In my 15+ years of doing business online, I have lost money to scammers many times, so I thought I would show an example of one particular scam I fell for, as a warning for other webmasters who might be in a similar situation. And, what makes it unusual is that eventually I was able to get an admission of guilt from the scammer. Here’s what happened:
A year ago I decided to setup minisites (small, content based sites) on 4000 of my unused domain names. Because Google frowns on having duplicate content on sites, I decided to make it so each of my minisites had mostly unique content. I could have paid article writers to write articles for each of my domains one by one (like on GetMortgages.com for example they would write mortgage related articles), but since I have domains that cover almost any topic, it was a lot cheaper and faster to instead just buy pre-written articles in bulk from dozens of different writers. Many article writers have a big backlog of unsold articles, and some also have articles that they have written for other customers but then never got paid for because the customer backed out. It is usually very hard for anybody to sell articles like these in bulk because most webmasters only want very specific types of articles for whatever site they are building, so I was able to buy these articles at less than half the usual prices.
Over a 2-3 month period I bought around 14,000 articles from dozens of different writers (most of which I found at http://forums.digitalpoint.com/forumdisplay.php?f=76). The problem is that either I had to trust the article writer by prepaying them or they had to send me the articles ahead of time and trust that I would pay. This worked out fine for most of my transactions, but the article writing business is notorious for fraud. Many writers sell articles as “unique” even though they have already sold them to other clients (this makes them almost worthless), or they sell articles as unique but which were really copied from other sites (these are also worthless), or they sell articles as unique but they are really automated article rewrites (there are a bunch of inexpensive programs called article spinners that take an original article and then change the words by using synonyms and changing the order of the words, which work but the articles sound awful). There are also some writers who ask for prepayment, and then for one reason or another never get the work done.
I had all of these types of problems on a small scale with various writers but overall I was happy with the articles I purchased, and over time I learned how to avoid getting ripped off. But, there was one writer that scammed me out of $2000, and I am still mad about it over a year later. What it came down to was that I was busy that day and in a rush and made a critical mistake. I will get to that in a minute though. Here’s what transpired:
I made a deal with Navendra Pillai (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) to buy $2000 worth of articles (I think at $1 per article) he had written already but had not sold. He convinced me to prepay him, which I did, but he never sent me any of the articles. Normally I would just dispute the charge with Paypal.com and try to get my money back, but the critical mistake I made was that I was out of my office when he sent me the request for the $2000 so I paid using the Paypal app on my Blackberry. What I did not realize at the time was that all payments made that way went through as personal payments, not as business payments (even though the app used my business Paypal account), and there was no way to request a refund from Payal for personal payments. So, I was screwed.
Then, a few months later, Navendra Pillai tried to sell me more articles using a different name and email address (Ganesha Pillai – email@example.com). By then I had dealt with so many article writers I did not recognize he had the same last name but luckily after going back and forth with him a few times I got suspicious and did some checking and found a forum posting talking about how firstname.lastname@example.org is really Navendra Pillai and how he defrauded a bunch of people. When I confronted him with this info he wrote: “I’m sorry you are talking to the wrong guy here my name is Vinod ganesha Pillai.. If you’re not interested just please tell ur not interested.. Will look elsewhere to sell those articles…don’t determine another person because you were fooled before. Thanks and regards. Nice doing job with ya..”
After I sent him a few more emails (I kept the conversation going by pretending I might buy some new articles from him if he first delivered the ones he owed me) he finally gave in and admitted his guilt. He wrote: “I’m really sorry to scam you… And others i did not scam them is just that sometimes they work as writers for me and the clients dun pay so i couldn’t pay.. Thats the matter. In your case i supposed to send the articles and than somethings happened and it made be to be a scammer.. Will make sure such incidents wont happen again. Sorry and thanks for asking for articles from me again..”
