SEOStartups.com Phone Call Scam

by Dave Curtis on 07/29/2010 · 7 comments

in Search Engine Optimization

I’ve been getting phone calls these past few days to my office phone when I’ve been out of the office or on a call. Today I received my “last” phone call from them (they promised) to submit my site, which they now say is ready to be submitted to a nameless search engine.

Over the years I (and all of my clients) have received numerous mailings, emails and phone calls – we’ve also received bills for services we’ve never had which the sender hopes we won’t notice and just go ahead and pay.

Keep your eyes open and be careful – SEO ripoffs are all over the place. They give all SEOs a bad name and I’m sure they’re making a pile of money doing it.

PS – Normally I don’t get involved in fighting these things as nothing ever gets done, but in this case here’s how I handled it and how you might go about doing something yourself:

First go to CentralOps and do a WhoIs – Type in the domain name supplied to you by the scammer in the email or phone call and then go ahead and check off all the WhoIs boxes.

Your mainly going to be concerned about the Domain Whois and the Network Whois.

  1. The Domain WhoIs tells you who owns the domain name, the Administrative and the Technical contacts (if available and not WhoisGuard Protected) and where the domain is being hosted. Hosting is where the web pages are located – what hosting company is being used.
  1. The Network WhoIs tells you which network is being used by the hosting servers and the site hosted by that hosting company. This info isn’t usually very useful or helpful. Contacting them is usually useless.

In the example of the above caller you’ll see below that SearchEngineStartup.comRIP OFF REPORT was registered by Michael W Eglet with an address. It is illegal to provide a fake address, but scammers don’t care about what’s legal or illegal, so this information is often false. The Ripoff Report (link above) reports:

“I looked into the company, here is their information:

Brent Oxley (support@hostgator.com)
1-713-574-5287
11251 Northwest Fwy suite 400
Houston, TX 77092
US

The guy on the phone told me they have been doing this for over 10 years…The domain has only been online since Nov, 2009…Lies of the scam!

DON’T DO BUSINESS WITH THEM, DON’T GIVE OUT YOUR CREDIT CARD!”

The person who filed the above report is close, but Brent Oxley isn’t likely the guilty culprit. He’s the Administrative Contact alright, but he works for HOSTGATOR.COM, not SearchEngineStartup.com. I’m a bit confused about the use of Brent Oxley’s name and email address so I call HostGator.com’s support number listed in the Domain WhoIs and learn that this information is the default value automatically added to all domain name purchases and that the actual owner “Michael W Eglet” (in this case) is supposed to go in and edit / correct that information himself. I don’t think Michael W Eglet is going to do that.

An Administrative Contact is someone who, by law, can legally act in all matters in place of the the actual domain name owner. The Technical Contact handles all technical details but doesn’t have the right to make decisions in place of the site owner or Administrative Contact.

In the case of our WhoIs lookup the only Administrative and Technical contacts both belong to Hostgator the web hosting service, and though Hostgator did not build the web site (all they do is host it) – it LOOKS really bad for Hostgator from the perspective of people performing a Domain WhoIs. To them it LOOKS as if Hostgator.com has something to do with the SEO scam, and, as the Administrative / Technical contacts are usually also active in building the web site and handling the emails etc, it looks particularly bad, even to me.

The next step, once you have gathered as much relevant information as possible, is to write an email to whatever contacts are offered – including any “abuse” emails as repeated unsolicited phone calls definitely fall under the category of spam and abuse.

If you have contact information for the Domain WhoIs you’ll be writing an email directly to the scammer (except in HostGator.com’s case above). Normally you don’t want to “report” the scam to the Domain WhoIs contact person because they are the ones perpetrating it. What you’ll want to do is direct your emails of complaint to the hosting company itself (in this case it is HostGator.com – confusing, I know)

What you can also do is go to the FBI cyber crime page of their web site and file a complaint over at the Internet Crime Complaint Center, an FBI – NW3C Partnership site.

The email I sent follows:

“Hello Brent Oxley,

Not sure if this scam from SearchEngineStartup.com goes under unscrupulous, illegal fraud or what, but go to http://www.workingseo.com/small-business-seo/2010/07/29/seo-scammers/ to hear the message for yourself.

As the Administrative Contact is Hostgator (Brent Oxley) and the Technical Contact is Hostgator itself as well, it gives the appearance that Hostgator is perpetrating fraud. Your security and public relations teams would do well to act immediately to prevent further reputation damage to Hostgator as anything Michael W. Eglet does reflects directly back upon the Administrative and Technical contact areas.

