Topsites LLC - Correspondence
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 ---
LLC - News Reports - From
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" <email@example.com>
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
We don t mind fair comments.
But these libelous statements are made by people
who have obviously never used--or even understand--our
"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.
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" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
RE: TopSites Tool
Date: Sun, 2 Mar 2003 17:18:30
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.
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):
RE: TopSites Answers to Your Questions
Tue, 15 Apr 2003 20:35:12 -0700
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?
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
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.
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) (18.104.22.168)
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" <email@example.com>
Subject: TopSites corrected contact information
Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2003 19:14:43 -0500
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
Clearly another exercise in flimflam and bullshit.
Actually, I can make very little sense of some of these
claims. Incidentally, "John" lives in New
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
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
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
You made my job easy: I
just answered with a link to your page "Beware
the Topsites.us and Topsitez.us Scam", and
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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?
[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
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
- 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.
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
If you have further information or stories about
Topsites LLC, please email them to me at email@example.com
Part 2: Correspondence Part
3: Topsites uncovered