Gera Agency Scam

I don’t often “out” scams in the way I’m going to out this one but I think it’s important to do, and I’ve also seen them written about in other places so mine isn’t the first. But it’s not everywhere and I think people need to see this and hopefully learn, if nothing else, to trust their instincts.

Here’s the first email I received:

Hi,

We are looking for new advertisement platforms and we are interested in your sitewww.imjustsharing.com. Is it possible to place banner on your site on a fee basis?

Best regards,
Valentin Lopez

The response I sent told him what my advertising policy was on this site; I’d rather not put it out here, but knowing this is my most popular site, let alone blog, you can bet it’s not necessarily low. The responsoe I got after that was this one:

Hello,

Thanks for reply to our proposal!

I represent Gera Agency. At the moment we are preparing an advertising campaign for Lacoste Company (it is a French company producing clothes, footwear, perfumery etc.) We already have designed banners for the campaign, they are the following sizes: 160×600, 240×400, 300×250, 336×280, 468×60, 728×90. What can be your price for one banner (banner should appear at ALL pages of your site) of abovementioned sizes (please specify the place for the banner – top, bottom, left, right)? Please mention a normal link for banner, without javascript code and set prices in US dollars per month.

Best regards,
Valentin Lopez.
site:www.geraagency.com
e-mail:vlopez@geraagency.com
phone: + (0)9 78 62 85 38

Now, I started having the Spidey senses once I received this, though I wasn’t sure why. In my response about advertising here, I indicated the type of banner advertising I’d allow on this site. What’s above seemed to ignore what I’d already written. Also, see what the products are? I wondered why this blog would be considered for advertising those types of products, although my feeling was if someone wanted to pay the kind of money I was asking for and it wasn’t something abhorrent why not accept it. I was also thrown off with the comment about javascript code; I have advertising already on one of my other sites and this was a first for me. I had no idea what this guy could be talking about.

My response, with prices omitted, was thus:

Greetings,

The only two banner sizes I’d allow on the site would be the 240×400 and the 300×250; all the others would throw off the look drastically. I’d charge $XXX a month for that or a flat fee of $XXX for the year. It would be a normal link as I don’t even know how to create javascript.

Just to add this, I have another site that might interest you, and the advertising rates are lower. Take a look at this site: http://www.servicesandstuff.com. There are multiple pages on this site and some of them might suit your clients product. Even though the advertising rates are lower, the rate for advertising is per page. However, this site would allow for the banner ad sizes 468×60 and 728×90 in addition to the other two I allow on I’m Just Sharing. The large skyscraper ad wouldn’t work on that site, and the 336×80 banner ad would have to be altered to fit, so that probably wouldn’t look good either.

This was his reply to that:

We like your price.
To pass to the banner control system follow the link http://webmaster.geraagency.com
To enter use the following data:

login: www.imjustsharing.com
password: XXXXXX (changed this)

You should install and activate the plugin in order to display advertisement. Before making payment, advertiser must approve location of the banner. The banner will be shown on your site when you add special code to your web- address (for example: http://www.imjustsharing.com/?adv_test=1). It means, that visitors will see the banner only if it is approved and payment made.

To get installation instruction for your site type pass to: http://docs.geraagency.com/wp_install
To activate your site you have to enter the code: XXX-XXX-XXX (changed this)

What way of payment is suitable for you?

Best regards,
Valentin Lopez.
site: www.geraagency.com
e-mail: vlopez@geraagency.com
phone: + (0)9 78 62 85 38

Whoa! Now the Spidey senses were kicking me in the behind! I’d really never heard of anything like this, and it didn’t make sense. Notice the part I highlighted in his response; create a redirect of a banner from my site? Was he serious? Plugin? I don’t think so.

It was at this point I finally decided some research was in order; I probably should have started with this. I looked up the site and it’s totally in French. Then I looked up Lacoste Company; even if I’ve never heard of them this is a pretty big site, and a major designer. Why would they want to advertise on my blog since I’ve never talked about fashion (doesn’t mean I won’t lol)?

Then it was time to research Gera Agency, and that’s where the red flags were confirmed. There was this link from a company in Malaysia that asked the same questions I was asking. There was this link from a site called Moonpixel where the guy posted the same exact letter as mine, only it looks like he actually tried to load whatever the site was offering. Finally there was this post on another blog called vinitneo with the same exact letter posted again. There are lots of others, but you get the point by now.

Folks, if anyone ever wants to advertise on your blog and they’re legitimate they’ll do one of two things. One, they’ll send you a banner file with the link they’d like you to use, or two, they’ll just send you the link and have you put it somewhere most probably in a specific blog post. Unless it’s an affiliate company, never, and I mean NEVER, download code from any site and allow it to add a redirect. You will regret it and might not get your site back.