Best regards,

David Curtis
WorkingSEO.com

Address lookup
canonical name searchenginestartup.com.
aliases
addresses 174.120.170.166
Domain Whois record

Queried whois.internic.net with “dom searchenginestartup.com”…

Domain Name: SEARCHENGINESTARTUP.COM
Registrar: ENOM, INC.
Whois Server: whois.enom.com
Referral URL: http://www.enom.com
Name Server: NS2167.HOSTGATOR.COM
Name Server: NS2168.HOSTGATOR.COM
Status: clientTransferProhibited
Updated Date: 09-nov-2009
Creation Date: 09-nov-2009
Expiration Date: 09-nov-2010

>>> Last update of whois database: Fri, 30 Jul 2010 17:53:33 UTC <<<

Queried whois.enom.com with “searchenginestartup.com”…

Registration Service Provided By: Hostgator.com
Contact: support@hostgator.com
Visit: http://www.hostgator.com

Domain name: searchenginestartup.com

Registrant Contact:

Michael W Eglet ()

Fax:
26508 132nd Ave SE
Kent, WA 98042
US

Administrative Contact:
Hostgator.com
Brent Oxley (support@hostgator.com)
+1.7135745287
Fax: +1.11
11251 Northwest Fwy suite 400
Houston, TX 77092
US

Technical Contact:
Hostgator.com
Brent Oxley (support@hostgator.com)
+1.7135745287
Fax: +1.11
11251 Northwest Fwy suite 400
Houston, TX 77092
US

Status: Locked

Name Servers:
ns2167.hostgator.com
ns2168.hostgator.com

Creation date: 09 Nov 2009 21:21:23
Expiration date: 09 Nov 2010 21:21:23″

That’s it! You’ve done your civic duty and if there’s anyone on the other end who cares, any evidence you have provided will be taken into account and an investigation will be launched. That’s the official process of how START the wheels rolling to stop online scams, fraud and illegal activities.

NOTE: After speaking to Hostgator on the phone and emailing them as requested I got this auto-reply from tickets@hostgator.com:

“Hello,

Thank you for contacting HostGator. In order for us to further assist you, please click on the link below:

https://tickets.hostgator.com/activate/10824118/df9f9a3d4d45922a1179902555534071

Clicking on the link above helps us reduce spam and work faster towards resolving your issue. Please note that you must click on the link above, or your email will not be delivered to our team.

Are you seeking an immediate answer to your question? If so, check out http://support.hostgator.com/. HostGator’s self-service site includes hundreds of useful articles, video tutorials, walkthroughs, and more that contain answers to a majority of your questions.

Best regards,
HostGator.com, LLC
===================
Ticket ID: EHQ-13731516
To reply to this ticket, please be sure to email 13731516@tickets.hostgator.com from the email address you created the ticket with.”

Interpretation? Well, as many months have now gone by and HostGator.com is still hosting the site, it’s clear that for whatever reason they are not able to take care of this problem by themselves.

If you have (or have had) problems with SearchEngineStartups.com contact the FBI

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bob Grossed Out December 21, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Well I’m not sure if Michael W Eglet is even the owner because from what I hear Nick Angell is the owner of the site. They’re obviously trying to hide there identity for one reason or another but here’s his Facebook page you can complain to him directly.

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1137355472

I live in the area they live and have heard of quite of few of these guys getting in trouble with this kinda crap .

So if you feel you have been ripped of you may wanna go here
http://atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx

Recent one in the news
http://atg.wa.gov/pressrelease.aspx?&id=26940

Reply

2 Allen Stark April 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Interesting how gullible some people are and don’t check into things before moving forward. I received the same call today, which sounded legitamate. How can these people get away with such a scam???

Reply

3 admin May 26, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Hi Allen,

I was wondering precisely the same thing. I don’t think they’re getting away with it exactly, I think it’s more likely they’ve already been reported and warned but continue anyway. As long as they have access to telephones, the internet and some type of a payment system even shutting them down won’t stop them long. Also the site language virtually guarantees that they don’t actually have to provide any optimization themselves but dump that responsibility upon the unsuspecting caller.

