We just encountered a new-to-us SEO scam. We received a courteous email today claiming that we had used someone’s photo without credit. “Here’s a link to our post using that picture,” they said. “Would you credit it to www.xyz.com?”
I was fully prepared to give the photographer credit if we had made an error like that. I got right to it.
And quickly discovered some things:
- Our records show that we licensed the photo from iStock in 2009.
- Our post had published in 2009, while their post using the same image published later.
- In fact, their company wasn’t in business until 2016.
- While they have a nice website, their company sells a shady product we wouldn’t normally be willing to link to.
- They didn’t list a photographer, just a link to their website.
It was a clever SEO scam
How can a dodgy business get a high-value link from an established website? Well, one way is to provide something of value and ask for a link to it. In this case, the company seems to be pretending that they provided us with a valuable asset, and then asking for a link.
In most cases, a webmaster will be aware that it’s possible to make mistake like this. The email didn’t ask us to remove the image or threaten to sue us, so they were being reasonable. They just asked us for credit, and most webmasters will be happy to provide credit where it’s due.
The post is old enough that we probably don’t remember exactly how we got the image, and we might not have bothered to check.
In fact, they had a very good chance of getting away with it. They may have gotten lots of desirable links with this trick.
What’s the takeaway?
We’re not suggesting that you do this, of course. We are saying that there are plenty of scams out there. You might be less vigilant right now, with your mind on how to navigate your business through the current world events. But scam artists are aware of that, and taking advantage of their opportunity to catch people being absentminded.
Be aware of this scam and don’t give in to it. Never link to a website that wouldn’t reflect well on you.