Online shake-downs: help persuade Google to ban ripoffreport

Protection rackets used to abound in the offline world. Dodgy blokes coming round to your shop and saying:

Pay us £xx and we’ll make sure nothing ‘happens’ to your windows

Or you park your car on a back-street and some kid comes up to you and says:

Alright mister, give us a tenner and I’ll make sure your car doesn’t get nicked

It’s a very difficult crime to stop when it happens on a small scale - each individual problem isn’t worth the police’s time to chase it down and stop it happening. The real money starts rolling in, however, when you co-ordinate the shake-downs and run them as protection rackets. The mafia used to make a lot of money this way - and a lot of the organised crime laws on the statutes were introduced to combat this.

As with so many other things, the web is challenging the limits of our old laws that were designed for an analogue world. Most of the online extortion cases I had heard of up until 6 months ago were blackmail - threats of Denial of Service attacks (where a malicious party threatens to send huge volumes of traffic at a commercial website with the intention of bringing it down temporarily). The police got involved in a few of these - they appeared to take this as seriously as offline blackmail attempts.

In recent months, however, I have become more and more aware of stories of businesses suffering at the hands of an online racket that looks a lot like offline shake-downs. A website called ripoffreport.com is supposedly a place where people can report cases of having been ripped off, but in fact contains a huge number of unverified libellous comments and accusations that are completely baseless, but that rank well in Google for the companies’ brand-name searches.

I believe they have been stepping over the line for some time - demanding payments to remove statements (even when those statements are defamatory and untrue), but the backlash is growing:

They can only make the money they do because Google in particular continues to believe that they should rank very well for all kinds of searches for the companies in question. Having been involved in reputation management projects attempting to promote quality content above ripoffreport, I know that it is very hard - for some reason, Google loves them.

As the backlash grows, Google cannot continue to claim not to know about this. It is destroying the businesses of hard-working people and in the interest of ‘doing no evil’, we would like to join the campaign to ask Google to sort this out.

Isn’t there a place for sites where you can report this kind of thing?

I would like to go on record as saying that sites like tripadvisor are a great part of the internet - allowing consumers to warn one another about businesses that aren’t delivering on their promises or that consistently let you down. This isn’t about that. This is about publishing untrue reports and then demanding money to remove them.

Will Critchlow

Will Critchlow

Will founded Distilled with Duncan in 2005. Since then, he has consulted with some of the world’s largest organisations and most famous websites, spoken at most major industry events and regularly appeared in local and national press. Will is part...   read more

Get blog posts via email

20 Comments

  1. Thanks for the mention guys it will be interesting to see if and when Google does anything. My prediction is that they will drop the two duplicate domains from the index and then take a way some weight from ROR, but if I was doing the kind of spamming that they are I would not be able to sleep at night.

    reply >
  2. Marc

    After reading all the info., my biggest surprise is that others haven't jumped on board and created copy-cats of RoR. Could it be that even the average online criminal finds that slimy method of making money disgusting? Or not, and we've only seen the tip of the iceberg. Google needs to take swift action now, before online extortion through negative search results becomes the Nigerian bank scam of 2008.

    reply >
  3. Thanks for stopping by, Chris. We have some more stuff up our sleeve with a bit of luck. Let's hope we can get a bit of traction going on this.

    reply >
  4. Hi Marc. I think there are significant hurdles to getting going with this kind of thing - you need to get pretty 'trusted' by the search engines before it starts working well. I suspect most crims don't have the patience.

    reply >
  5. ROR Fighter

    What can we do as individuals. ROR needs to be stopped. Please continue and give your readers more info on what they can do to get removed

    reply >
  6. It's ironic, really, how my company Kirchman Associates ended up getting slammed on this website.

    Four years ago we were facing extortion attempts by those phoney phone directories who would call and tell you that you already were signed up for a recurring charge of always just under $400, but if you payed them once they were back like a bad penny wanting their next installment. I fought back, and as a result some of them put up some pretty outrageous charges about me.

    My existing clients know how ridiculous the claims are. The same poster seems to have posed as two "victims" and carries on a rather lame comment lovefest session. My regular clients know that "only telemarketers call me Robert" but it is a bit of a pain to explain this nonsense to new clients or prospects who may have Googled me. How did they get a picture of me? They downloaded it from my own website! Pretty dangerous looking fellow, huh?

    Having been in business for 23 years helps, but it would be really nice to see this whole affair put to rest. I contacted the ROR and explained that this was not only false, but malicious information. I was told that I could write a rebuttal! I appreciate what you are doing to help small companies like mine. Many Thanks!

    reply >
  7. Hi Bob.

    Thanks for stopping by. Good luck with your business and I hope the whole issue doesn't do you too much harm.

