Monday, July 7, 2008

How to protect yourself from a new kind of online scam

We've recently discovered a new kind of online scam. It's elegant in its simplicity. It's hard to combat, because all it steals is reputation and this reputation may be yours. What's worse, it preys on ordinary people who, unlike many enterprises, may not have enough of a web presence to easily fight back.

JLove, billed as Jewish dating service, is simply generating a huge number of pages falsely claiming that various people are members of its service. It's basically a new version of an old technique. The classical form of the technique is to generate a website on every conceivable travel destination, using free content from somewhere, but adding no value. JLove goes further, by generating pages for many combinations of more or less Jewish first names and last names, which then falsely claim the person with that name is a member of their service. More details of JLove's shenanigans are here, including examples of real-life harm or great annoyance.

A variety of people have asked about how to combat this kind of scam, and there's really only one good answer: Everybody should have their own web presence, visible to the search engines. Of course, that's easier said than done, but my two-part (so far) advice about search engine optimization for enterprises has a lot of applicability to people as well. For starters, if you don't already have a personal web page (with your name in the URL), get one. Then get a few friends (or your employer) to link to it. And so on.

In the specific case of JLove, you can also help by linking to the blog post cited above, which calls JLove out. But for the more general case -- well, it boils down to this. The Internet WILL tell stories about you, true or otherwise. Make sure your own version is out there too.

We still feel that the future of dating is a Free Online Dating Service such as, where every newly created profile is manually approved by the owner.

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