The next day he then wrote: “Well i would like to tell you this, I got to know about freelance writing thing and all at the age of 18 and i recruited certain reliable writers and started our work as a team of writers and wrote lots of articles for clients and websites. The work was going on all and after sometime certain clients so called clients made bulk orders and so on so we worked on it and they suddenly disappeared with the articles. And i was the one to be blamed and i took all the responsibilities and i paid some of them from my own pocket and i lost lots of money because few writers threatened to lodge police report against me and certain writers understood my situation. Thats why you can see lots of people posted that i’m a scammer and so on. If anyone in my position also would have done so. I’m not a very rich guy either studying somemore. Can’ be expecting my parents for all my studies expanses and so on. I was a scholarship student doing my Chemical Engineering Degree. And my scholarship was ripped off because i didnt do one of my semester well. It was all because of the clients scammed and the things i got from my writers. I even do not know whether the writers have sold my articles not.. Maybe they would have sold them as PLR articles too i’m not sure. Thats why i’m not confident at all that the articles may pass copyscape. Moreover, because i was mad at a client who scammed me more than $10,000 where he promised and never kept the promise and just disappeared. Than that time i got to know you and you requested articles from me from my previous email. I thought i want to be honest and provide all the articles to you. But the hatred against the client made me to scam you.. I am in regret doing such thing to you. But this time i really wanted to do business with you and clear all the articles. But like what everyone says you can never run away from the mischiefs you do. I agree with that. Even i gave my mothers particular and her account because i want the money to go to her. Let’s say the articles don’t pass copyscape and the have been used by others i know it is fair for me not to be paid. But, i’m really in a bad situation that i am in need of money i’m ready to do anything for you and even ready to work for you for years if only you can give me $3000 to $4000. I will really appreciate your help friend. i am ready to do any task for you. Please do help me. I have a big faith and believe in you. Just if i manage to finish my course i can pay the amount borrowed within months. I am to finish my studies next year begining friend. I am really looking forward for your help. I know you came up in your life with hardwork and so on. I would like to take you as my role model and start working harder with your guidelines if you’re to help me friend. SO really looking forward to your help.”
I of course did not do any more business with him, but I was at least happy I got him to admit his mistakes. Also, in case it helps potential future scam victims identify him, he emailed me his wire payment info:
MALAYAN BANKING BERHAD
NAME : MAHESWARI D/O RASANGAM
Swift Code: MBBEMYKL
Account Number: 112455313678
When he emailed me this wire info, he wrote “..this account belongs to my mother. So i can never scam friend.”
When you run hundreds of sites like I do, bad situations like this are just the cost of doing business, but each time something like this happens I learn from it and in the future try not to make the same mistakes again.
To help other people avoid getting scammed when paying for goods or services online, I have the following tips:
1. Always Google the person (or company) you are dealing with. Google their name, and then separately Google their email address, and see what comes up. Also, put quotes around their name so Google only shows results matching that exact name. If there are a lot of results, try Googling their name or email with the word scam after it like: “Navendra Pillai” scam
2. Be vary wary of prepaying somebody by wiring them or using Western Union, because there is no way to ever get it back.
3. Most people will tell you that if you pay by Paypal there is no risk because you can just dispute the charge (like with a credit card), but they are misinformed. I have initiated dozens of Paypal disputes and, assuming you are disputing a transactions for virtual/intangable goods (not something that is physically shipped) or a service, it is almost impossible to win. Paypal will not even listen to a dispute involving virtual goods (like articles). It does not matter if it was a total scam or you are just not happy with the quality of what you received. The only time I have won a dispute like that was then the seller did not respond at all (or maybe they approved the refund when Paypal emailed them that I was disputing it).
4. Refuse to pay anything up front. If needed, give partial payments as the work progresses. For example, if it is a $2000 project, pay them $100 immediately after they do the first $100 worth of work, and then keep making payment as they do more work.
5. When possible, use an escrow service, such as escrow.com. This greatly reduces the risk for both the buyer and the seller.
Wow. Thanks for posting. It’s a shame that this type of thing happens. In this case, desperation made him do it and I don’t believe he was truly sorry.
I do a lot of biz @ dig point, I do put some emphasis on the persons rating and shy away from doing biz with new posters or those who dont have a proven track record, did you contact any of the moderators at the forum, they may be able to track down the user by their IP they logged when submitting profile to track their multiple profiles, also IF I am purchasing over $100 I always do in performance incraments…sorry for your misfortune, hope you at least wrote off on your taxes..
Yes, the $2000 was a business expense, so I was able to deduct it.
Regardless of the unfortunate fact that you lost $2k to a scammer, what type of article is something priced at $1 ? Even this comment would be priced more than that 😀
I have tried some different minisites on a few of my best domains, using higher priced custom written articles specifically for the site, and those have so far not done well either.
Thanks for sharing.
How’s your 4,000 minisite experiment working? Are they indexed and starting to rank?
So far the 4000 minisites are not making anymore money, and not getting anymore traffic than when I had them parked. They are all indexed, but for some reason they don’t do well in Google. But, I am still working on improving them.
But Paypal is the one with the stupid app.
If they can’t record your payment as a business transaction when you are on your business phone.
If you used the email with your business account then I would complain to Paypal.
It would not have mattered that much anyhow, because there is almost no chance I would have won a Paypal dispute over it, since it was for virtual goods/services, and Paypal almost never does refunds for those.