    Will

    reply >
  8. Rip Off report Scam

    Somebody has to do something about this. We are not SEO Experts. We are business people. Why does google want this type of business even in their index. They are scamming the users that made google popular. Why can we begin to do as a group to get rid of the rip off report. can someone please start a forum and allwo everyone to get togeether on this topic.

    reply >
  9. Hi Will,

    You, Chris Bennett, Rand Fishkin and Andy Beal have done all of us a great service by posting a very well thought-out explanation of the whole affair.

    I'm already referring to your collective posts in my efforts, so please accept my heartfelt thanks!

    Bob

    reply >
  10. Get this, Now the founder of ROR claims he is being Defamed by 'Internet Terrorists' in the SEO community! While it is laughable, it raises a few questions about Ed and his 'practices.'

    If Ed is so concerned about HIS good name, why is he so quick to assume that the small businessperson protecting her good name is suspect? There are principles at work here that are older than the internet... "As you sow, so shall you reap!"

    reply >
    • That maybe true, but nothing is going to happen to ED. He's been getting away with this for too long and it in fact his actions were criminal then he would have faced justice by now. Let's hope that he does one day.

  11. ROR FIGHTER

    Will

    Can you give us an update on what distilled has been up to inregards to getting rid of ROR. What can your readers do to help.

    Please tell us what to do?

    reply >
  12. Bob - yeah - we saw that. Haven't deigned to comment over there...

    All: I am expecting a few high profile SEOs to call this out - it's not good when accusations like that are bandied around. We'll see what happens.

    reply >
  13. Will,

    The real question is what will it take for Google to realize that Ed and his sycophants are harming Google's credibility as well as small businesses. Without high Google rankings, Ed is irrelevant as he should be, unless he cleans up his act. There are good sites like complaints.com that allow consumers to post their experiences but responsibly moderate their content. Google needs to show some of their 'don't be evil' character and favor that type of site.

    The malicious posts about my company are over three years old and yet they continue to show up as first page results even though we have seen a lot of good things about us that should rank higher if Google does what they say they do.

    Hopefully a few high profile SEOs will be able to hold Google's feet to the fire. Some of us have been waiting long enough!

    reply >
  14. David

    Will

    It would be Interesting to have a discussion with http://www.kontera.com/

    Kontera is a company that supports ROR they provide ROR with advertising dollars. It you read their terms of service http://www.kontera.com/pay-per-click-advertising/advertisers-overview/

    You will see that they are going against therm own TOS. I contacted them to discuss ROR and they did not respond. I guess they are making money off of ROR. I guess they are part to blame for ROR sticking around. They support them. Can you contact them and see what they are doing about their affiliation and acceptance of ROR.

    Thanks

    reply >
  15. David

    http://www.kontera.com/ is just as bad as ROR. They actually tag key words on reviews and make money for ROR. Shame on you Kontera Shame on you! You are taking advantage of companies! That is wrong! Kontera Just wrong Kontera.com

    reply >
  16. A new Federal Statute enacted in 2006 possibly makes the content of RipOff Report and its transmissions criminal, and have apparently never been brought as charges to date. Section 113 was signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 5, 2006. It amends 47 U.S.C. 223, the telecommunications harassment statute that is rooted in the Communications Act of 1934. The telecommunications statute prohibits anyone from using a telephone or a telecommunications device "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person." Ed Magedson is very proud of talking about how most of the annoying, abusive, defamatory, threatening, or harassing postings on his site are anonymous. In application this has meant that you cannot anonymously annoy another person through the phone lines. Penalties include two years in prison and onerous fines. Section 113 amends the statute to include "any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet." Section 113, entitled, "PREVENTING CYBERSTALKING," states that the prohibited criminal acts apply to whoever (1) in interstate or foreign communications (A) by means of a telecommunications device knowingly (i) makes, creates, or solicits, and (ii) initiates the transmission of, any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication which is obscene or child pornography, with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass another person.

    reply >
  17. Several years ago one of our competitors decided to splatter our name all over the ROR. The stories are completely fabricated and most bare striking similarities as if they were perpetuated by the same author. This competitor is now out of business because his slimy ways went far beyond defamation and slander. Eventually he was exposed but his ROR entries still haunt us. We are a small family owned business and these reports not only name our company and our domain but they slander us personally as well. I have tried bombarding ROR, their attornies, Google, various Attornies General and others with no progress whatsoever. Aren't our governmental agencies supposed to protect us from these types of things. Why is Google so snug under the covers with ROR? Can Google or RORs server host be sued for diseminating slanderous false and damaging reports?

    reply >
  18. james booker

    What can be do to get Goole banned them ? They , at least, use tons of Black hat SEO wich is against Google rules , look the amount of backlinks that Ripoffreport have in such a short time . they have 446000 back links , almost a joke .

    reply >
  19. Mark Hall

    5 years later and nothing has changed. ROR still ranks very well and Google still allows them to spam the index, and seems happy to help out and aid ROR by allowing thousands and thousands of individuals and companies to be ruined by fake reports. Will it ever end?

    reply >

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>