Rinse and repeat on LinkedIn spam

Time for another missive on LinkedIn spam. I’ve touched on this topic before, discussing the notorious Pav Sanka and his inability to use a contact for its intended purpose.

Well fast forward to today, when the equally slimy John Keats – the Chief Sales Officer of 123 Greetings (visit at your own peril). Another person from the sub-continent who feels it appropriate to ignore clearly written information on what types of messages I’m happy to receive via LinkedIn.

For those who don’t remember, here’s a recap:

Contact Settings
Happy to share my knowledge and consider job offers, but please don’t contact me with spam.

Interested In: career opportunities, consulting offers, job inquiries, expertise requests, reference requests, getting back in touch

With that in mind, here’s the message I received today from John Keats:

Subject: CPO & CPM – Strategic Partnership
From: John Keats Chief Sales Officer at 123GREETINGS DOT COM
Date/Time: April 25, 2012

Hello Michael

I represent 123greetings.com (World’s #1 e-Greeting company) with 30 million opt- in users across the globe.

We help advertisers to reach their targeted audience on CPO and CPM basis via our email campaigns.

The Average performances are 6% open rate and 5% CTR and we can target users demographically and geographically.

You can message me for more information and I will be happy to discuss with you further. You can add me in Skype (greetings_sales)

Best
John Keats
Cell phone: +1 646- 257- 3763
Email:john.keats@123greetings-inc.com

Chief Sales Officer
123 Greetings.com, Inc
1674 Broadway, Suite 403, New York, NY 10019

Ok, let’s look at what messages I stated that I’m happy to receive via LinkedIn and which of these it matches up to:

  • career opportunities: No
  • consulting offers: No
  • job inquiries: No
  • expertise requests: No
  • reference requests: No
  • getting back in touch: Are you seeing a pattern emerging yet?

So – should John have sent his message? No way.

If I had even a remote interest in electronic greeting cards as part of a marketing campaign I might be running, I would have gone out looking for the relevant information.

And looking at this companies’ website, it doesn’t inspire me with confidence. It’s a design reminiscent of mid 2000, with all the design queues which give it the look and feel of something dodgy and untrustworthy you’d associate with India – right down to the use of generic and dodgy stock photos and more advertising than you can shake a stick at.

The consideration and application of ethics in marketing is something oft ignored by less scrupulous users of social media and communication networks. Those who fail to consider ethics in marketing also fail to realise the damage their activities do to their business and reputation.

I’ll bet this is why Pav Sanka tried to get in touch with me last week by phone, considering that Pav’s own name and business name (Vinsky Consulting) doesn’t appear on Google results without my entries appearing right next to or even before him and his company. It’s the same level of permanent record that’s given to Contractjobs.com and Lucy Plumridge thanks to their lack of business ethics and my well-honed SEO skills.

So, here’s the reply sent to the latest LinkedIn spammer. Will it achieve anything – likely not. However, if it does make the person in question reconsider their obnoxious tactics and think twice before misusing LinkedIn, then it has achieved its purpose.

John,

Let me be blunt and respond to your message with a question, did you bother to read the contact box on my profile which clearly states what kind of contacts I’m interested in receiving?

Let me answer that question for you – No, you did not.

You have sent me a message, a message with no purpose or relevance to why I’m here, and offers me nothing that’s aligned to the messages I’ve expressly stated up front that I’m willing to receive.

Spend a moment in my shoes – I get several messages here a day, on top of all the other informational networks I need to participate in to stay at the top of my profession. If you think that messages like yours are a valuable use of my limited and valuable time, you are sorely mistaken.

Connecting with you is of no value to me. You’re not a social network practitioner – you’re a bleeding sales person who’s so ineffective in their job that they don’t bother to read available information and form sound judgement. There’s simply no benefit to me in connecting with someone like you I don’t even know who is of zero relevance to me.

In short – you’re just another pain in the arse spammer who abuses networks like this for their own means and wastes other peoples time.

I’d thank you to refrain from such wasteful messages, and future pay better consideration to the messages you send so as not to waste other peoples time. Needless to say, I’ll be circulating your message and my response amongst my circle of influence both online and off to make sure that they never do business with you or your company.

