Tips on Avoiding Internet Pirates, Search Engine Scams and Phony Domain Invoices

Advice from Santa Rosa web designer… A client recently called me to ask if she should take advantage of Google’s offer for first page placement.

“What offer?” I asked. She explained that she had just received a call informing her that Google had a position open for her keyword on the first page of search results.

I quickly advised her to ignore the call and save her money. Google does not place outbound calls to solicit advertisers for keyword-based search position. The call had come from one of the many companies out there that target unsuspecting business owners who desperately want to see their business listed on page 1 of local search results.

Although some of these providers are legitimate, many are not. Some make promises they can’t keep using approved “white hat” search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.

Another scam to watch for is the invoice that arrives for your domain renewal—but it comes from a company that is not your actual domain registrar.  Local business owners often pay little attention to the company where they register their main website address or URL. They can easily be tricked into sending money to a company that does not actually provide the service.

Then there is what I have come to call the “Internet pirates.” Perhaps you have had the misfortune to deal with Network Solutions, a company. At face value, their business seems legitimate. But their business practices are so poor that they have succeeded in achieving a 1 or 2-star rating on dozens of rating services, including Better Business Bureau, Yelp,, Consumer, etc.

Here’s the scam that one of my clients has experienced. She tried to move her domain registration away from Network Solutions. After she and I, as her webmaster, followed all the requirements to do what should be a simple transaction, we were repeatedly told that the domain was locked “for security reasons.” Multiple times we called their support center, which unlocked the domain and notated the account. Yes, each time we attempted again to move the domain, the same “security” lockdown occurred, and we were back at square one. Hours of wasted time ensued.

Bottom line: it’s clear to me that this is standard operating procedure designed to keep customers in their clutches–no matter what.

Advice: Don’t ever buy any services from Network Solutions or In my opinion, their services are overpriced, their cancellation policies are absurdly punitive and their service is terrible. They prey on unsuspecting business owners who don’t know any better before signing up with them. You may lose control of your account and get stuck paying ransom until the end of time!