Spidey senses to the rescue again! 🙂
 

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Black Web Friday – 2/3/12

Welcome to the third edition of Black Web Friday, and to me it’s a special treat because it’s the first one of the year during Black History Month. I haven’t decided if I’m writing a special post here for the month yet, as I have one coming on my business blog later today, but I figure I’m doing my part this year in helping to highlight black social media throughout the country.

Black Web Friday

Actually, one of the debates I’ve been having with myself is whether I only want to stick to North America, which includes Canada, or whether I should think about including black people from other countries as well. While a black blogger in England and Australia might be going through the same type of thing that happens in the United States, are they removed enough from our issues so that it becomes someone else’s problem? What about those in Africa who are actually the majority in their country, but outside might not get the press? I just don’t know yet because in other countries I’m not sure they consider themselves as “black” per se; I know that many Africans that come to the states don’t see themselves as akin to black Americans all that often. Stupid TV and movies have made us look pretty bad even to them.

Well, I figure we’ll see as I go along how it goes. For now, let’s get going.

The first site I’m highlighting is called Racing Toward Diversity, and is the brainchild of Fields Jackson, who also made my list of 21 black social media influencers. His site highlights diversity initiatives of companies and businesses across the United States for all disenfranchised groups, so it’s just just about black people. There are multiple contributors on the site that write on the blog, white papers and case studies. There’s a jobs board and a consistent list of the top 25 most diverse companies in the country. Just so you know, the blog has a traditional commenting section, but they do tell you that it’s moderated. Diversity; it’s a good thing y’all.

The next site I’m highlighting is Lisa Irby’s 2 Create A Website, which also has blog that I thoroughly enjoy. She’s an entrepreneur who built up her site well before she decided to add a blog, and by the title you know she creates websites. Her knowledge is on par with anyone you can think of and her website is highly ranked, so I expect she’s killing it. Lisa was also featured as one of the 21 folks. On her site she offers lots of free advice, including how to get things set up for a website, self hosted blog, and is a proponent of Site Build It. She also has another eponymously named site (since Sire mentioned it, “eponymous” means it’s named after you) where she lists other websites she owns.

The last person I’m highlighting today is named Stanford Smith, who has a blog/website called Pushing Social, where he talks about all things social media and blogging, kind of like me. I keep wondering why in most places he has a picture that makes him look tough because I’ve seen his smiling picture and I think it’s a good thing. As a matter of fact, if you look at this post of his on getting readers to stay on your blog, which I liked a lot, you’ll see him smiling; tell me I’m wrong. 🙂 Anyway, he’s not only a blogger but is VP of marketing at a digital media company, which proves he knows what he’s talking about, and if this guy isn’t someone who should be known by more people, I don’t know who should be. Stanford was on my 20 black social media influencers list.

We’re done for now. Check them out, and fast!
 

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Shai Coggins – Social Media Maven, Blogger, Mother And Therapist!

I’m really glad to get this interview, and y’all need to pay attention to it. I first came across Shai Coggins many years ago on Ryze, and she was a big deal even then. She was traveling all over the world speaking at blogging and social media conferences, being interviewed in newspapers, and showing up on TV shows. She worked with B5Media and was one of the earliest contributors to About.com, where she had her own column. At the same time she was starting motherhood and studying for a masters in Applied Psychology (Singapore) and Teaching (Special Education). She’s also an artist, photographer and model. I know you’ll enjoy this interview and will learn a lot from it:


Shai Coggins

1. Tell us something about yourself.

It’s always interesting to figure out the best way to introduce oneself in these situations. A life summary is always different, depending on who you’re talking to.

In this case, I think I’ll go this route:

I’ve been a web professional for over a decade now. And I love the online world. But, I do have a life outside of that, including being a mum to two young kids, a wife to an Englishman, a postgrad student, and a manager of content and community at a nonprofit organisation. But that last bit also has a lot of online stuff involved, so maybe that doesn’t count as an offline life.

Oh, and I love travel, reading, movies, writing, art making, food, baking, the beach… Wait, hang on. That’s another life summary for a different purpose. 🙂 If you’re keen to find out more, I Tweet (http://twitter.com/shaicoggins) a bit, I FB (http://facebook.com/shaicoggins), and I’m in just about every other social media platform you can think of. And, just between us (and your wonderful readers!), I’m about to launch my new professional blog, http://enkindlers.com (currently at http://enkindlers.wordpress.com/). Still a bit sparse in there, but at the moment, I’m hoping to put all my blogging, social media, and other content and community-related tips in that one central location, primarily for the community sector.

2. How did you get into blogging?

I’ve always loved writing. I kept journals from a young age. And, I’ve loved the idea of travel and other cultures all my life. That’s why I enjoyed having pen pals, especially from overseas.

So, when I heard about this thing called the Internet, where I can connect and talk to several people from anywhere in the globe, I knew immediately that I had to go on it. Never mind that I was no techie and I hated my computer classes in high school and college.