Michael.

As I said last year – people like John need to learn the purpose of social networks, and understand the manners and expectations that goes with using them.

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A follow-up on Contractjobs.com spam: Email Blaster concurs, enforces TOS

Well it seems my publicising the spamming activities of Contractjobs.com bore fruit.

After correspondence back and forth, I have since been advised of the following by Email Blaster UK:

EBUK [has] investigated all claims made individually and had upheld the allegations that a breach had occurred; appropriate action was then promptly taken in accordance with our T&C’s which are available in the public domain.

In the discussions with EBUK, they disclosed that they had received a significant number of complaints regarding the spam activities of Contractjobs.com. They also noted that a large number of these had come in as a direct result of my original post & and could be directly attributed to my speaking up regarding their activities.

One of their officers suggested during an email exchange that they [EBUK] might like me to handle their SEO in the future. A small plaudit to me, but one I’d decline due to the sad difficulty of dealing with out-of-country customers and how I prefer to work.

A further comment on the original post by redX has also suggested that they have moved onto another electronic Direct Mail house, streamsend.com, so that they continue to send their junk.

And now for the icing on this war on spam cake: the UK’s Information Commissioner has this week accepted my complaint against Contractjobs.com for investigation.

While Contractjobs.com has moved on to use another email provider, at least this step has had some success & put the company on notice. If they’ve not cleaned up their act by the time the UK’s Information Commissioner comes knocking, then I dare say that their bad acts and fruit of the poison spam tree will come back to bite them, hard!

If you are still being spammed by Contractjobs.com, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Use Spamcop.net to identify and report the spam to their mail hosts or electronic direct mail companies.
  2. File a formal complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office for them to investigate any Contractjobs.com spam
  3. Use the information from the Spamcop analysis to identify the company they’re using, see what their Terms of Service are in respect of spam, and complain directly to them.

Yes – taking action against spam in this method may take 30min or more of your time, however – the more people who take action against spam from UK/EU companies and corporates, the better chance we have of stamping the practice out in at least one part of the world.

By the way Lucy Plumridge – how are you enjoying the negative publicity arising from your use of the illegal fruit of the poison tree? I’m still getting truckloads of traffic from people searching for you, your company and its spamming. Talk about your chickens coming home to roost.

What’s worse: Spamming people, or using email lists gained from hacking activities?

Update:The efforts to bring Contractjobs.com to account for their spam have had result;, including Email Blaster UK taking action, and the UK Information Commissioner commencing an investigation. More information on the progress of this is available over here.


Well, you know just how much I detest spam – but tonight I’m a little more incensed.

Cast your minds back – and you’ll no doubt you remember the Playstation Network security breach in early 2011, which saw the personal details of users on that service compromised by hackers and leaked out to the world.

Well my details including my primary email address were in the information leaked. Thankfully I practice a high level of security by never using the same password twice, and not storing credit card information as well as using throw-away credit cards or debit cards to reduce the financial risks.

I have previously looked into using disposable email addresses, but these are too much of a hassle in my view. Further, my hosted email provider does not make available the use of DNS-based block lists (such as Spamcop) for filtering out & blocking inbound email from open proxies and known spam hosts despite asking them to do so.

Anyway, let’s get back to the point.

In short, an email came in at 2209hrs AWST from a Lucy Plumridge, Contract Support Manager (Lucy.plumridge@contractjobs.com, LinkedIn Profile for Lucy Plumridge) of a UK site named contractjobs.com. Here’s the email in question:

Dear redacted,

I’m writing to you on behalf of Contractjobs.com.

We would like to introduce you to Contractjobs.com , the UK’s fastest growing contract specific job site. The contract market has grown 14% year on year and many professionals are now turning to the contractor market in order to take advantage of this trend.

Last year we helped thousands of contractors find their next contract role and are already considered to be the largest contract job board in the UK, with over 12,000 live contracts both with the UK’s leading agencies and direct clients.

Please take a moment to upload your CV and you will be entered into a prize draw to win two tickets to the London 2012 Olympics this summer*.

We look forward to working with you.

Kind regards,

Lucy Plumridge
Contract Support Manager

*The competition draw will be held on Friday 25th May 2012. The winners will be notified by email and details published on the Contractjobs.com website.

