It seems that an evil spammer (who shall remain nameless pending further investigation) has developed a personal vendetta against me and is maliciously trying to smear my reputation by posting bogus blog comment spam in my name (and my wife’s – that bastard!), linking to this site, my About.com site (entrepreneurs.about.com), and another domain I use just for e-mail.
This is a blog variation on a tactic employed by email spammers called a Joe job, “an incident of spamming designed to tarnish the reputation of an innocent third party.” (Wikipedia) While this tactic has been around for at least ten years, its application in blog comment spamming is new and presents a whole new set of issues in identifying the perpetrator and fighting it.
The posts are that genre of innocuous spam that doesn’t actually say enough to trip off the spam filters. Here are a couple of examples:
Comment by Scott Allen
Hi. Ive got some really good stuff for download at my site at http://snipurl.com/tvhamazon.
Not to be boasting or anything, but I am the coauthor of this little gem. Come on by and have a look.
BTW, your blog is just okay.
Scott 512-215-9720 Says:
Hi. Ive got some really good stuff for download at my site at
http://www.thevirtualhandshake.com/ Come on by and have a look.
BTW, your blog is great.
To anyone even remotely familiar with my work, it’s obvious that this is totally antithetical to everything I teach, everything I believe in, and couldn’t possibly be from me. But I’m not a household name to the vast majority of bloggers out there, so to someone who’s never heard of me, this is incredibly damaging to my reputation, to the book, and to my co-author David Teten by implication. In fact, I first learned this was occurring from a blogger who sent me a message saying:
Hi. I’ve got some really good spam on my blog from you – I really appreciated it. Thanks for visiting, I’m sorry your last name is “512-215-9720”
Does your book really sell that badly that you must spam blogs for more attention?
Never having visited their blog, I was shocked to see the least. I can’t say that I blame them. Comment spam pisses me off too.
So how did this all start? I wrote to a comment spammer asking them to stop and telling them I was going to expose their site publicly as engaging in spam marketing if they continued.
So how do I know they’re the ones behind this?
- The fake posts started within minutes after sending that message.
- The site that was doing the spamming has comments right next to the fake comments in my name on all the same sites. Talk about a smoking gun!
- Other evidence I can’t disclose at this time.
What I’m Doing About This
I’m not an expert on spamming, or internet security, etc. But fortunately, a lot of really smart people in my network are. I’m not a lawyer, but a lot of smart people in my network are. I’m a bit of a PR expert, but I haven’t really ever had to deal with a smear campaign like this. Fortunately, some really smart people in my network have.
I turned to that network of really smart people that I’ve built up over the past few years and asked for advice. While there were certainly some differences of opinion, there were a few things that stood out as consistent advice, all of which I’m following.
- I’ve reported this to the FBI as a case of identity theft and fraud.
- I’ve reported it to About.com’s legal department, since they are now implicated by the impersonator linking to my site at About.
- I’m going on a counter-PR campaign to make sure my name stays clear and that this person is caught and prosecuted. This is what the vast majority of the people who gave me advice said to do. The legal process will be long and arduous. Counter-publicity is the only way that I can immediately combat the damage this person is doing to me right now.
I would never have wished for this. It’s going to be a pain in the rear to monitor this, collect the evidence, and take appropriate action. It creates a lot of work for me, and will damage my reputation with those people who never hear about this and just assume that I’m a spammer.
But ironically, in the process of trying to create negative publicity, this whole fiasco will probably end up generating far more positive publicity for me. As a result of my posting on one list, I ended up doing a full-hour interview on The David Lawrence Show last night. You can listen to the whole thing for just a quarter, or to the 10-minute podcast for free. Thanks, David!
How You Can Help
- Leave it up until I can capture a screen shot as evidence.
- Make a note of the raw IP address.
- If you can, please make a note of any other comment spam from the same IP address. This is particularly important.
- Contact me with the information.
- Once I’ve confirmed back to you that I’ve got the screenshot, delete the comment.
- Please post about it in your blog and link back to this post.
- If you see fake comments in my name like the ones above, please contact me with the URL so I can gather evidence and contact the blog owner.
Thanks for your understanding and support. I don’t know what I’d do without the support of the network I’ve built in the past few years — yet again another lesson in the importance of building a diverse and powerful network.