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Ever get phony inquiries?

I get them about everyday...

     
10:55 am on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

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...and my sites aren't very big at all. The one that attracts the most fake inquiries only gets about 20 visitors a day. Some of them are very elaborate. But when I follow up it is always a fake email address or phone number.
I've placed an ip tracker on the forms pages and theyre coming from all over the world so I doubt it's one person. And my goods are not controversial at all but offers a free service in exchange for another paid service. It's a competitor or just some fool trying to waste my time. Whats worse Im paying G for the clicks these people.
Its becoming a big demoralizing factor as about 80% of my inquiries are completely fake, and they're getting more elaborate. It's harder to tell if they're fake or real.
Ever get these? Aside from deleting and forgetting, how do you discourage/prevent these lowlifes wihout charging a deposit upfront?
Ever fantasize about finding them alone in a dark alley like I always do?
11:25 am on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

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It's part of the way the web is, it's free for anyone to do anything just about. Have you tried to make your visitors to put a code in the sign up form that's displayed in an image? That may be the best way to go because it sounds like "they" are using automated software.

A while back I had a site that had a free service and I got this one guy that would join 5 to 10 times a day through a Aff URL, I guess he didn't know we looked at the leads to ensure it was not automated, etc, I decided that I would just delete the sign ups, in the end he stopped. You are always going to have people like that and there isn't to much you can do.

9:20 pm on Aug 4, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Im putting an autoresponder to the address the formmail is delivered to. That way if the email address is phony, I will get an undeliverable message automatically. Will probably only work on half of them though.
9:29 pm on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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You might want to look into some more sophisticated email verification before the form is submitted.

Check the domain to make sure it exists.

Also, see if you can find any patterns in the IP addresses being used.

9:42 pm on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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The problem with "free" services and query forms is that you get a lot of midnight surfers who send this stuff on impulse and then the next day don't even remember who/what you are.

The better ranked you are the proportion increases. I get a ton of queries for a internet related service and I think I have gotten one client in over 500 queries.

That's why I put adsense on my site - at least I get to monetize the traffic. :P

12:51 am on Aug 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Few possible ways to reduce / spot bogus enquiries;

** free email accounts like yahoo/hotmail
** mobile phone numbers
** If possible ask a few additional specific questions during the online buy process that can help tell if the query is genuine. Serious leads don't mind telling about their requirements.
** Use site stats tools with decent tracking facility to see if this guy has shown any real interest in your product by reading few pages before signing up to your free trial. Track his path for a while. If he's serious he'll take a good look around and maybe come back and look again. If he doesn't ...chances are he was never really interested in the first place and you should not fret over it.
** Pick up the phone and call him...u'll know for sure real quick.

 

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