Scam: TopSites LLC & MyDirectory LLC / My Directory
Topsites.us, Topsitez.us, Www--directory.net,
Www-topsites.com, Top-site.net and TopsitesUSA.com Bogus "Renewal
Part 2: Correspondence
3: Topsites Uncovered
4: More Topsites Scams and Lies
Part 5: Topsites
6: For Sale: Topsites.us / Topsites LLC
Updated March 30th 2004 ---
What are the Topsites Renewal Notices For?
Who is Behind the Spam? Canceling
Your Topsites.us Listing
Topsites Traffic - Fact or Fiction?
The Topsites Toolbar
It's Spam. But It Smells Fishy
Sample Topsites Email
(Topsites LLC have sent
me several email about this article - read
their side of the story here.
You can read some other comments from people on the
receiving end of the Topsites spam here.)
What are the Topsites Renewal Notices For?
For several months now, webmasters have been receiving
spam from a directory calling itself variously Topsites.us,
Topsitez.us, Topsites-us.com, TopsitesUSA.com,
Www-topsites.com, Top-site.net, www--directory.net,
and probably many other names. (Sample email
The "Renewal Notices" attempt to solicit money
for a listing in the "Topsites Directory".
(Note that the domain topsites.com is not
related to the scam)
These are the current domains being operated by the
Topsites.us / Topsitez.us / Topsites-us.com / TopsitesUSA.com /
is a clone of the Open
which most webmasters will know as being the web's largest
directory of sites.. and also one that lists commercial
and noncommercial sites for free. This data is available
for others to use for free as defined in the Open
Directory License. These are operated by a company
known variously as Topsites LLC, MyDirectory LLC and
The spam emails were at first sent to webmasters
listed in the Open Directory, but in late May 2003,
Topsites.us started to spam webmasters more widely.
We currently think that over 3,000 webmasters have fallen
for these bogus renewal notices.
The Topsites.us / Topsitez.us /
Topsites-us.com / TopsitesUSA.com / Www-topsites.com /
Top-site.net / www--directory.net twist is to take the Open Directory
data and then try to charge $5 per month for it (or
even more). But this isn't exactly a bargain because
the Open Directory lists you for free, rather than $60
a year or more, even when you take into consideration
their "added value" toolbar, more of which
The phrase "Renew" used in the emails is
completely misleading. Although your site may well be
listed in the Topsites directory, the data was merely
taken from the Open Directory. Don't worry.. you didn't
forget that you had submitted to Topsites.us / Topsitez.us
because you never had submitted your site to
Really, the Topsites approach is a new take on an
old scam. The late 1980s and the 1990s saw a rash of
"Fax Directory Renewal" scams, and these are
predated by other scams involving telephone listings.
In any case, the approach is the same, to try and convince
an unsuspecting person that the listing is in some way
valuable, and something that they have already agreed
Initially, when the emails started to circulate in
the fall of 2002, these messages were relating
to a domain called topsites-directory.com which
showed to be a zero traffic site. The related Topsites.us
was a site with a very low traffic ranking of 1,272,445
(i.e. probably no more than a couple of dozen visitors
a day). Also, to begin with they were trying to charge
up to $300 per month for a listing!
In the spam email that is circulated, one of the
people singing the praises of the Topsites directory
is the president of "Go Software" (g-o.us)
which seems to share the same address as Topsites LLC.
The other reference is from my-news.org, but
a quick look at http://www.my-news.org/about.cfm
(I'll not grace them with an inbound link) indicates
that it's another variation of the Topsites theme.
To try to support their directory, a web page of
press release was created at http://www.topsites.us/about.cfm
(I'm not going to give them the benefit of an inbound
link - you'll have to copy and paste it). These press
releases fake ones, altered from legitimate news stories
about the Open Directory with a search-and-replace job
done to insert "Topsites". See:
In addition, there are a number
of highly suspicious looking reviews at Alexa which
attempt to vouch for the legitimacy of the service:
A new twist, apparently started in June 2003 is to
send out threatening notices for "non-payment"
of the listing, with a message similar to the following:
have added a note to your TopSites listing telling
our millions of visitors that you haven't paid your
TopSites invoice. The note says, "WARNING:
MUNGED.com has not paid their invoice after 140
days. You can see it at:
you want people to think you are in financial trouble,
I suggest you pay your invoice today by credit card.
