Website Referral Spam Fools Site Owners

  
     
If you search the web or even have your own website, you've probably seen this scam.
December 01, 2016

If you have a personal or small business website, you've probably seen this scam. Con artists create fake traffic to websites, which get recorded by the sites' analytics program. Curious website owners see the referral traffic and click on the links, which point them to spammy domains. 

How the Scam Works:

You have small business or personal website. You log into your site's analytics program to check on your web traffic. Under the "referral" report, which lists the websites that sent traffic to your site, you notice a lot of unfamiliar domains. What are these sites that link to yours? 

You are tempted to type these URLs into your browser and check them out, but don't bother! These are "referral spam." Scammers use a program to crawl your site and create fake referrals with scam URLs. These URLs may point to sites hawking spammy products, or worse, download malware to the victim's computer. 

How to keep your website secure:

  • Filter out fake referrers. Depending on the website analytics service you use, there are easy ways block fake referral traffic. Search online for solutions. 
  • Search for a referrer instead of directly visiting the site. A quick web search will reveal if a URL is actually a scam site. 
  • Keep your website's content management system up to date. This won't block referral spam, but it helps keep your site secure. New versions contain fixes to security issues, keeping your site safe from hackers. 
  • Require users to create strong passwords in order to access your site's content management system.
  • Know the names of your service providers. Scammers like to impersonate domain name and website hosting providers. Know the companies you use, and, if possible, select a single provider. That way, you can identify referral spam immediately. 

For More Information

For help filtering out referral spam, check out this article in SearchEngineJournal.com. To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).