Selling fake email address lists isn’t a new thing. Scammers have been doing it for years – even in the marijuana industry – and have made a lot of money from it. At the same time, countless businesses have lost a lot of time and money buying lists that do far more harm than the people who purchase them realize.
The biggest marijuana business conference, MJBizCon, is happening this week, and as a result, the number of email messages promoting lists of the event attendees’ email addresses has skyrocketed. The Cannabiz Media team has received dozens of email messages and phone calls in recent weeks from people who promise tens of thousands of valid conference attendees’ email addresses. We’ve even heard from many of our subscribers about list solicitations they’ve received.
But there is one very big problem with these list offers. Well, there are actually many problems, but there is one problem that is so big it deserves top billing: MJBizCon does not share its attendee list with anyone. Call them and ask. They’ll confirm – no list sharing!
Of course, MJBizCon isn’t the only conference that is the victim of fake attendee email list scammers. In the past month, the Cannabiz Media team has received offers to buy email lists of attendees for MJBizCon’s 2018 and 2019 conferences (even though tickets aren’t on sale for the 2019 conference yet) and California Cannabis Business Conference. There was even a message offering the list for the American Society of Hematology (ASH 2018)!
Something is fishy here, yet people still fall for it and purchase these lists! My goal in this article is to prevent you from making the same mistake. If it sounds too good to be true, it is!
The Dangers of Buying a Fake Email List
Before I get into the details of how to determine if a marijuana business email list is real or fake, I want to make sure you understand the risks associated with purchasing a fake email address list. It can be tempting to buy a cheap list, but don’t do it – ever. I can’t stress this enough.
Of course, buying a fake list is a waste of time and money because you’ll spend money on the list and invest time in writing and sending email messages to everyone on the list, but you won’t get the results you need. The return on your investment will be nil.
But that’s not all!
First, it’s important to understand that internet service providers (e.g., Google for Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and so on) are the email gatekeepers. If your internet service provider (ISP) lets you send messages to a list of fake email addresses, you still need to get your messages through the recipients’ ISPs. Those ISPs don’t like spam (or anything they think is the slightest bit suspicious).
If a recipient’s ISP thinks your message is spam, it will be sent to the spam folder (if it makes it through the ISP to the recipient’s mailbox at all). If you send too many messages that ISPs (or recipients) flag as spam, your deliverability will plummet. That means messages you send in the future will have less of a chance of being delivered.
Once you’re flagged as a spammer, it’s extremely difficult – if not impossible – to climb out of that hole.
Next, you need to understand why sending messages to a fake email list could get you flagged as a spammer, and I’m not referring to the type of content you’re sending in your messages. There are many email deliverability factors that could affect whether or not your messages are delivered to recipients’ inboxes or not. I’m talking about something much more specific – spam traps.
In my book, Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, I explain the two main types of spam traps, which you’re likely to fall in if you send messages to a purchased list that you didn’t get from a highly reliable source: the recycled spam trap and the honeypot spam trap. Here’s an excerpt from my book with the details you should know:
“The recycled spam trap typically happens to senders who don’t maintain quality lists by cleansing them on an ongoing basis. These are email addresses that were valid and belonged to someone at one time but have since been abandoned and become spam addresses. Sending to recycled spam trap addresses shows ISPs that your list quality is low. As a result, your reputation suffers and your deliverability goes down.
“The honeypot spam trap is also called the pristine spam trap. These email addresses never belonged to anyone. ISPs create them with one goal in mind – to catch spammers who use robots to crawl websites for email addresses (ISPs hide these addresses on websites for this purpose) or to catch people who purchase lists that include these addresses. If you send a message to one of these spam addresses, ISPs know you’re sending messages to people you haven’t gotten permission to email. As a result, your messages are automatically marked as spam and your reputation and deliverability tank.”
In short, people who sell fake email lists collect addresses for those lists in a variety of ways, such as scraping the internet, purchasing and creating them in bulk, and more. If you buy a fake or low quality list, it will likely have both recycled and honeypot addresses on it, and you will get caught if you send messages to them.
ISPs will mark your messages as spam and every message you send after that will also be marked as spam. As a result, you’ll spend time and money on email marketing in the future but your results will disappear because none of your messages will get through to recipients anymore.
7 Steps to Determine if a Marijuana Business Email List is Real
If you want to leverage email marketing for years to come to promote your business, products, and services, you should take every possible precaution to avoid sending messages to recycled or honeypot addresses. The best way to do that is to avoid buying email lists unless you’re 100% confident that the list provider is trustworthy and has taken the necessary precautions to develop a clean, high-quality list.
To help you make smart decisions, here are seven steps to evaluate an email list before you buy it.
1. Contact the Conference
If the list offered to you includes conference attendees’ email addresses (or anyone’s email address for that matter), contact the event organizers and ask if the give out attendees’ email addresses to anyone. If they doesn’t, then you know the list is fake.
2. Read the Message
When you receive a message that is filled with typos, poor grammar, and spelling errors, there is a chance it might not be from a legitimate list provider. Duplicate message content is another red flag. If you receive multiple messages offering you email address lists, compare them to each other. If the content is similar but the senders are from different companies (based on the end of each person’s email address), the lists are probably being offered by the same provider and those lists are probably fake.
The image below shows an example of a message that is suspicious since it’s so poorly written.
The images below show two messages from two different companies and two different people but with some text that is suspiciously similar.
Take a close look at the content of each message you receive, and if you’re not sure if the marijuana business email list being offered is legitimate, move on to the other steps in this article to determine if it has a chance of being real.