This will immediately remove the note. Simply go
have been very patient. You renewed your listing
in the TopSites directory on MUNGED DATE. We sent
you invoice no. MUNGED by email that day. Then we
sent you seven reminders over 140 days. That means
we have been advertising your site for 140 days
you would like to see your invoice, receive a copy
by mail or fax, or edit your listing, simply log
into your account at:
am sorry we had to do this. But, unfortunately,
you left us no alternative. If you have any questions,
please let me know. I will be happy to help in anyway
We are sending this email to more than one address
incase you typed your address incorrectly when you
renewed your listing.
It's not clear why these individuals have been threatened.
In all the reports I have received, the victims deny
making any agreement. Realistically, Topsites LLC are
in no position to ask for the money. Based on their
history of barratry,
it seems likely that Topsites LLC will then follow these
demands up with baseless legal threats. However, I'd
suspect that the last place Topsites LLC would like
to be seen in is a courtroom.
Who is Behind The Spam? [top]
This items has moved here
- it's more complex that it looks!
Canceling Your Topsites.us Listing [top]
According top Topsites.us, you can cancel your listing
and get a refund. If you have already listed your site
accidentally, we recommend that you do this. To quote
We are so confident
that you will be delighted with the traffic from
your listing in TopSites that we let you cancel
at anytime. We will give you a full refund for the
remaining months. Simply log into your account at
www.topsites.us/login.cfm and click on the cancel
Incidentally, we'd be interested to know if your
application for a refund is successful or not (see the
page for details). Reports indicate that getting a refund
is difficult, but that Topsites LLC do pay up
Topsites Traffic - Fact or Fiction? [top]
As mentioned earlier, when the Topsites spam started
in the Fall of 2002, Alexa reported close to zero traffic
for these sites. The reported traffic has since increased
hugely, but as many webmasters know, it's possible to
fool Alexa into thinking that traffic is actually higher
than it is, so Alexa's statistics are not always as
accurate as they claim.
Indeed, Topsites.us / Topsitez.us and the other versions
seem to have very little web presence. Google currently
reports zero inbound links. According to Marketleap's
Link Popularity Checker, topsitez.us boasts 21
inbound links as of 03/03/2003, compared to dynamoo.com's
1300+. Serious web portals boast huge numbers of inbound
links - according to Marketleap, dmoz.org
has 11.3 million, excite.com 6.5 million, lycos.com 24
million and yahoo.com 97 million.
Note that the Marketleap site gives inconsistent
results for topsites.us because some of the search
engines are reporting back internet links from the topsites.us
site itself. It lists AltaVista's link count as being
in excess of 96,000, but a an AltaVista query of link:topsites.us
-host:topsites gives a link count of just 95 (March
to 213 for a similar query for dynamoo.com.
And, although dynamoo.com is listed more than
once in the Topsites.us / Topsitez.us directory, we
cannot find a single referral from Topsites anywhere
in our access logs.
The Topsites Toolbar [top]
Topsites LLC maintain that your $5 a month or even
more doesn't just get you a listing in their ODP cloned
directory but also allows your listings to appear in
a thing called the "Topsites Toolbar",
which is downloadable only from the Topsites.us / Topsitez.us
websites. This is a browser plugin (some would
which attempts to provide "additional" search
results. Although the plugin is still being investigated
by experts, it does have a nasty trick (as of 03/03/2003) of
attempting to send an email from your
mail client back to Topsites.us / Topsitez.us, thus
revealing your email address and removing your privacy.