Reply

4 Mike May 25, 2012 at 7:24 pm

I also got this call hence the reason for my search and finding this site. But I was reverse engineering in case I want to do the same. Their site really is amateurish and I could do a much better job. I could easily hire a voiceover guy to do the audio for the automated calls.

As far as I can see they are selling websites pure and simple for a monthly fee that supposedly includes SEO work. Whether or not the SEO work takes place would determine if there is fraud. I did a copyscape and came up with an identical website: searchenginesetup.com (dupe to searchenginestartup.com).

Searchengine SETUP is Domains By Proxy. STARTUP is Michael W Eglet which is what lead me to this site.

I find it humorous they are using sitepal! I used them back in the day for affiliate offers. Conversions sucked. You can hire a real video actor at fiverr that would actually help make sales.

But the call intrigued me like I said and I may just for the hell of it give this marketing method a shot. You know what matters to me most? They have been doing this a while. Means only one thing. Money is being made.

Reply

5 admin May 26, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Agreed Mike, but only in regards to liking the idea of using a calling system to get business in addition to print, online and standard referral methods.

You said “As far as I can see they are selling websites pure and simple for a monthly fee that supposedly includes SEO work.”

In fact, no, they do not offer to perform any SEO – they say it’s all do it yourself (see below)… secondly if they’re pure and simple selling web sites then why would they be calling to say that my site is submission ready if I already have a web site and they know it? So they want to sell me another site maybe.

What makes is scammy is that they imply that my site needs to be submitted to the search engines when in fact it’s already been crawled, as are all sites. No promo code is needed or any action required.

What makes it spammy is that I am on a no-call list and this call was unsolicited. I personally like some of the phrases on their site:

“you’ll be submitted into over 250 search engines at least once per month.”

At LEAST once a month. LOL – what 250 search engines? The vast majority draw results from Google’s results, and in my opinion there are only ten search engines I’d even consider calling search engines:

  • Ask.com
  • duckduckgo.com
  • bing.com
  • archive.org
  • Clusty.com (Yippy)
  • Yahoo.com
  • Mahalo.com
  • Dogpile.com
  • Webopedia.com
  • Google.com

Dogpile is really only a search engine aggregate as it draws its results from the other engines. So as an aggregate compilation I consider it useful. The majority of other engines not listed here probably aren’t worth it – outside of paid engines like Lexus-Nexus which aren’t open to the general public for free.

Next it says “in your Members Area, you’ll also find information and reference material that will assist you in achieving your goals with your website. By empowering yourself with the tools, information and guidance we’ve provided, you can optimize your results.”

Ok, so it’s saying you’ll be given access to tools that will “empower” you so “you can optimize your results.” e.g.: do it yourself.

And again in the next paragraph (if you’re a Search Engine Optimizer you’ll absolutely have to agree they’re way overstepping their claims): “No one cares more about the success of your business than you do. Therefore, no one else will do as much as you will to ensure the success of your business. You’ll find that once you arm yourself with some basic knowledge and understanding of the search engines and how they work, you’ll be more than fully equipped to handle these tasks.”

This is patently and wholly absurd. A business owner is given some basic information with no experience, no years of study and trial and error, no contact support personnel or services, plus SEO is a full time job mind you, and this will make them “more than fully equipped to handle these *tasks*”? (By tasks they’re referring to “ensure the success of your business”. There is no possible way they can make such a blanket statement without knowing that it’s false unless they themselves haven’t got a clue and are only relying upon the scammy, spammy phone call gimmick to get more business.

What I would respect is a call saying they can teach me how to drum up business by setting up an auto-dialer system that sounds professional, that sells product, and that has even kept them in business for years.

So, I like it, but it’s definitely underhanded and SEOs aren’t interested in selling websites. That’s entry level stuff, and I’m too ashamed of simple bread and butter work like that to even list it, the same as a really good writer uses a non-de-plume to write and sell pulp fiction to make a few bucks only to pay some bills.

Reply

6 Jeremy October 25, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Good article David… unfortunately Nick is still up to his old tricks. He’s called me at least 5 times with this crap and i just left him a nasty message so hopefully he will give up eventually.

Reply

7 Wesley Todd December 19, 2013 at 3:28 pm

I also received a call from this company but from a different number. This was only weeks ago. I am a Florida attorney considering legal action. It appears they have been making these phone calls for years (this post is from 2010!) and to a great deal of people. If you are aware of any legal action relations to this company, please reach out to me at [email protected] or (813) 513-5440.

Reply

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