they definitely IMPLIED it.)

The “offer” is simple – it appears that you can register the domain name in question with this company for the low- low price of $75 per year.

What?  You say you paid less than that with your current registrar? Well hey – your registrar didn’t offer you “search submissions” with your registration.

What exactly are “search submissions”, you may ask…. and you may.

I have no idea.   However, I’d be willing to guess that it’s about as effective as the SEO software I talked about in Business Success Formula Recognizing Nonsense.  At $75 per year – it costs less up front but goes on for MUCH longer.

The email ends with the typical small print:

scambottom

Did you see it? Right after the “By accepting this offer, you agree not to hold XX liable for any part.” it says as plain as day in 4 point font: “Note that THIS IS NOT A BILL. This is a solicitation.”

That – ladies and gentlemen – officially makes this NOT a scam but instead just a brilliantly crafted direct marketing sales letter.

It reminds me of the domain name registration service who sends snail mail notifications of domain name expiration to trick you into transferring your domain name to them.   Unfortunately, I’ve worked with a couple of people who did just that.  Let me tell you – getting the domain name transferred OUT of these people’s hands is difficult.

If memory serves me, when one client accepted their “generous” offer – the adminsitrative contact email was changed to their email address which made transferring the domain name to a new registrar nearly impossible.

Oh – but wait.  There – in the 4 point font…. accepting this offer does NOT affect your domain name registration:

This notice is not in any part associated with a continuation of services for domain registration.

Oh – so I still get to pay to register my domain name through my ICANN approved registrar.  Ok.. so what am I paying for here?

Obviously the $75 per year is for for the “search submissions” service.

By digging through the 4 point font, I find a hint to what the offer for”search submissions” service entails:

Search engine submission is an optional service that you can use as a part of your website optimization and alone may not increase the traffic to your site.

The individual words make sense and are arranged according to proper grammar, yet the result is still nonsense.

Treat this “offer” like drugs – just say no.

Comments

  1. Kathy says

    I agree – it IS deceptive and it’s definitely convoluted -but they do spell out almost everything – everything EXCEPT what they’ll actually do for the $75 fee.

    You’re right – a rose by any other name….

  2. says

    I’ve seen these things before. Last year when I was freelance I sent out emails to all my customers to warn them of this kind of thing. Its great that you’ve highlighted it here.

  3. says

    Unfortunately too many companies are stooping to these tactics which taints the reputation of us ethical marketers. This one is a $75 domain “service” but I’ve also received phone and email notifications for your auto warranty, roadside protection service and when I trademarked my company name, firms all over the world trying to offer me trademark submission for a meer $3000. Some of these firms have had class action suits brought against them. So although this one seems harmless, none of these deceptive tactics are.

    Thanks for publicizing it and making more people aware that these types of marketing would stop if they stopped working!

    Debra Murphys last blog post..USGA Tribute to Arnold Palmer

  4. Kathy says

    Debra,

    I agree – these tactics give ALL marketing professionals a “black eye”.

    Laurie, Debra and Amelia –

    As for sounding the alarm – it’s what blogging does best!!!:) If I can save just one person who “scanned” it from avoiding getting scammed – I’d count this as a VERY productive post!!!

  5. says

    Oh wow,
    I deleted this message this week. I feel a bit more savvy – even though I am an IT illiterate. I just thought it was one of those solicitations for ad space and lottery winners…because my IT person renewed my stuff in March and I sent her checks to cover it…

    Lucky me…hope everyone reads this. Thank you

    Patricias last blog post..There’s a place For Me

  6. says

    I got a version of this in hard copy MAILED to my New Zealand address – unbelievable! At least they lost a couple of dollars for the postage 🙂 Its absolutely a scam – my IT literate sister in law who forewards our mail was really worried that it was important because she knows “I do something on the Intenet”. Its a scam pure and simple – but business owners need to start getting a little more savvy too – the term “taking candy from babies” springs to mind

    Lissies last blog post..Site Build It Scam Review Redux!