Most of us, if we aren’t just now crawling out of our caves for the first time, understand that if a Nigerian prince needs your help to move a large sum of money out of the country, it is a scam. We know not to trust people who ask for our social security numbers or tax IDs, we know not to give out our banking information and we know not to download, buy or even look at suspicious things we get in email.
The Internet has made us all a bit more wary of being scammed but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few cons out there taking in otherwise bright intelligent people.
Bloggers are a common target of such scams. Their public profile, predictable needs and ease of contact make them prime candidates for con jobs, big and small.
So, if you’re a blogger, here are five cons to keep an eye out for and to avoid.
5. Unlimited Hosting
Of all the lies and scams on this list, this is probably the only one used by otherwise reputable companies. Many hosts, large and small, offer “unlimited” hosting accounts that are anything but.
If you read the fine print on these accounts you’ll learn that your hosting is only unlimited insofar as you aren’t negatively impacting the server. They don’t meter your bandwidth or server usage but, if you use too much, you get the axe. Many learn this the hard way when they get a traffic spike, such as a Digg effect, and wind up getting shut down.
Think about it for a second. If you could truly get unlimited hosting from a $7 per month account, why would Google bother running all of those data centers? They could literally save millions hosting with company X and be done with it.
For those interested, here are some other hosting warning signs to watch out for.
4. Guaranteed Visitors
Depending on your field, cost-per-click rates may be well over $1 per visitor, making them impractical for bloggers to advertise on. So, when a company promises X thousand visitors for a nominal sum, it can seem like a steal.
Assuming it isn’t just a “take the money and run” scam, there is still a huge problem. Rarely is this traffic targeted and even more rarely do they tell you where they will be coming from. A lot of these operations are set up by spammers as a way to profit from otherwise useless traffic they receive to their sites.
Unfortunately, the connection with the spammers can have hurt both your chances with the visitors who do come and the search engines when they spy the links.
The same holds true for programs that promise X number of Twitter followers or Facebook friends.
3. Link Exchange Programs
You’ve probably seen the emails where the author claims to “really enjoy” your site and to have added a link to it on theirs. All they want in return is a link back. They provide the URL to their site, you click through and find that the did indeed link to you.
The problem is that it is a scam. Spammers often hide referral code in their links so that they know which site/email you are coming from and add the link in then. To normal visitors without that code, meaning everyone else, the link doesn’t appear.
But even if the link is really there, this kind of link swapping is highly discouraged and routinely-penalized by Google as a form of spam. Furthermore, since these sites are viewed as spam by visitors and search engines alike, they are often banned outright by Google and others.
In short, you have nothing to gain but everything to lose from adding these links to your site.
2. Give Me Your Password
Most people realize that they aren’t supposed to give out their password to anything, including their blog’s. However, you probably get email asking for your account information for everything from your PayPal account to your Twitter profile.
For the most part, these scammers stick to lucrative targets, such as banking information, that they can use to steal identities. But some spammers are asking for FTP or database passwords so they can hack servers. Another common method is to gain access to email accounts and access the site information stored in there.
Spam filters do a good job cleaning up most of this garbage but sometimes spammers get lucky and a letter gets through and it arrives at a time where a blogger is having support troubles and such a request doesn’t seem outrageous.
Always, when asked to give out password information to your host, do it through the secure trouble ticket system and not over email. Likewise, don’t store your passwords in your email if you can avoid it. It may just save your blog.
1. Front Page of Google Scams
There’s no shortage of services and eBooks that guarantee you a spot on the front page of Google for a price. Unfortunately, these methods rarely, if ever, hold any water.
The problem is simple, the only way to really reach the front page of Google is to create solid content, get good inbound links and have just a bit of luck. It is slow and time-consuming, but usually free. Anyone offering to sell you a search ranking is almost certainly engaging in some kind of spamming or other underhanded search engine trickery.
These techniques rarely work and, when they do, the sites that use them are swept under the rug on the next Google algorithm change.
That guarantee? Good luck collecting on it. These sites open up and close down so quickly they are impossible to track. You’ll never see the money again and have likely borked your site’s chances of ever doing well in the search engines.
When it comes to deals that are too good to be true, they almost always are.
When presented with any deal, stop for a minute and try to figure out what the other side gets out of it. If someone really could guarantee a top ranking in Google or thousands of visitors, there’s much more money to be made than just selling the services for a small sum per person.
If you think about the deals you are offered, your odds of getting suckered goes down drastically.
In the end, the reason people get taken in by scams isn’t because they are stupid or foolish, but because they didn’t think for one crucial moment and made a bad decision.
That can happen to any of us and that is why we have to always be on our guard.