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Beware of Internet Predators; Invoice
Look-alikes are Deceptive
By Neil Salerno, January 2007

Anyone, who has been around our industry for a while, has experienced the scams and deceptions created by opportunists preying on hoteliers. Many years ago, they took the form of “invoices” for such things as directory listings, copier supplies, light bulbs, and many others. 

I hate to think about the many hoteliers who were burned by not paying enough attention to the subtle message enclosed within the invoice look-alike; “This is not a bill. This is a solicitation. You are under no obligation to pay the amount stated above unless you accept this offer.”

I guess the Internet, as a target, is much too tempting to be ignored by deceptive people. The newest is a company called ListingCorp.com. Their “invoice” states that a one year subscription includes domain name submission to 20 established search engines; up to eight keyword/phrase listings; and quarterly search engine position and ranking reports. All this, for the meager sum of $65; an amount easily approved and sent to accounting for payment.

Register.com lists the following description for this company:

“ListingCorp.com is the front name of the Internet Corporation Listing Service. The business claims to assist internet domain registrants market their site to search engines. The method that it advertises and markets its services has been the subject of numerous Better Business Bureau cases and Internet blog chatter. 

The company typically trolls the new domain registrant’s database then sends the owner of the domain snail mail which looks like a bill for registration services. The services are detailed as search engine submission and monitoring and the price is $65 per year. However, submission of a URL and checking the position of a site in search results are actually freely available to any website operator. The mailing is designed to lead you to believe it’s a bill rather than an offer for services that are of little value; Caveat Emptor.” 

It is especially interesting that they have a New York address, but their phone number and fax numbers are foreign.

They may actually do the things they promise. Frankly, they can be in deep trouble if they don’t; their use of the U.S. mail may make the feds anxious about their legitimacy. But, my problem lies in their method, not in their offer. 

I received one of these “offers” just the other day. This was interesting because the domain name that they were soliciting was “hotelwebsitedoctor.com”. This is a domain name that I own, but, apparently their research is somewhat flawed because I never got around to developing a web site for it. Evidently, they are prepared to submit a domain name, without a web site, to search engines. 

I suppose, if I had $65 to throw away, it would have been cool to see what they would do with that. Search engines frown on false submissions. If it was a complete web site, I suppose there could be a benefit from their services, but I am much more concerned with their method of solicitation. I’ll leave it to others to see if this company actually performs their listed services, perhaps a good project for the International Commerce Commission or the U.S. Postal Service.

Read invoices carefully. It may only be $65, a paltry sum for most businesses, but don’t let yourself be deceived into spending it. I only wish I had the power to warn the millions of non-hotel web site owners.

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Contact:

Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA
Hotel Marketing Coach
Email: NeilS@hotelmarketingcoach.com
Web Site: www.hotelmarketingcoach.com

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Also See: ADA Lawsuit Alert: Beware the Internet Surf-by; A new twist on the ADA drive-by lawsuit / JMBM / September 2004


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