The Story Behind the Story - What's Real Anymore?
Get ready for an unsuspecting journey as you read this story. It begins with an email landing in one of our honeypot accounts from a Digital Marketing company called UC Digitals. At first, we were struck by the fact that this company was selling fake reviews to post on Yelp, Trustpilot, Google, and Facebook, reinforcing our claim that it is hard to believe anything online anymore because content is so easily manipulated! (Even the most reputable news sources have had advertising content manipulated for malicious purposes. And don’t get us started about the ads, services or posts that appear on social media! They have included malicious ads and fake businesses.)
However, as we looked at this email we noticed suspicious things that didn’t add up, such as…
Why did the email come from an oddball domain called knitlit[.]com instead of ucdigitals[.]com, the business domain of the website?
The links pointed to a shortening link created at Bit.ly, and yet when we unshortened these links they pointed to the business domain represented in the email, ucdigitals[.]com
And of course, we’re told we received this email because we signed up on their website and we knew that wasn’t true!
After making sure ucdigitals[.]com was safe to visit, we did. The first thing we noticed on their About Us page was the fact that they twice said that they have been “optimising websites for many years” “At UC Digitals, we have been making websites appear at the top of major search engines for many years…” If this were the case, why was it, we wondered, that their domain ucdigitals[.]com was registered less than a year ago in June, 2020?
Now our ‘spidey senses’ were tingling and we wondered if this company, which claimed it could sell you fake reviews to fool the best services online, was real at all. When we visited the “Contact us” page we saw that the office address for this company was listed in Pakistan. The web page also showed a set of 9 reviews that scrolled across it, such as the one from Eugene Lawson in this screenshot. And looking closer, we noticed that this web page referred to their business as “Brisk SEO,” instead of UC Digitals! Furthermore, a Google search for this street address listed for this company turned up nothing. No such address!
If this company were questionable, we wondered about the reviews that were listed on it. We Googled (in quotes) the review by Eugene Lawson and discovered that someone identified as “Ben King” had posted an identical review on Trustpilot.com for a company called SEO Shark in Australia. SEO Shark appears to be a legitimate company, so far as we can tell, but clearly the review is in question since we’ve found two different names associated with it.
Once again, we went back to UCDigitals[.]com and grabbed a quote by a CEO named Jessica Olson and searched for it in Google. And again, we found this identical, word-for-word quote, on Trustpilot.com but written about the business SEO Shark by someone named Jennifer Macrae.
We began this peek into a rabbit hole simply because we wanted to make the point that it is so hard to trust anything online, such as reviews on Google, Trustpilot, Yelp and Facebook. Instead, we fell deeply into another alternate reality. In all likelihood, UCDigitals, or perhaps Brisk SEO, are not what they appear to be at all. Our best guess is that the reviews of SEO Shark are more likely legitimate and were plagiarized and pasted onto UC Digitals. Like we said, don’t believe everything you see online!
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