Is this the guy? http://www.facebook.com/navendra.pillai
Maybe you can fb message to Vikram Pillai http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=643102801 & Theva Pillai http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1147281940 This two guys have the same last name maybe this is his/her scammer brothers. You can FB message them to ask.
Yes, that appears to be him, thanks for the link. I Facebook messaged him now giving him a link to my blog posting. If he does not respond I will FB message the other 2 people with his last name that you mentioned.
It’s good that you did this post to name and shame him.
Why would you buy articles from an Indian guy who obviously doesn’t write very well in English?
Many times the people don’t write the articles themselves, they just manage a staff of writers. Also, I always look at some sample articles first before I buy articles from a writer.
Actually there is a way to successfully dispute any paypal charge, no matter what type of account and it has never failed for me. I always make sure the funds I send through paypal come from my credit card. If I ever have any problem, I issue a chargeback and win every time.
Yes, that is a very good suggestion.
Here’s a suggestion: first try to here US workers and not people in other nations. At least you’re paying fellow citizens and second – you’d have some sort of legal recourse if they defraud you.
Not only are they laughing because US corporations are giving them work by the boatload, via outsourcing of US jobs to their nations, they’re also laughing because we seem to trust them and all they want to do is steal from what they consider “rich US people”.
Forget that. There are plenty of good US workers out of jobs these days. Lets help ourselves.
People usually learn the hard way that PayPal is just not stable on either side. Scammers know the system better than most legitimate business people do, so they know exactly how to get what they want.
I’m not sure buyers have as little security as you imply, but sellers most certainly have little security through PayPal, especially with virtual goods as at least with shipped goods, you can prove having sent something.
If someone compromises a PayPal account and uses it to pay for anything, sellers have absolutely no recourse.
Yes, Paypal fraud is also a huge problem for sellers, and I have been on that end of it also. In general I love Paypal though and use it almost every day.
+1 to Mike’s comment.
Also, I’ve had good luck in the past with Odesk and Elance. There are good American writers that will offer bulk prices. Most likely not near what the offshore bulkers charge, but at least there’s a minimum level of quality for the contractors with higher ratings. May be worth a few bucks to test out 10 or 20 articles.
Best of luck.
II have used odesk and elance and like both of them a lot, but I was not looking for writers who were offering bulk prices. What I was looking for was to buy pre-written articles in bulk, which is a little different. If I had hired some writers to custom write for me, it would have taken at least a year for them to write the 10,000+ articles I ended up with. I wanted my domains to get listed in the search engines (and start generating income) ASAP, so by buying pre-written articles I was able to accomplish that. Sometimes I would buy as many as 1000 articles at once.
This can happen to any one of us in a moment of high pressure and dead lines. Really appreciating you sharing this, as some may not have had the cajonas to do so!!
$2000 ?? would of been cheaper to purchase article directories with copyscape free pages, gutter the articles and redirect their pages to your other domains 😉
From what I have seen, most article directories do not have unique articles. But, I did actually get around 500 articles by buying an article directory a writer had not officially launched yet. I shut down the site and just used the articles.
deeply sorry for you, but I would say:
1. Don’t work with I-work-very-very-hard-dear-sir people
$1 article are negative added value articles to surely loose money. In this direction, better prefer $0 genuine spam…
Most were $1 articles not because they were bad, but because I bought in bulk and they were unsold inventory. I have paid up to $10 per article for some sites and so far have not seen any difference in Google rankings between the expensive articles and the cheap ones.
I am sorry about your scam, that sucks. I have paid freelance writers in the past and I just absolutely refuse to pay before I have the content. If they balk, I walk. Just as simple as that.
On the other hand I have paid in advance to reputable companies like 99centarticles.com. It was a mixed bag that got worse with every order. The articles were just pure garbage, written with tons of typos, no citations, and the quality was just horrendous. I had to go back and forth with revisions several times but at the end of the day I learned it is better to develop a handful of relationships with quality writers you trust rather than go to these big houses or pluck someone from a board.
Yes, I agree. I more recently developed a few of my best domain into minisites, and this time I had picked 2 or 3 of the best of the dozens of article writers I worked with, to custom write articles for these new sites, and the articles were always great.
This is a nightmare, and as someone that now works on both sides of the aisle (as a writer and now as a content manager), I can tell you that I have one rule when it comes to finding writers for clients. Grammar. If a writer shoots me a note, and there is a grammar mistake, I don’t pursue the conversation any further. Harsh, but that’s a dead giveaway that there is a lack of attention to detail. I assure you that most writers that care about what they are doing will take the time to craft an A+ email. And writers that care about what they do will not plagarize or re-purpose content. It’s an ethical standard we all subscribe to when we chose to pursue it for a living.