The Topsites toolbar also appears in a product called
"Go MP3" published by "Go Software LLC"
- who, for all intents and purposes, appear to be the
same company as Topsites LLC. The software, available
for download from http://g-o.us/share.htm actually
claims to be "Spyware Free" despite the fact
that it attempts to reveal your email address. There
is no indication that "Go MP3" is in any way
a popular product, although Topsites LLC claims
A final twist is the fact that the installer doesn't
actually work in any case, due to a bug in a
file dated October 2002. That indicates to me that this
so-called Toolbar hasn't been functioning for many months
at least. You can test this for yourself by downloading
the application and decompressing it using Winzip
or a similar application. The file topsites.reg
dated 3rd October 2002 is an invalid, zero length file
which makes the installation fail.
A technical analysis of the Topsites Toolbar, its
potential problems and removal instructions can
be found at Andrew Clover's Doxdesk.com
site where it is classified as eStart also known
as BandObjects. The Topsites Toolbar has certain
security and privacy implications that you should consider
before installing the software.
The Toolbar is key to Topsites claim of hundreds
of millions of impressions. Rather helpfully, Paul Thomas
gives the game away by saying
- "..the TopSites tool displays a different
listing every 3 seconds on each user's taskbar, that's
more than 100 million advertising impressions an hour
for those 80,000 users." In other words, Topsites
Toolbar users are pestered by unwanted links twenty
times a minute.
It's Spam! But It Smells Fishy! [top]
The Topsites.us / Topsitez.us proposal is unsolicited
junk mail (i.e. spam). Nobody submitted to the directory
to begin with - although a few thousand poor souls do
appear to have paid for their listings after receiving
these so-called "renewal notices". There's
certainly no attraction to visitors for what is yet
another clone of the Open Directory. And it's highly
unlikely that any website would ever receive significant
traffic. At the time of writing (03/03/2003), the "search"
function doesn't even work, thus rendering it pretty
useless for anyone who should accidentally visit.
Google Groups is always an enlightening place when
it comes to see other people's comments. Topsites
LLC has been repeatedly reported for spamming and other
net abuse - see here
What's more, listings do not appear to be removed
for non-payment. Despite having received dozens of these
for different websites, at present all my sites are
Please understand that you originally submitted
to the Open Directory who will NOT drop
or enhance your listing regardless of whatever Topsites.us
/ Topsitez.us does.
My advice is to ignore this so-called "renewal
notice" and ignore it, or, if you believe this
to be a scam, report it to one of the following services:
find this article to be of use, please consider linking
to us so we can spread the word around!
Paul Thomas and Topsites LLC threaten
to sue - and other correspondence.
Sample Topsites.us / Topsitez.us /
from topsites (localhost.concentric.net) by [192.168.1.2]
(LSMTP for Windows NT v1.1b) with SMTP id <0.001E40B4@[192.168.1.2]>;
Thu, 9 Jan 2003 11:26:58 -0800
Date: Thu, 09
Jan 2003 11:26:42 -0700
From: "Paul Thomas"
copy from Open Directory here
X-Priority: 1 (Highest)
you please be so kind as to renew your TopSites-us
directory listings by Thursday, January 16 so we
can continue to show them to our millions of users?
For information on renewing please go to:
you cannot access the Internet, just let me know
you want to renew by email. Your listings only cost
$5 a month.
you have a question, please go to:
you cannot find your answer there, please let me
know. I will be happy to help in any way I can.
If you do not want to renew, there is no need to
write; we will cancel your listing automatically.
remove your address from our mailing list and to
cancel all of your listings simply go to:
is what you get:
We will continue to list your site in the TopSites
2. We will show your listing more
than a million times a year (guaranteed).
us introduce you (a million times!)
often ask, "How can you guarantee to show my
listing a million times? What if I am in an unpopular
category?" It does not matter! Why? AutoSearch--our
patent pending tool--continually displays renewed
TopSites-us listings on our users’ PCs 24 hours
a day, seven days a week. We display TopSites-us
listings more than 42 million times in an hour.
That is why we can guarantee to show your listing
more than a million times a year.
$40,000 in adverting
would cost you up to $40,000 to display your listing
a million times at sites like MSN and Altavista.
Googles charges up to $200,000 depending on your
category. At TopSites we charge $5 a month!
