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Topsites

Still at it!

     
2:55 pm on Jun 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Just a heads up that TopSites.us are still sending "renewal" notices

"Could you please be so kind as to update your listing in the TopSites directory by Sunday, if you don't mind? (We can only continue to list you if you click the Update button.)"

You are then invited to pay $5 per month to go into, or to continue to be listed in, the ODP category that is the basis for this directory.

I got a heck of these renewal notices at the beginning of the year, there was a long gap without them, but coming back again now with different wording.

I notice that if you search Google for info on this organisation, that one of our WebmasterWorld members has a boatload of good information. Including the gem

"since it's possible to determine there are around 3,000 subscribers paying around $60 per year, that should give a turnover of $180,000."

3:09 pm on June 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Aha.. my old friends, but this time under the presumably assumed name of "John Kennedy". (JFK? Does Elvis work there too?)

There's a new twist though, they are also sending out "overdue" notices to sites and saying within Topsites.us that the payment is overdue on the public site of the directory. Needless to say it's all BS, but I suspect there next step might be barratry.

I notice that if you search Google for info on this organisation, that one of our WebmasterWorld members has a boatload of good information.

And more to come :)

3:10 pm on June 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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A fairly comprehensive page of info about this scam is here:

www.dynamoo.com/diary/topsites_topsitez_us.htm

I've long since banned any emails that even mention topsites.us ;)

[edited by: Receptional_Andy at 3:11 pm (utc) on June 27, 2003]

3:11 pm on June 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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lol, I saw some site with some email snippets back and forth between those guys and somebody. Totally sick of answering clients questions about it.
3:31 pm on June 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I received a few "renewal" notices as well. I hate spam
3:48 pm on June 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I was thinking about this (err rather too much I guess) and I realised that this was really a new take on an old scam, the "fax directory scam" which has been around since the 1980s.

Just like the Nigerian 419 emails have been around for decades, but only in letter and fax form, the Topsites approach simply spins out an old practice.

The other new thing is that they no longer spam listings from the ODP, they just go through domains presumably from DNS data, a little like Trafficmagnet. This really does make it a straight scam, because with the "original" Topsites approach, you were actually *listed* in Topsites, even though you hadn't chosen to be. With this approach, the sites *aren't* necessarily listed in the ODP and the "renewal" pitch is simply fraudulent.

Well, I know of more than one victim who's considering legal action, and I think it's a question of "watch this space".

3:53 pm on June 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Dynamoo

Yes, I enjoyed reading your detailed exposee on TopSites. Its very handy for sending to clients who find the "renewal notices" plausible, if not downright compelling.

As I put in my first post, they seem to have been quiet for a few months (maybe they just didn't come my way then). Based on January/February this year, I woiuld expect to get a bucketful of these new renewal notices in the next two weeks

You seem to have had a continuing "relationship" with the organisation ;)

3:58 pm on June 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Sheesh, i'm slow on the uptake today. I only just made the connection between "one of our WebmasterWorld members has a boatload of good information", the url I posted and good old Dynamoo. Duh ;) But great info anyway Dynamoo :)
4:07 pm on June 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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They've been pretty busy actually. One think I'd like to do is chart the spam reports against the Alexa rankings they're so proud of.

Do a search for them in Google Groups and you'll get a feeling for the extent of the spam. On really busy spamming days, their Alexa rank shoots up - I think this is because of remote loading of web pages perhaps? I have all that stuff turned off in mine :)

I guess they're busy spamming even more because having the four of them squeezed together in the $700,000 ranch-style house in the woods in Cupertino (possibly with a pool) is getting them down.

(Oh and thanks, Receptional Andy!)

4:51 pm on June 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>>Sheesh, i'm slow on the uptake today. I only just made the connection between "one of our WebmasterWorld members has a boatload of good information", the url I posted and good old Dynamoo.<<

Just goes to show that I did not have to get a smack from the mods for dropping a url... give them enough rope, and somebody else drops the url for you ;)

11:00 pm on June 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Just goes to show that I did not have to get a smack from the mods for dropping a url... give them enough rope, and somebody else drops the url for you ;)

Well it saves you from having to allude the the relevant Google search strings in your post :)

You know, the Topsites thing has been going on for about a year now, and it's frankly a bit of suprise that it's still going and people are still falling for it.

12:35 pm on June 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Nigerian scams have been going on for several years now. People are still falling for it, paying several hundreds $ to "speed up things" hoping to get a non-existant 20% of a non-existant N-million-$ sum to be transfered into their account.

Not surprising that there's still someone falling into the Topsites scam, paying 5$ hoping to get a non-existant million visitors from a link in a non-existant-PR clone of the ODP (which BTW doesn't even comply with the Netscape License for using its data) when they already have, or can have it, for free.

Probably they're the same people who fall for the FullPromote/TrafficMagnet/WhateverNewIncarnation "we will submit your website to over 300,000 search engines and directories every month"...

8:09 pm on June 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>>which BTW doesn't even comply with the Netscape License for using its data<<

Obvious question, if they know about it, then why doesn't Netscape sue Topsites to get them either to comply with the license or get them to remove the ODP data?

Hypotheses A : Netscape not too concerned whether users of ODP data comply or not

Hypotheses B : The Netscape License is not legally enforceable

11:15 pm on June 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hypothesis C: The amount of time and money it would take to win a judgement against TopSites is not worth it.
10:14 am on June 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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How about then

Hypothesis A + Hypothesis B = Hypothesis C

1:13 pm on June 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Actually cornwall, rafalk's hypothesis C is more or less the same as your hypothesis A. AOL/TW has tons of money available to sue Topsites. That they don't sue means that their position is basically that while they don't like others using their data improperly, they've decided that if somebody does so they aren't going to do anything serious about it.
4:59 pm on June 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Actually, although Topsites is violating the license, it doing so in a more "legally difficult" way than other violators I can think of. I actually don't want to go into the specifics of the violations here, other than the ones I mention on the website, because I don't want to help them out any if AOLTW do come knocking.

But the issue isn't the ODP license violation, it's the "renewal" scam. And to that end it would be *nice* if AOLTW sued their asses off, but really it seems to be to be a legal matter involving the proper authorities.

3:43 pm on July 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Too bad it is a scam. I would $5 a month to actually get listed in Dmoz