It’s a tough line to walk, that of securing content and being mindful of overhead. In my honest opinion, it’s worth spending a few extra dollars per article for peace of mind. Especially when you factor in the labor of reading, editing, clarifying/crafting article direction, cross-referencing it for plagarism, etc., that $1 an article you initially spent turned out to be much more, on top of the money lost. Hopefully you find better writers ahead. They are out there and the rest of these commenters provided plenty of great resources/advice as well. Thanks all for sharing.
Why not use escrow service?
Moneybookers/Skrill have their own escrow service. I think paypal should have some similar service, it will significantly lower their dispute load.
I was doing transactions with 3-4 different article writers a day, so it would have been complicated for me to keep track of all the escrows and figure out who sent me what, but yes, I could have done that.
Interesting article but with all that said, it is nothing new or different for the most part. It is assuvmed the the shady culprit is from India. It has been my personal experience that every, “Indian Domainer” I have dealt with in some way tried to rip me off. I no longer do business with them. My network of top level veteran domainers also have learned and no longer do business with 3rd world countries. They are all over FB and linked and have all but taken over Google +. Lastly, I am generalizing here but it is what it is……Kev
I’m not sure what’s worse his english or his logic.
It is a good story and I think that this guy was trying to scam you again the second time when he was admiting his quilt(just to get more money and have some sympathy to him).
I can not believe how good some people are in creting scams and these day there are lots of LEGAL SCAMS where they sell you something that sounds easy and would make you a lot of money but it turns out that you need to work for years to have some results!
It’s unfortunate that these types of scams exist. They give content writing a bad name! You listed some good tips for avoiding scams though.
After seeing WAY too many scams out there I have come to the conclusion that the authorities need to prosecute every part of the scheme as they do drug cartels. From PayPal on down, along with the telecommunicatiosn companies that allow fraud to happen for way too long. We have credit card acceptance firms involved many times and there is no way the fraudsters could operate for so long without these “legit” companies helping them by lettig them use their services. One link in the fraud chain is as guilty as the other IMHO. You can notify these companies and they most likely will not stop it if it brings profits. The BBB still rates businesses at an A level even if they have many complaints nowadays. Sad scene.
Tip #1 is always a good way to find out about someone. I think I’ll be looking into using an escrow site from here on out! Thanks for sharing!
it’s not a surprise to me that your are sites are not getting ranks – even with that content , you must also build some back links to the site in order to see good results with it.
content creation is a good direction (beats parking with today rates) but its only half of the work.
(*small tip about this – there is a mod on NP by the name of John Baron that sells back links packages – i order a few packages from him and the results were truly amazing)
I have somebody building links for me for all my sites for the past 6 months, but so far it has not made much of a difference.
I understand but my experience is that pay writer won’t make you earn money. The only sustainable business model for online publishing is ad revenue sharing.
This way, the stupid indian article rewritter from cybercafe im mumbai will get its 0.0001$ per year, while the US writer with true knowledge will get, through the natural backlinks, a true earning.
wow.. thats really sad. Just worsening Malaysia’s name in the freelancing niche.
p/s- is it just me but I don’t think you will be able to gain sufficient traffic with one page sites like GetMortgages.com , it is possible to succeed with only one article but for niches like mortgages you should be targeting long tail keywords.
I actually had 3-10 articles per minisite up until recently but the sites were not getting search engine traffic so I reduced it to one article per site and traffic went up by about 25%. But, I am redoing all the minisites anyhow to look nicer and I will then add back all the extra articles also.
Oh, I have just been scammed by the same guy, but as a writer. He seems to be doing this a lot that Navendra Ganesha Pillai. I wrote some articles for him. He paid for the trial one, and then planned not to pay for all the other articles I wrote. I tracked him down thanks to pay pal, found his real name , since he goes under Edmund Ferous these days. I found a blog by some other poor writer who got scammed by him. Then I found this. What can I say- he’s a fraud! And, what got me furious is that I caught him bragging on his Facebook profile about an easy money he made, without working at all.
Here’s his web page- blog http://www.internetmarketing4noob.com/blog/about/#.TyH_5Fw7VK9
and you can see the rest…
The guy is still an active member of DigitalPoint and I can’t believe DP hasn’t banned his account yet. He has just scammed more people and DP is not doing anything about it.
Copyscape.com invented. You post the article on a webpage published online, get only the url of it, put it there and the website will check it for you if it’s copied, plagiarism etc. It also gives you a banner for your website to post a warning. So, next time if those sell articles don’t want to give you a url where that article is posted to check it on copyscape for plagiarism, do not bother to buy.
Yes, I already use Copyscape.com. Copied articles were not the problem. I would usually find those (using Copyscape) and not pay for them. The main problem was when I prepaid people for work.