A new kind of spam: Developers pretending to be users, “reviewing” their own products, and asking bloggers to post about it

We see spam in our inbox. We see spam on forums. But have you seen forum spam… in your inbox? Lately I have been receiving this new kind of spam, and have decided to share it with the world, so we can all laugh at and ridicule the spammers who attempt it.

Recently I have been getting e-mails from “users” of software products, telling me how much they enjoy said products and would like to review them:

Dear Admin,

I am a user of [pathetic company], and I have used their product [worthless program], I think I am really glad to see this good video converter. However, there are still some disadvantages of this products, here I have written a review about this product and I hope you will help me release them on your websites, I am sure it will bring a lot of guests to your site. If you can approve my request, I hope you can send me an email and tell me what I should do next so that I can submit my articles on your site. Big thanks! I hope this article will be in accordance with your standard, if there have some problems on my article, I hope you will contact me so that I will improve it.  I am looking forward to your reply.

Best wishes for you

Your Sincerely,
[Spamming Punk]

The e-mails go on to provide me with a “review” so I can post it on dotTech:

[Worthless program] Review

[Worthless program] is really the nice software for video/audio files converting. It is the best one I’ve ever used.

The [worthless program] is easy to control (just a few steps to run a conversion process), the user guide is unnecessary (at least for me). The conversion speed of the converter is fast, a minutes video just take me a few minutes to convert it over. Besides, the background working is nice; when the converting process is running, I can still do some other stuffs. But the dark interface I don’t like it. Black is cool, but not this one. It looks worldliness.

About the formats issue, the [worthless program] is really powerful. It’s said to support over 150 formats. I didn’t check it one by one, but I tried some popular video formats such as AVI, MP4, FLV, WMV and MKV; and the converter worked well with everyone. And the quality of the output videos is nice, even it isn’t in HD standard.

Besides, the [worthless program] is really an all in one video converter. It supports to convert videos to almost all the portable devices. The [worthless program] is equal to iPhone video converter + iPod video converter + Nokia video converter + BlackBerry video converter + … But the price of it is just $29.95. It’s really a worthy deal.

About the video editing, although the [worthless program] provides some advanced functions (merge, clip, crop and effect); it’s not enough. Watermark and headlines are not supported yet. But I think it’s the basic content even with some more edit functions. I wish it could be added later.

But in conclusion, the [worthless program] is nice and worth trying.

The product page is: [Worthless program’s product homepage]
If you need to check this product, you can use this url and it will bring you to the product page.

(Note the above example e-mail has been censored using [pathetic company], [worthless program], and [spamming punk] to protect the identity of the not-so-innocent.)

At first glance, the e-mails may seem legitimate; but they clearly aren”t. Seriously, I don’t know if these developers think we bloggers are dumb or what. If you are going to try to try to trick a blogger into posting about your product, you can at least make a half-decent attempt at it; I was able to determine the spammy nature of the e-mails within, oh I don’t know, 30 seconds. However, I do have to give these spammers some credit – their hard work is not in vain: I have seen these “reviews” posted on some blogs that shall-not-be-named.

Flame away in the comments below.

Nokia video converter

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24 comments

  1. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Casey: Spam may be annoying, but some companies have been very successful using it. Case Study: Zynga Games. They would spam people’s walls on Facebook with game status updates, which made the game viral. Now they are valued at over a billion $$$.

  2. Casey

    Ha ha ha. The techniques used by spammers never cease to amaze. :D It makes me laugh to see how far those people will go just to promote a company. But seriously, spam is way too annoying. I wish some people would just give up.

  3. Toast

    @Ashraf: Especially since much spam still comes from the US (China isn’t even in the top twelve for spam, but there is reasoning why many think so: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Spam-USA-China-Sophos-Security,10308.html). What I have noticed from being an administrator on a decently-sized cell phone forum is that we get spam from the US and the UK the most, and China comes in third. The bad English is easy to spot for the last one, but it’s super easy when their completely irrelevant comment says “Interesting. Selection excellent cover phones chinawholesale.scam” sort of message. The funny thing is, the American companies do the same thing (but with better English lol).

  4. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @chinaguy: The Edit function should still be there. =O What browser are you on?

    I know the Caucasian name could be a fake; that is exactly the point. A person using a fake name is using it to try to make the opposite person feel more comfortable with who they are, or trying to hide their true identity. So while you may not consider the name to be a big deal, I find it to be a very important indicator; why do they feel the need to hide their real name? I wouldn’t treat a Chinese (or Indian, or German, or Italian, etc.) name any different than an English name; a program is good regardless of the ethnicity of the person programming it and spam is spam, by an Englishmen or a Chinese person.

  5. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @janetb: I agree with you. Poor English does not mean poor program or a con artist, etc. If you have read my reviews, I have stated in quite a few of them that poor English does not mean bad program. This post wasn’t intended to ridicule the quality – or lack thereof – of a program. It was to highlight the spam tactics, just like Amigwyn said.

    While I can’t speak for anyone else, if poor English is coupled with a name that would typically indicate better English skills, I use that as a red flag that something may be up. Obviously poor English doesn’t mean “spammer, spammer, spammer” but it does mean I need to do a bit more digging, such as comparing the English on the developer’s website to the English in the e-mail I was sent. Call me racist, but if someone tells me their name is Bob Brown and they speak English like a non-native speaker, I am going to be suspicious. Does that mean Bob Brown is a liar, and con artist? No, maybe Bob is a non-native English speaker who changed his name, or maybe Bob just has bad English (it can happen). But I will definitely be suspicious and will look to do more digging to verify Bob’s story, whatever it may be. The same thing would happen with other languages, such as if someone with a distinctly Chinese name spoke Chinese as a non-native (if I spoke Chinese and knew what native and non-native Chinese sounds like.)