Contractjobs.com, Mortimer House, 40 Chatsworth Parade, London, BR51DE, United Kingdom

Our mailing address is:
Mortimer House
40 Chatsworth Parade
Petts Wood
Kent BR5 1DE Communication was sent to you byLucy Plumridge
This system is for permission based email;
report abuse . I do not wish to receive any
further communications.

Now I know I’ve never done business with them, never supplied them with my email address, nor ever given them or a 3rd party they might deal with to contact me. The fact they were a UK operation was more interesting, as I’ve never expressed or sought out employment opportunities in the UK.

So, the only way they could have come into possession of my address is either via a purchased list, and especially one that was compiled from illegally or improperly sourced details.

Analysing the email, they used a eDM (electronic direct mail) house called Email Blaster UK. Now not withstanding the comprehensive regulations and directives on contained within Article 13 of the European Commission Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications – Email Blaster make it expressly clear in their terms of service that;

We do not allow clients to use purchased lists under any circumstances – this applies to both B2B & B2B marketing, email databases must have been generated directly by the client’s website using the recognized Opt-in process.

So, with the EC regulations/directives and the companies stated terms of service – Contractjobs has broken the rules.

Thankfully, the Email Blaster team was hot on the case within 21 minutes of me contacting them. I’d received a response from one of their Account Managers; advising that any references to my email address or domain within the databases they hold for Contractjobs.com have been immediately removed, and that they are immediately opening an investigation into the TOS violation.

And I’d hate to be Contractjobs.com at the moment – because Email Blaster charge clients GBP 150 for each confirmed spam incident. If they have purchased or used a harvested mailing list, they could be in for some serious charges and penalties from their email last night.

Now you might be wondering why I’ve written this post – and I’m happy to tell you. I’m of the view that communication is the best weapon in preventing spam & generating awareness of the problem. And being an SEO Practitioner, I know full well that the way I’ve structured this blog entry will ensure that, in perpetuity, this incident will be permanently tagged and forever appear in the search results for Contractjobs.com. It’ll serve as a clear warning for anyone considering to use their services that they are a confirmed spammer, breached their countries anti-spam rules, and have purchased email lists obtained by illegal means.

And if you don’t think this works, ask Pav Sanka and his company VinSky Consulting International what happened after he sent me LinkedIn spam. It had immediate impacts in search engine results.

And if you know me personally, ask me about StarTrack Express and what happened to them in January 2005 after their played depot soccer with a package being delivered to me. A former blog I used to ran documented the whole incident, to the point where three negative and fully documented blog entries appeared about their own site in search results for their company name. It was even to the point where their own IT people attempted to take down my blog (a bad move, as I posted the entire log file and details of what they attempted online, creating another SEO entry outranking their own site – ouch).

So yes, nice move Contractjobs.com. Your stupidity by buying email lists obtained from hacking activities has just landed you in a nice little SEO hole. I’ll sleep easy tonight knowing that your reputation will be permanently tarnished because of your own stupidity and non-existent business ethics.

Spammers: Please die

Yep, it’s one of the few subsets of the human race I actually wish genuine harm befalls them. They are the scourge of the electronic globe, spraying every corner of digital existence with their flaccid graffiti in the vain hope it might sell a few more fake pills or trashy manuals that show you how to do everything.

Of course, despite their poor outcomes they somehow still manage to make something out of these exploits – a result of the stupid and incompetent members of society who don’t take personal responsibility to educate themselves on internet security and safety. These people should be removed from the gene pool, but that’s a post for a whole other time.

Today is no exception. Thanks to the lax security at Gawker which exposed many thousands of people’s email addresses (I look after my email address like a credit card, and before that breach I had received not a single piece of spam), I received the usual Nigerian scam variants as well as phishing attacks to hand over bank data to banks in countries I don’t even reside.

Normally, those emails aren’t anything to write home about. However, this one message I received through LinkedIn really incensed me to the point where I gave it with both barrels to the guy behind the message.

Hi Michael,

Your profile looks interesting to me and also noticed that we are following the same group, probably we are on the same wavelength. I believe that we might be able to add value to each other and exchange some good ideas that might be beneficial for both of us in the near future. I would be very happy to accept your invitation and get connected with you.