$100 re-listing fee
do not let your listing expire. Our editors listed
you as one of the top websites in your category
without charge. If your listing expires, however,
you may need to pay a $100 editorial review fee
to get listed again. It can take a month for our
editors to authorize a listing. And they may not
re-list you if there are too many listings in your
TopSites-us gives you:
Massive Reach: We display our listings billions
of times a year. We guarantee to show your listing
more than a million times a year.
Cost-Effectiveness: This is the least expensive
advertising you will ever buy. You want to bring
lots of potential customers to your site in a cost-effective
way. TopSites-us does exactly that!
Highly Targeted Leads: TopSites-us reaches customers
when they are searching for what you are selling.
That means high sales and low costs. More visitors
Highest Return on Investment: Independent research
confirms that you get the highest ROI from online
listings like TopSites-us. E-mail, banners and other
forms of online advertising all have a lower ROI.
And unlike direct mail, you pay nothing for mailing
lists, printing or postage. No media buy returns
better results than TopSites-us.
No-Risk: Cancel your listing any time for any reason--no
Hassle-Free: Change your listing anytime or even
move it to a different category--for free--and your
changes will instantly appear in the directory
is the least expensive way I have found to bring
buyers to my site. I have tried other online advertising
companies and you beat everyone!"
President, Go Software (g-o.us)
makes my online marketing easy. I can change my
message 24 hours a day so it is always up-to-date.
And everyone who sees it is a pre-qualified prospect."
CEO, My News (my-news.org)
I change my listing?
can change your listing now or later. You can rewrite
the headline and description before renewing. You
can change the URL too—even to another website.
we receive payment, we will send you instructions
on how to change your listing whenever you like.
(There is no charge to do this.)
I change my category?
I list my site in additional categories?
I list other sites too?
can list as many sites in as many categories as
you like. Each listing costs only $5 per month per
category. Just go to www.topsitez.us. Click on the
category links until you find the one you want (or
search on your keywords). Click on the Add My Site
link. Then type your listing. If your old listing
was in the wrong category, you can click unsubscribe
to cancel it.
much does a listing cost?
costs $5 a month to list your site in TopSites.
We will bill you $60 for 12 months. There are no
additional costs. You can change your listing as
often as you like for free. You can cancel your
listing anytime and we will refund your remaining
do I pay?
can pay with a U.S. check, money order or bank draft.
Or you can pay by Visa, MasterCard or American Express.
Simply select the option you prefer on the renewal
form. (Unfortunately, we cannot cash overseas checks
at this time.)
did our listing start?
do not know. Sorry. We only began to track listing
contacts and dates this year.
much did we pay to be listed?
you could not buy a listing--you had to wait for
our editors to select you as one of the top sites
in your category.
we have a contract with you?
do not ask our customers to sign contracts for a
$5 a month service.
you call me and tell me more?
are happy to answer all your questions by email
but we do not contact our customer by phone at this
I still renew after your deadline?
give our customers a month to renew so do not worry
too much about the deadline.
do I see my listing? I could not find it when I
can go to www.topsitez.us and click on the categories
until you get to yours.
can also see it at www.topsitez.us by entering two
or more keywords from your listing into our search
form. Since we have more than three million listings,
you probably will not find your listing by searching
on only one word. And you definitely will not find
it if you search on words that are not in your listing.
keywords display my listing?
do I change them?
word in your listing is a keyword. Anytime someone
searches on two or more words in your listing, we
will display it. The only way to change your keywords
is to change the headline or description of your
much traffic did you send us last year?
do not know. Sorry. We are working on adding this
more answers go to:
3328 West Coleman Road, Kansas City, MO 64111
USA - Phone 415-294-5300
you please be so kind as to click on each Renew
button for information on renewing your listings
in the TopSites-us directory listing by Thursday,
January 16, if you do not mind? You can also renew
your listings on our website by clicking renew.
If you cannot access the Internet, let me know and
I will renew your listings for you. Your listings
only cost US $5 a month (other currencies).
1: Background Part
3: Topsites uncovered