  6. Amigwyn

    @janetb: I agree, janetb, that developers could be non-English speaking and still produce a superior product. I believe the point of this article, though, is to point out that those “Reviews” of those products might not always be legit. For instance, if said developer posted a review of his program posing as a legit customer, that would be the type of spam this article is speaking of. It is deceiving and used just to confuse consumers into purchasing the product.

  7. spell

    This reminds me a little of a few years ago when you could type ‘free’ into a search engine and the results would give you good software feedback. Then the commercial software companies decided to highlight the word ‘free’ in their site jargon which in turn the search engines pick up and return in search results. Of course they were ( still do ) referring to the ‘free download’ As I recall, downloading software whether paid or not, has never been charged to the customer! It has now become common practice, but it is still bad practice in my opinion.
    Many recent Blogs are not above employing this technique of subverting search results themselves. Where once you could type in ‘giveaway’ you are now presented with results which are invariably competitions. Often from websites and blogs that did not previously support freebies/giveaways. I know some will disagree that this is ‘sleight-of-hand’, but I know that I personally do not respect manipulation of this nature.

  8. janetb

    I am surprised by the general consensus here that “One can catch a spammer and a con-artist by the incorrect use and spelling of the English language”…A lot of good programs are made by non-native English speakers–even with very poor English, and a great deal of posts are by non-native English speakers. It seems a bit presumptuous to assume that anyone who does not have good English or a personal editor is a spammer or con-artist, no…..:-)…..? I have corresponded a lot with the developer of one of my favorite programs, and he has very poor English. You can see it in his interface and Help. I send him corrections now and then, and he is very grateful. He is also very open to comments and criticism and is constantly improving his program. I couldn’t help thinking of him when I read this thread…..

  9. Mike

    As many people know, Amazon.com can be rife with false reviews like these. What is especially disturbing of late is Amazon’s refusal to remove them even when they are called to its attention–and the vehemence of posters/involved companies when the false reviews are called out, with the person calling the false reviews to the attention of others becoming attacked.

  10. Ira

    The ad read, ” It’s free. just pay handling and shipping. Just pay shipping … only $1.98. ” What you don’t know is you are signing on to a $25 monthly service ( they have your credit card info ) am going through a hassle with bank about reversing charges.

  11. MikeR

    @Locutus:

    Thank you for our interest in your product! We see many happy posts from users of PlayStation to Chocolate Bar Converter in for which many awards have we! Will you be interesting to learn a new version of PlayStation to Chcocolate Bar Converter is now available this allow user additional conversion possibilities eg to woolly socks. This been rigidously beta tested to iron out socks. Please to let us know you get Mr Raf to review, if he be busy we can put you in touch with user for honest objectionable article?

    Thank you again!!!!

  12. ZappedSparky

    The poor spelling gives them away and I love the excessive use of adding an “S” to the end of words that shouldn’t have them, and vice versa. Or shoulds I say addings “Ss” to word thats not haves them, ands vices versa.
    Not to mention never EVER click a url in an e-mail from someone you don’t know. I know people here are smart enough not to do that but I thought it needed a mention. It only takes one click and, well, you’ll need Ashrafs advice from yesterday. http://dottech.org/tipsntricks/20266

  13. chinaguy

    Where did the edit function go? To me the English level definitely sounds like someone who speaks it as a second language. As my name implies I live in China and I hear a lot of that kind of English. They usually come up with their own names here so wouldn’t be surprising if your spammer either just picked a name for themself that they had heard before or intentionally gave a false name to try to fool you. Of course that could really be their name. But either way the “Caucasian” name doesn’t mean anything one way or the other.

  14. chinaguy

    Probably Ashraf started getting this kind after being named best geek blog of 2010. So everything comes with a price. Is that about when you started getting them? That would explain why Krish isn’t getting them but you are. But they are laughable attempts. One would think they could do better.

  15. Locutus

    @Krish: We used to get those all the time here on dotTech. People showing up and repeatedly posting “FreeVidSoft Playstation to Chocolate Bar video converter”.

    (Any relation to any real life software company or software title is not intended, and is purely accidental. A quick Google search was done to verify there is currently no “FreeVidSoft” company and no one in their right minds would make a Playstation to Chocolate Bar video converter.)

  16. Krish

    It seems like one i had in Forum, they used to login by different names (when i block one) and post article which looks like a review, with too much back links. I believe that what they have done gave them a very low score for them on WOT.
    I have not received any mail of this kind (May be they are targeting, sites with big traffic :) ). Anyway thanks for the info.

  17. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Nathan: Yeah, it is fairly obvious. The “cons” mentioned at the end of the “review” try to make the review sound legit by mentioning negative aspects but it ain’t good enough to fool anyone. (Or, at least it shouldn’t be.)

    @Dennis F.: I am not trying to be racist or anything, but the “user” provided a distinctly Caucasian name. With such a name, one would definitely expect better English, so yeah, I agree with you the English level is a red flag.

  18. Dennis F.

    The number one give away seems to be the poor use of the English language. Second the use of superlatives. Finally, the apologies and needed improvements. I find these many times on Amazon. If some of those aren’t paid-for reviews, who in their right mind would spend so much time and effort on a write-up? I’m sire dottech get spammed more than I do & it a lamentable waste of time. Thanks for sharing.