3. Check the Email Address
Who sent the email with the list offer to you? Check the end of the email address. If it says “hotmail.com” or another generic email address extension, then this is a red flag that the list being offered is not high quality.
The images below provide examples of soliciations sent from Hotmail addresses. The first, which appears to be from Jessica Gibbs, was actually one of two messages sent from this email address to Cannabiz Media selling the email addresses for MJBizCon attendees.
The message below came after “Jessica’s” first two attempts didn’t work from a person who appears to be named Amy Gibbs with a suspiciously similar email address structure, the same job title, and a similar offer to Jessica’s.
Most legitimate list providers work for companies and will use a valid company email address (see #7 below for more about company and company email address validity).
4. Visit the Website
Using the end of the sender’s email address (if it’s not a generic one), visit the website. For example, one of the fake list offers received by Cannabiz Media in the past month was sent from an email address that ended with reachattendees.com. Here’s what you find when you visit that website:
Interestingly, another message was sent from an email address that ended with prozestmedialead.com. When you visit that website, you see the same under construction page, and the same page is shown when you visit another site Cannabiz Media received a list solicitation from, eventattendeesz.com. Are you seeing a pattern here?
Another red flag is when you visit the sender’s “website” based on the email address and the site doesn’t load. For example, if you visit the website for two other sites from which Cannabiz Media received list solicitation in the past few weeks, crmgloballeads.com and crmviewdata.com, you see the same thing on both sites, which is shown in the image below.
And here’s another example of a sender’s website that doesn’t load properly (proattendeedata.com) – this time because the IP address cannot be reached.
These are all red flag sites. When you see a website like this, ask yourself this question, “If the company tried to sell me something else, would I buy it or would I not trust the company?” I’m hoping you wouldn’t trust them or at the least, would do some more research before you contacted them or paid them for anything.
5. Check the Domain Registration Information
Many companies that run fake email list sales operations register a variety of domains to send their email messages to unsuspecting list buyers. They purchase these domains, use them for a short time, and then switch to another.
Therefore, use the ICANN WHOIS search tool to investigate who owns the domain that the message came from and how long they’ve had it. Here are a couple of red flags to look for:
- The domain was registered within the past 12 months.
- The registrant is marked as private (e.g., the Registrant Name field says WhoisGard Protected, Contact Privacy Inc., Redacted for Privacy, or the service used to register the domain such as Namecheap)
You can see an example of what this could look like below:
Alone, a new domain or a private registrant might not be a red flag, but when combined with any of the other red flags in this article, your Spidey senses should be tingling that the list being offered to you might not be real.
6. Check the Company’s Social Footprint
Another red flag that you might come across as you research a marijuana business email list is a provider with little or no social media footprint. Visit the provider’s website and look for links to its social media profiles. If you find none, search for the company directly on social media sites or on Google with different social media site names included.
If a company doesn’t have active profiles with followers and engagement on one or more of the most popular social media channels (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and so on), then a red flag should be raised. The reality is that the vast majority of businesses have active social media profiles since social media marketing is one of the most effective marketing opportunities available today. It’s also a critical component of an integrated marketing strategy. If a company is absent on social media, proceed with caution.
7. Google the Company and Email Address
What happens when you enter the sender’s domain, company name, or email address into the Google search box? Do you get a list of results that include the company’s working website, social media profiles, mentions on other authoritative sites or in the media, and maybe even some positive reviews? Or do you get a list of results like the one in the image below?
Notice that the results in the image above, which were delivered based on a search for “crmviewdata.com,” tell a fairly complete story within just the first six entries. The first two entries are from a site at trashcanmail.com, which is related to disposable email addresses. Spammers often purchase or use fake, disposable email addresses to do things like send offers for fake email lists. If you see these kinds of results, it’s safe to assume the list isn’t legitimate.
The next three entries are about the domain registration, and without clicking through any of these results, you can see in one of the result’s descriptions that the site was registered on March 2, 2018, which is less than 12 months ago. That’s a red flag as you learned in #5 above.
The sixth entry is a warning published for participants of the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo on the seedtosaleshow.com website that warns people not to buy lists from a number of different email senders and domains (including crmviewdata.com) that claims to be selling addresses for the conference’s attendees because those lists are fake.
Canabis Business Summit & Expo isn’t the only conference that warns people not to buy fake attendee email addresses and provides lists of fraudulent list providers. Here are links to some examples from the cannabis industry and other industries. You’ll see many of the same companies listed across these warnings, including some of the providers discussed in this article:
- California Cannabis Business Conference
- U.S. Travel Association’s IPW
- National Trailer Dealers Association (NTDA) – Warning 1 and Warning 2
- CEDIA Expo
- Affiliate Summit
- American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)
How to Find Real and Safe Marijuana Business Email Lists
Real and safe marijuana business email lists are current, accurate, compiled by humans (not by automated robots that scrape addresses from websites), and are provided by known, trustworthy sources.
For example, Cannabiz Media’s team creates and updates marijuana license holders’ email addresses in the Cannabiz Media License Database through primary, verified research. Email addresses are manually acquired from primary sources, including license applications, and are continually updated to ensure the data subscribers use to build their own businesses is reliable.
Bottom-line, when you receive an email or phone call offering a list of email addresses for purchase, do your research. Follow the steps above and don’t forget the big risk you’re taking if you buy a list that you can’t verify as completely trustworthy. The damage to your future email marketing investments and your business could be significant and long-lasting.
Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.