We are a minimally optimized, white-hat site with strong authoritative inbound links, PR5. ON 1/2/13 We saw a catastrophic drop in traffic at which point I started looking for answers.
In Google Webmaster Tools under crawl errors it shows "not found" URL errors from sites like scrapersite.com/refer/SpamJoZ24/?t=w&b=0&q=brand+Letter+series
Obviously I cannot fix these "broken" links to pages that do not exist on our site. I have always operated on the belief that nothing external can hurt rankings (lest sabotage would come into play). Could this be one of the reasons of a penalty/ranking loss?
Thanks in advance for your help!