How to identify fake online agencies


Everyone thinks they’re smart enough to recognize a fake online agency when they see one, but scammers are getting more and more innovative every day.

The recent BBC story about Madbird, a fancy digital design company, was pretty shocking.

The “company” had over 50 remote employees, most of them hired on commission only for the first six months.

But after a few months, the newly hired employees discovered that many of their online co-workers were fake, that they would not receive any pay because no project deal was finalized, and that the founder was a pathological liar who fabricated all his personality online.

Crazy stuff.

To avoid getting scammed by these dodgy remote agencies, here’s what you need to do.

Trust your instincts

Imagine a business that:

  • Has decades of industry experience
  • Offers any type of service under the sun
  • The promises result in a very short time
  • Benefit from 24/7 quality Customer service
  • Rates below average

Sounds too good to be true? This is because it probably is.

You see, any company worth their salt takes pride in their work.

It will not provide all kinds of services. Instead, it will usually offer specific services in niche industries. Why? Because he knows what he does well and doesn’t want his name tarnished by inferior workmanship.

These types of companies will be upfront with you about the actual time it will take to achieve meaningful results.

And since they know what value they bring to the table, they won’t come cheap.

So trust your instincts when it tells you there must be some kind of trap.

If your instincts are wrong, well, it doesn’t really matter – there are plenty of other (agency) fish in the sea.

But if they are correct, you avoid seeing your hard-earned money disappear.

Find company office address

Gone are the days of these fake online organizations using a PO Box or other messaging system instead of a physical address.

These days they proudly disclose a trackable office address to watch more authentic. This makes sense because the majority of people wouldn’t think to check the office address. If it’s mentioned, it must be real, right?

Bad! You should always follow the office address. This is how a Madbird employee first discovered the scam.

She wanted to see what shuttle bus would look like the end of the pandemic. But alarm bells started ringing in his head when Google’s Street View showed only an apartment building, which looked nothing like the sleek workspace featured on the Madbird website.

She immediately contacted a real estate agent who had an ad at the same address to confirm her suspicions. Lo and behold, Madbird’s global headquarters turned out to be purely residential.

Perform a reverse image search

Did an agency’s digital portfolio really impress you at some point? I hate to tell you this, but it could have been stolen from somewhere else on the internet.

To see if the work really belongs to the agency in question, you can do a Google Image reverse search online.

It can help you find:

  • URL where the image was originally posted
  • Other pages where the image was uploaded
  • Same types of images

The process is very simple and can be completed in seconds.

All you need to do is:

  • Open the browser on your PC or Mac
  • Go to the main page of Google Images
  • Click the camera icon in the search bar
  • Paste the image URL or upload it from your computer

You will now be able to determine if the work really belongs to the agency.

You can also use this method to see if the people working at the agency are real or not.

Simply copy and paste their photo URL into the search field and see if any similar photos show up.

Get in touch with their customers

These days it’s a norm marketing practice to display glowing testimonials on the homepage of a website.

It encourages trust. After all, if so many seemingly real people are happy with the product/service, the agency must really know what they’re doing, right?

Not exactly. Why? Because you can easily fake these testimonials.

Just upload a stock image of a man or woman, tweak it a bit, add some agency praise, give that fictional character a fake name and company, and the it’s done! You yourself have an “authentic” testimony.

To verify the authenticity of an agency, contact their testimonials.

Research their websites or LinkedIn accounts and ask them about their experience with the agency.

And if there aren’t any testimonials on a website, ask the agency to tell you about some of their past clients.

A bogus agency will more than likely use “breach of privacy” as an excuse in this scenario. But genuine organizations will be more than happy to talk in depth about their successes.

Check the domain authority of the site

A fake online agency will have a fake website. And a fake website will have shitty Domain Authority (DA).

DA is a search engine ranking score created by Moz. It is widely used to calculate a website’s chances of ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Generally speaking, it shows how confident a website is with search engines like Google.

The DA of a newly created website will be 1 while the DA of a website like Facebook is 100.

To minimize the risk of falling for a scam, I recommend working with online agencies that have more than 30 ADs.

Does that mean a website with 30+ DA is still safe? No.

Are all websites with a DA below 30 fake? Also no.

So why is an agency with more than 30 ADs more trustworthy? Because turning 30 takes a lot of time and hard work.

And I don’t think the people behind these scams have much patience or diligence.

Image Credit: cottonbro; Pexels

Abdul Mannan

Writes about business and technology. And sips lots of tea while doing it.


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