Click here http://au.linkedin.com/in/pavsanka to view Pav’s profile and then add Pav to your network (pavanssv@gmail.com).

I will look forward to accept your invitation. Thank You.

regards
Pav sanka

Now just to give you a background, the only group of which both Pav and myself are members is the Social Media Marketing group.

Let’s look at Pav’s profile, and see if you can figure out what got my back up:

Pav Sanka
Senior Consultant at VinSky Consulting International – Open Networker
Sydney Area, Australia Information Technology and Services

Pav Sanka’s Summary
Providing premium recruitment services to National and Multi national companies especially in the IT and Telecommunications area. Supporting all types from permanent to contract.
My goal is to always deliver the best talent in the market place to offer the specified client the best service at a very competitive price.

Specialties
IT Development, Business Analysts, Business Intelligence (BI), Web Designers, Architects, Technical and Solution Architects, Database Administrators (DBA’s), Programmers (.NET, C#, C, C++, JAVA, Oracle, Web), and Designers, Testers (Manual and Automated Testers), Project/Program and IT Managers, Solution Sales Consultants and Business Development Managers (BDM), ERP – Technical and Functional Consultants, CRM Consultants – both Technical and Functional, Software Engineers, Progress 4GL, SCADA

Did you click on the link I added for this company’s website? I dare you to – because 1996 called, and it would like its web design back.

Funnier still is that the page was created in MS Word. He claims to either be a professional programmer, or work with them or sourcing them for your business – and he can’t come up with a basic web page, let alone on in a respectable editor to save his life. Doesn’t fill me with much confidence about his business.

Those who use LinkedIn will also know that you can state clearly in your own profile what types of messages you’re happy to received. My profile states this clearly:

Contact Settings
Happy to share my knowledge and consider job offers, but please don’t contact me with spam.

Interested In: career opportunities, consulting offers, job inquiries, expertise requests, reference requests, getting back in touch

Was Pav’s contact fitting with my stated contact settings? No. Did he bother to read this before sending a message? Obviously not. Did he see that he wasn’t even geographically relevant to me? Nope. Did he even bother to see that I’d recently changed jobs (this week in fact) and twig that I wouldn’t be interested in offers? No again.

Should he have sent his message? No way.

Was I sick of receiving these messages? You bet I am.

So, I let him have a bloody good serve. I might have been a little OTT with it, but it was 5:30pm, I was on my train home, and would have preferred to be catching up on my RSS feeds for the day then dealing with this rot:

Pav,

Let me be blunt and answer your email with a question, did you bother to read the contact box on my profile which clearly states what kind of contacts I’m interested in receiving?

Let me answer that question for you – No, you did not.

You have sent me a message, a message with no purpose or relevance to why I’m here, and offers me nothing that’s aligned to the messages I’ve expressly stated up front that I’m willing to receive.

Spend a moment in my shoes – I get several messages here a day, on top of all the other informational networks I need to participate in to stay at the top of my profession. If you think that messages like yours are a valuable use of my limited and valuable time, you are sorely mistaken.

Connecting with you is of no value to me. You’re not a social network practitioner – you’re a bleeding recruiter who’s so ineffective in their job that they don’t bother to read available information and form sound judgement. Heck, I’m not even based on the east coast and in your geographic area of relevance – so there’s simply no benefit to me in connecting with someone like you I don’t even know who is of zero relevance to me.

In short – you’re just another pain in the arse spammer who abuses networks like this for their own means and wastes other peoples time.

I’d thank you to refrain from such wasteful messages, and future pay better consideration to the messages you send so as not to waste other peoples time. Needless to say, I’ll be circulating your message and my response amongst my circle of influence to make sure that they never do business with you or your company.

Michael.

Jacob Nielsen said this today in respect of web design, “Obnoxious abuse of a Web design element will ultimately poison the well for decent websites as users start shunning that design element, even when it’s well intentioned.”

The same could and does apply to spam – obnoxious use of messaging and social networks will poison the well for even the best intended websites and services helping people communicate.

People like Pav need to learn the purpose of social networks, and understand the manners and expectations that goes with using them.