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Updated
March 2004

   Dynamoo 2004

 

 

 

Topsites LLC - Correspondence Received.

Part 1: Background
Part 2: Correspondence
Part 3: Topsites Uncovered
Part 4: More Topsites Scams and Lies
Part 5: Topsites Revisited
Part 6: For Sale: Topsites.us / Topsites LLC


--- Updated March 30th 2004 ---

From Topsites LLC  - News ReportsFrom victims of Topsites Spam

It didn't take long for Paul Thomas of Topsites LLC to discover that there was a huge amount of criticism on the web for his business practices. The following email was sent threatening legal action:

    From: "Paul" <paul@topsites.us>
    Subject: Legal Action
    Date: Sat, 1 Mar 2003 19:44:27 -0800

    You are publishing libelous statements about our company on your website under reviews . Could you please be so kind as to remove them immediately? The URL is: http://www.dynamoo.com/diary/topsites_topsitez_us.htm. Failure to do so will result in legal action to collect damages.

    We don t mind fair comments. But these libelous statements are made by people who have obviously never used--or even understand--our service.

    Kind Regards,
    Paul Thomas 

"Kind Regards" is always an amusing thing to say when threatening legal action. Well, I went back and re-read the site and frankly it all seems to look good to me, but I've made some changes. In particular, I have no proof that the testimonials on Alexa are fake, but I am suspicious of them. The testimonals and press reviews on http://www.topsites.us/about.cfm clearly are manufactured and faked from other sources. And it is my firm belief that no significant traffic will even be generated from these site.

    Dear Mr Thomas,

    Thank you for your comments. The content has been amended to remove any possible confusion. Should you have any issues with the content as it now stands would you be so kind as to clarify any errors of fact.

    Regards,
    Conrad Longmore
    dynamoo.com

What I believe Mr Thomas is really annoyed about is the fact that this site is the number one match in Google for "topsites.us" and "topsitez.us". His is nowhere to be seen.

The next email from Paul Thomas was this rather polite one:

    From: "Paul" <paul@topsites.us>
    Subject: RE: TopSites Tool
    Date: Sun, 2 Mar 2003 17:18:30 -0800

    Dear Conrad,

    I assume you are trying to help people. I can respect that. After all there are a lot of scams out there.

    Based on your response to our letter, I guess we didn t do a very good job of explaining what we are selling. So would you permit me to try again?

    We are selling one million advertising impressions delivered on our Internet Explorer AutoSearch tool for $5 a month. That advertising would cost your readers at least $40,000 to purchase on other search services like MSN and Altavista. We also include a listing in our web directory at www.topsites.us at no extra charge.

    Please feel free to download the tool and try it out. It s at http://topsites.us/downloads/topsites.exe. Once you ve tested the tool, feel free to criticize it. Perhaps we can learn from you and improve it.

    If you have any questions about the TopSites AutoSearch tool, please do ask. I will be happy to help in any way I can.

    Kind Regards,
    Paul Thomas

You can read my rebuttal of the effectiveness of the Topsites Toolbar in the main article - however, the comparison between Topsites and MSN is interesting. Of note is the fact that the application fails to install in any case due to a bug in the installer that appears to have been in place since October 2002 until the present date - March 2003 - at least.

April 2003 saw another email (actually he sent this one twice):

    From: "paul" <paul@topsites.us>
    Subject: RE: TopSites Answers to Your Questions
    Date: Tue, 15 Apr 2003 20:35:12 -0700

    Dear Conrad,

    You appear to have some questions on your website about the TopSites AutoSearch tool that we are selling listings on for $5 a month. Could you please be so kind as to add the following information to your article, if you don t mind?

    POPULARITY

    You mention that, "The Topsites toolbar also appears in a product called "Go MP3...There is no indication that Go MP3 is in any way a popular product."

    You may be interested to know that more than 80,000 people have downloaded TopSites with Go MP3 from just one of the numerous download sites: http://www.skali.com/index.php?ch=15&pg=138&ct=84&ac=748  

    Since 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. I wonder if any search engine in the world could beat that?!

