Every new technology attracts scammers and fraudsters – it’s been happening since the dawn of time. The internet is no different of course. Not a week (or indeed a day, usually) goes by without someone calling me claining they’re in some way related to Google or Facebook, calling on behalf of Google or Facebook, or actually directly representing Google’s “front page allocation team”. I kid ye not. They’re not, of course – absolutely nothing to do with Google or Facebook, and sometimes little to do with Internet marketing at all. Most of these people have a Manchester number or a Mancunian accent. Indeed a Manchester scam outfit has been under investigation by the Police. So now, I usually just avoid answering Manchester numbers (0161). Sorry Manchester.

Today I got a call from 07584….96 – yes, a mobile number. The woman “Nina” claimed to represent a business classifieds web site and their companion shopping portal web site. She claimed that by signing up with them, which would cost £200 to set up, and a further £50 per month to maintain, they would ensure over 1,000 incoming links to my web site. She also claimed that the company’s staff comprises ex-BT top sales people. Digging further, and asking her some pertinent questions, it was clear that she didn’t know her way around their own site very well at all. But she was very eager to sign me up and get hold of my credit card details. Finally, I asked where these incoming links were, and so she put me onto her boss, who… surprise surprise… had a Mancunian accent.

The man did everything he could to avoid answering my question about where these links to their customers’ web sites could be found. Eventually I managed to get him to tell me the name of one of their customers who had signed up with them. So… if this was indeed a customer of this outfit, there should be some incoming links to their site from either the shopping portal site or the business classifieds site. You can find out from Google by using a simple query language extension link:domainname.com – and sure enough there were no links, from anyone, let alone these two sites pushed by the Mancunians. Nor were there any links to their alternative domain name. Then I did the same for one of my sites and got a page full of incoming links. The chap on the phone did the same, he verified and verbally acknowledged these results and said he’d have to talk to his technical people about this. I suggested talking to Trading Standards as well.

After getting off the phone I called the number back and a chap with a Mancunian accent answered. I also called their “customer” and asked if they have a business relationship with this company. Yes, they do. Are they satisfied that they’re getting what they were sold? No.

My suggestion is very simple. If someone cold-calls you, about anything actually, but especially anything to do with Internet marketing, just take a few moments to think. They obviously need you more than you need them. They’re not calling to do you a favour, they’re selling something. They may even be selling something that doesn’t exist, or is utterly worthless. If you need genuine help with Internet marketing, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), web site optimisation, Internet advertising or a whole host of other things to do with your web site – then you can either learn how and do it yourself, or there is real help available out there – I could recommend someone if you’re really stuck.

But please, whatever you do, don’t get scammed. Even by non-Mancunians.