A few months ago, I purchased toprankedhosting.net from Flippa.com for $1300. ($1250 + $50 for paypal fees) from a user that has since had their account suspended.
At first glance the site looked like a great buy. $350/month in net revenue, 2,000 unique visitors, pretty good domain name, with room for improvements in the SERPS…So I bit! After all, he had revenue proof in the form of screen shots from his Paypal account from Hostgator’s affiliate program, and traffic stats from his server.
My first mistake: Rushing the deal in order to win the auction
Normally (especially for larger transactions) I’d spend some more time doing my due diligence on the site before buying. But there’s something about the public auction format that causes us to act hastily some times. The level of competition can drive you to place a bid faster than you should in order to snag the deal, especially when it’s a smaller amount of money like the one in this example.
Take a look at the auction for yourself: Auction for TopRankedHosting.net.
I broke so many of my own rules on this one, it’s no wonder I got scammed! Thankfully, justice has since been served, and I did get all my money back after about 3 months of detective work and legal action. So instead of highlighting the obvious red flags I ignored, like his lack of feedback, not checking copy scape, etc, etc…I wanted to show you how he initially got away with it.
The Re-used Stats Scam
After purchasing the site and installing my own analytics, I began to get a little worried after 3-4 days because the site got zero visitors. Not a single one…And the seller claimed 2,000 per month.
I tried to contact the seller, and had no response for several days. Egg on my face! Did he Photoshop the screen shots? How could this have happened to me? How could I have been so careless and not seen this before buying the site?
While digging through the various pages in wordpress, I stumbled across an internal link to another site I believe was owned by the seller. He forgot to change it out. The page wasn’t published inside wordpress so it was impossible for me to have seen it prior to purchasing the site.
I clicked through to check it out, and low and behold, another hosting affiliate site with the exact same content and page structure!
I WAS HOT!!!!
I attempted to contact the seller dozens of times with no luck. After reporting him to Flippa, and contacting my bank (because Paypal doesn’t insure digital goods), I was able to get it taken to court, and got my money back.
But how did he pass it off as a legit project?
My personal belief is that he took screen shots of earnings and traffic from his other affiliate site that actually was making the money and attempted to pass off the copy cat site as the real thing.
I’ve seen several other scam artists attempting the same thing lately. Be wise and learn from my mistake! NEVER buy a site in haste to beat out other bidders. If it goes before you have a chance to perform all the normal due diligence you would regularly do, let it go! And double check all screen shot “proof”. Make sure you verify it’s for the site you’re purchasing before placing a bid.
– Lesson learned….Justice served….And I live to buy another day.