    BTW, you may be interested in knowing that according to Altavista more than 880 different websites around the world are now linking to the TopSites directory. You can see this by clicking on the link in your article: http://www.altavista.com/web/results?q=link%3Atopsites.us+-host%3Atopsites&kgs=0&kls=1&avkw=xytx. And that traffic is in addition to what Altavista sends TopSites for the 94,000 different TopSites pages it displays in its search results.

    WRITTEN BY EDITORS

    You are absolutely right that editors at Open and TopSites have written most of the listings in TopSites--not the companies themselves. We make this clear in the letter we mail to companies listed in the TopSites directory when we point out that "Our editors listed you as one of the top websites in your category without charge."

    MORE INFORMATION PLEASE...

    You mentioned in your article that the TopSites installer and search function "doesn't even work." Could you please be so kind as to let me know what you tried to do and what error message you received, if you don't mind? This is the first time I have heard this comment, so I'm sure we can find a solution to your problem.

    Thanks again,
    Paul Thomas

A close examination of the AltaVista results show that about two thirds of links are for a translation tool other than then directory. And, if you were wondering where the traffic was coming from, it's from pestering users twenty times a minute. And I'm not in the habit of debugging other people browser parasites, so no I won't help to debug it.

We didn't hear from Topsites.us for a long, long time but eventually they emailed us in March 2004:

    Received: from unknown (192.168.1.101)
      by ****** with QMQP; 23 Mar 2004 00:15:26 -0000
    Received: from unknown (HELO www--directory.net) (203.112.131.254)
      by mailgate.cesmail.net with SMTP; 23 Mar 2004 00:15:25 -0000
    Received: from topsitesmail (localhost) by www--directory.net (LSMTP for Windows NT v1.1b) with SMTP id <0.02F3009B@www--directory.net>; Mon, 24 Mar 2003 19:14:44 -0500
    From: "John" <john@topsites.us>
    Subject: TopSites corrected contact information
    Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2003 19:14:43 -0500


    Conrad,

    You may want to save your readers a lot of time and frustration, by
    correcting the contact details in your article, if you don't mind.

    Our only mailing address is: TopSites LLC, PO Box 7334 - 101591, San
    Francisco, CA 94120-7334

    Our only customer service phone number is (415) 462-3044

    Our only fax number is 415-294-5301

    Our only customer service email address is: listings2@topsites.us

    We cannot be reached using any of the other names, addresses, phone numbers
    or email addresses in your article-they belong to various collection
    agencies we no longer employ.

    Your readers are often very confused and irritated by the time they get hold
    of us since they have spent days or weeks trying to reach us using the
    contact information in your article

    You may also be interested to know that we updated the information on our
    order form last year to ensure our customer know exactly what they are
    ordering and what they are receiving. It now says:

    "Update" does not mean you paid to be listed, or that you asked to be
    listed, or even that you are listed.

    It doesn't mean you paid to be listed because when we started listings were
    free.

    It doesn't mean you asked to be listed because our editors may have listed
    you or licensed your listing from the Open directory.

    And it doesn't mean you are listed because your listing may have expired.

    If you are listed, we may continue to list you for some time even if you
    don't update or pay for your listing.

    Conrad, if you can think of any other information we should add to our order
    form, please do let us know.

    Regards,

    John

Clearly another exercise in flimflam and bullshit. Actually, I can make very little sense of some of these claims. Incidentally, "John" lives in New Delhi, India.

 


 

News Reports

Our coverage of the Topsites LLC spam was covered in the British newspaper, The Guardian briefly in November 2003 in this article. It shows just what a pest Topsites LLC are.

 


 

From victims of Topsites Spam:

Various people have emailed me with rather more supportive messages (I've anonymised them for their protection). There isn't room to post all of the comments here - there are just so many.

    As a web promotion worker who arrived only three months ago at our company, I wasn't sure that topsites was fake. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for your article.
     - E.P., Georgia, United States.

    ***

    Hey there, and thanks a million for setting me straight on the subject of Topsites.us scam. You people are just wonderful....
     - J.K. - Arizona, United States.

    ***

    One of the companies I help asked me about a mail from topesitez.us
    ---
    Sherlock Holmes hat on....are we here?, did we ever pay before? is it worth even 5 dollars? is this a nice trick to earn a few bucks?

    I await the wise words of my webmaster!
    ----
    You made my job easy: I just answered with a link to your page "Beware the Topsites.us and Topsitez.us Scam", and wrote "Elementary".

