A new scam against website masters/operators/maintainers

UPDATE 2015/08/06: got another one of those scams. Added it to the bottom so people who google for their domain or keywords in their scam mails can find this page and get this warning.

As of March/2014 (and probably earlier), there's a new scam against websites around.

For the lack of a better name, I call it the "masqueraded link begging SEO scam".

It works the following way: the perpetrator is a dishonest/unethical SEO ("Search Engine Optimizer", ie, someone that makes money "enhancing" a site's Google PageRank so it appears as near as possible the top of a Google's search for some particular item), and they email you masquerading as someone working for some sympathetic cause (eg, a teacher, or a doctor, or a church worker, etc).

They then say something to further garner your sympathies (like prasing your website and saying that it was useful to them in some manner (like helping a pupil/student/coworker, etc), andf finally ask you to link to another, purportedly 3rd-party website with similar content to yours and that they also "found very useful".

It's a lie! They are in fact associated with that website, and are getting paid to promote it. The fact is that one way to promote it is to get other, bona-fide sites to link to theirs, because that makes Google (and other search engines) automatically up their site's ranking; see here for a SEO describing how useful those links are; note that the SEO that wrote that article is not necessarily unethical; what's unethical is other SEOs -- ie, the ones sending these emails -- to masquerade as a disinterested party in order to fool you into linking to their page.

The giveaway is when you check the rest of the web site -- it's usually a commercial website (ie, a website trying to sell something or promoting some company), and the rest of the website has nothing at all (or very little) to do with the subject of your website, the page they are asking you to link to being the sole (or almost) exemption.

There are other ways to confirm it's indeed a scam, but I won't list them here lest the scammers themselves read it and use that information to perfect their fraud.

There are (probably lots of) other webmasters being hit by these scammers; A little googling returned this page and also this one, but unfortunately very little else. So, I'm putting up this page to help alert others; the only way to mitigate these scams is by raising public awareness against them, so they stop working and if possible start yielding negative results; in order to do that, the best way is to email the contact for the domain they are fraudulently trying to promote (they aren't necessarily dishonest/unethical, they could have simply and unknowingly hired a dishonest SEO that is using these tactics without their consent or approval.

Apart from links to other pages describing this same scam, I'm also posting here the full text of these scam emails I received so far; please find them below, with the domain names suitably mangled in order to avoid publicizing them (and therefore doing the scammer's bidding; in order to "unmangle" them just replace " DOT " with "."):

Received: by with SMTP id [REDACTED];
        Mon, 3 Nov 2014 10:15:39 -0800 (PST)
X-Received: by with SMTP id [REDACTED];
        Mon, 03 Nov 2014 10:15:39 -0800 (PST)
Received: from [REDACTED]
        by mx.google.com with ESMTPS id [REDACTED]
        for [REDACTED]
        (version=TLSv1 cipher=RC4-SHA bits=128/128);
        Mon, 03 Nov 2014 10:15:38 -0800 (PST)
Received: from angmar.tmp.com.br (localhost.localdomain [])
	for [REDACTED]; Mon, 3 Nov 2014 16:16:18 -0200
Received: (from spamtrap@localhost)
Received: from mx.mrslowe DOT com (mx.mrslowe DOT com [])
	for [REDACTED]; Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:54:41 -0200
From: "Susan Lowe" 
Subject: A great astronomy resource
Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:53:07 -0400

Hi there!

I do some tutoring on the side and I have this one girl, Mary, that I'm
helping with science. She's learning about [REDACTED] and we've been
using the resources on your page (http://[REDACTED]/links.htm) quite a
bit. You have some really good information - thanks!

During some homework she came across this article
(http://www.sofasandsectionals DOT com/[REDACTED]). When she showed it
to me I found it to be very useful and convenient. It discusses what
astronomy is, famous astronomers, stars, planets and more. There are a
ton of kid friendly resources all in one place, including educational
activities and games. She learned a lot while having fun at the same time!

She wanted me to share it with you as a thank you and thought it would
make a great addition to your page. Would you possibly consider including
it for her? I was hesitant to email you at first but she keeps asking
if I've spoken to you haha and I think other students will find the
information helpful! Let me know if you get a chance to add it - she
would be thrilled :)

Thanks again,
Susan (and Mary)

Received: by with SMTP id [REDACTED]
        Tue, 3 Feb 2015 09:17:50 -0800 (PST)
X-Received: by with SMTP id [REDACTED];
        Tue, 03 Feb 2015 09:17:49 -0800 (PST)
Received: from [REDACTED]
        by mx.google.com with ESMTPS id [REDACTED]
        for [REDACTED]
        (version=TLSv1 cipher=RC4-SHA bits=128/128);
        Tue, 03 Feb 2015 09:17:49 -0800 (PST)
Authentication-Results: mx.google.com;
       spf=none (google.com: lfitzmaurice@cmcsd DOT org does not designate permitted sender hosts) smtp.mail=lfitzmaurice@cmcsd DOT org
Received: from mx.cmcsd  DOT  org (mx.cmcsd DOT org [])
	for [REDACTED]; Tue, 3 Feb 2015 15:19:03 -0200
Message-Id: [REDACTED]
From: "Linda FitzMaurice" 
Subject: A thank you and suggestion on your page
Date: Tue,  3 Feb 2015 11:21:39 -0600 (CST)


My name is Linda and I'm a teacher.  I came across your page
(http://[REDACTED]/links.htm) while searching for information on
[REDACTED] for an upcoming class project. The resources you have are very
helpful! I just wanted to thank you for making your page, and thought
you should know how useful it is!

I also found this article:
http://www.americanvisionwindows DOT com/[REDACTED].php

It's educational and would be a great resource to include on your
page. What do you think? I would love to hear any thoughts you have
to share.

Thanks again!

Linda FitzMaurice 
lfitzmaurice@cmcsd DOT org

From: "Courtney Phillips" 
Subject: comments on [REDACTED] webpage
Date: Wed,  5 Aug 2015 [REDACTED] -0500 (CDT)
Received: from mx.afterschoolcareprograms DOT com (mx.afterschoolcareprograms DOT com [])
        by [REDACTED]
        for [REDACTED] Wed, 5 Aug 2015 [REDACTED] -0300


My name is Courtney and I'm a mentor and tutor for a small group of
kids in my local area. My class and I wanted to give you a shout and
send you some virtual "high-fives" on your page, [REDACTED].

We've been collecting [REDACTED] resources and decided to bookmark your
page, thanks. :)

Since we decided to bookmark your page, the kids thought it'd be a
brilliant idea to send you a page they found very helpful on [REDACTED],
http://www.livewatch DOT com/[REDACTED] . They figured it'd be a great
learning resource to add with your other resources on your page. Do
you mind adding it? They'd feel so accomplished knowing it would benefit
other fellow kids, just like them.

We'd love to hear any feedback you have...maybe even a "high-five" back. :P

Thank you for your time,
Courtney Phillips