     - H.L. - Sweden

    ***

    We seem to be having the same trouble with TopSites-us as you, even down to the same exact emails (word for word) threatening legal action if we don't remove the criticism that we've put on our website. We removed the offending page as requested, in good faith. But now having done some more research on them I'm starting to wonder.
     - H.L. - Australia

    ***

    I received a "renewal" notice at 5 dollars a month this morning. I normally just bin this sort of thing but this time did a Google search and found your very interesting website.
      - D.K. - United Kingdom

    ***

    Thank you for the article on Topsites. They used my band's name in one of the spam mailings without permission and now our hosting company has shut down our web site. I am going to forward your article to them in hopes they will turn us back on.
     - W.B. - Washington, United States.

    ***

    Awesome job on the topsh*tes scam. Just one more thing that I didn't see on your website.  By following the link, people are, of course, identifying themselves as being active email users and that's worth a lot to spammers. The best thing to do, as always, is hit the big Delete button.
    - P.M. - United Kingdom

 ***

    I had a bad day at work today.  I felt like taking my grief out on some inanimate object, but then I checked my email.  I did a whois search on topsites.us to no avail, so I turned to my loyal friend, Google.  Lo and behold, I came across your site [..] thank you very much.  For every bad apple on the web, there are a few good ones!  Hope all is well, and thanks for the info.  At least I know I'm not alone!
    - J.F. - New York

 ***

    ..stupid me paid to topsites US and I imediately cancelled the subscription. I was waiting for my web designer to send over a few good local listings so I thought this one was one of them.

    Will I get my money? Do you have any statistics? What can I do more? Do TopsitesUS have an office/phone number etc?
    - Anon.

    [After several attempts Anon received a refund for 11 months subscription].

 ***

    [We] received the following notice [a non-payment threat] - we feel this is even more proof of what an unethical place this is. Decent places remove client listings for "non-payment" - not blackmail them.
    - S.A. - Minnesota

 ***

    Thanks for being a source of light in the dark world of spam&scam.
    - N.S. - United States

 ***

    My domain had not been active for more than 8 hours before this spam hit my domain. Thank you very much for providing the information to evaluate this scam.
    - G.N. - India

 ***

    They almost got me, too.. but I didn't have $240 to give them at the moment, so have held onto this e-mail. Then, when I tried to go to the link, it didn't exist. So, I went to google and came across your site while looking for Topsites LLC.
    - J - United States

 ***

    A quick thanks for your deep info on the annoying Topsites, who keep spamming us.  Added your fine research to an email to the FTC and Earthlink, whom I'm sure won't appreciate the spams going out on their account.  Keep up the good fight!
    - L.R. - Minnesota

 ***

    I just got a topsitez email today. Wondering what the Heck it was I used Google and found your website.
    Thank You!
    What great info you are providing.
    It would seem the goal now is to lure in new and unsuspecting customers who they can then terrorize. Unbelievable.
    Thanks again for providing such valuable information for those of us that are at risk.

    - M.K. - United States

 ***

    Thanks for posting information about top-sites. Those emails from John Kennedy are so annoying. As a webmaster managing dozens of domain I get tired of seeing his message. What's worse is when a client emails me thinking they need to take action. I must update my site and educate my customers.
     
    I applaud your efforts at exposing this scam.

    - M.S. - United States

 ***

    I am a victim of this organisation having paid good money to them to list my site. I have failed to find any benefit of doing this and have requested three times now for my money to be refunded as offered 'No questions asked" on their homepage.

    I have noticed that the Online helpdesk is never online, the emails are never answered and that no contact numbers are given.

    - C.L. - Australia

 ***

    It's never pleasant to discover that you've been scammed.  But here we are. First we paid top--sites for a directory listing.  Guess what, the directory doesn't even work.  A directory that doesn't work?   It's true. 

    Thanks for the valuable information you've provided about this scam outfit.
    I just wish I had found it sooner...
    - J.B. - United States

 


If you have further information or stories about Topsites LLC, please email them to me at dynamoo@spamcop.net - thanks!

<< Previous  Part 1: Background  Part 2: Correspondence  Part 3: Topsites uncovered  Next >>

 

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