When I finally got online around 1997/1998, I started a website shortly after I got the hang of using email and IRC. There was a section in that Geocities website that I allocated a journal-type area, which looked very much like the blog we know today. Except it was hand-coded using the built-in web editor and FrontPage. And a lot uglier, with those horrid graphics and blinkies.

3. What was it like writing for About.com and many of the other organizations you wrote for and participated with?

I had two rounds of being an About.com Guide. First, I became the Language Arts for Kids Guide, back when they had a children’s channel. I loved the creativity that was involved in building that site from the ground up. Plus, I really enjoyed learning from and working with my fellow kids channel guides. They were a wonderfully smart and creative bunch. Unfortunately, that came to an end shortly after 9/11 and the dot com bust.

The second time I became a Guide was in 2004, as one of the first blogging guides around. I enjoyed the challenge of staying up to date with technology and writing for a different demographic. Particularly, ones who were pretty much the pioneers of the world that we now know as the social media universe. It was great, experimenting with the latest blogging software and being one of the first to get in to podcasting and video blogging.

Writing for About.com in particular was a really great time for me because I did learn a lot from them. Many of the things I know about SEO, web architecture, and content strategy, I learned first in that place. So, I will always be grateful that I’ve had that experience.

About.com also helped me to launch my own blogging network, which later merged with b5media, which then became a VC-funded online venture that brought a lot of interesting experiences too.

4. You added video early into blogging; how did that come about?

It was primarily through my work at About.com, as I said. I learned about video blogging and decided to give it a go. And later on, About.com encouraged its Guides by launching this video making competition, where I won 2nd place and $1,000 cash prize for making a video on video blogging. Yes, very meta, I know. Fun times.

5. At one time about 5 years ago you were known as one of the most powerful women in blogging, and you’ve had so many accolades and awards; how does that make you feel?

Uhmm… thinking that it was all 5 years ago make me feel old and out of touch. Was it really that long ago? 🙂

Okay, seriously… Of course, the accolades and awards were great because they acknowledged the work I did. But, I also know that they weren’t the end all and be all of things. I’m grateful for those things because I know a lot of people work really hard and they don’t always get the recognition that they deserve.

I think I’m just lucky that I got in to blogging quite early and so I was part of the excitement at the beginning. It was incredible to think that once upon a time, I was able to say, “Hey, have you heard of Google?” and the answer back then was “No, what is it?” many times. I really should have bought shares then!

And yeah, in the early days, whenever I talked about blogging, podcasting, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, people’s eyes glazed over. Now, it’s all mainstream. So, it’s much, much harder to stand out. Now that many people have discovered these tools, we’re seeing an influx of great talent all over the world. It’s great.

6. For a short time you weren’t blogging much, working on some other endeavors. Did you find it hard getting back into blogging?

Having a break from blogging was something I needed at the time. With everything that went on, I felt burnt out from my online life.

And yes, every time I do stop blogging for a while, I find it harder to get back in to the groove of things. In fact, I have to admit that I think I’m still not blogging as much as I would like. Definitely nowhere near like I used to. I keep hoping to change that eventually.

7. You’ve spoken at social media conferences and at blogging events. Is that exciting, and do you love meeting people?

At first, I found it terrifying. I really don’t consider myself a public speaker, even though I do enjoy teaching and meeting people. It’s weird, but when I started presenting again, I was freaking out so much, it literally hurt. However, people’s response to what I have to say had been incredible. And, it became easier as time went by.

I love visiting new places and sharing ideas, especially with people who enjoy learning and discussing their own views about social media, blogging, and all these other things that I care about so much.

To me, the best part about speaking and attending conferences and other events is the ability to meet the many wonderful people that I’ve met, which I never would’ve come across otherwise. Even though I love the web, being able to make real life connections is just wonderful.

8. I remember when your son started his blog; is he still blogging, and has your daughter picked up the bug yet?

Wow. Great memory! Yes, my son who just turned 8, still blogs occasionally. He has had his own blog for almost two years and even started setting up other blogs by himself. I think he still would like to keep blogging, but he has new obsessions at the moment, so we’ll see how he goes.

And no, my daughter is only 4 (about to turn 5), so she’s a bit away off from blogging still, I think. Although she has already started learning how to read, write, and make her own video movie clips using an iPod Touch, I think she probably wouldn’t ask for a blog for another year or two at least. Maybe.

9. This might not be a fair question but hey, let’s ask it anyway. Do you think the fact that you’re attractive helps people feel a connection to you as a blogger?

Haha. I have no idea, to be honest. Maybe that’s a question best answered by my readers and subscribers?

Actually, I never really considered looks as the best way to “hook” people. I know that may sound really lame, especially since I’ve been looking like a real narcissistic flake, ever since I discovered the concept behind self portraiture and the 365 days project back in 2008. But, I have to say that I never went around thinking I was pretty all my life, believe me. I even recall thinking, as I was growing up, that even though I wasn’t particularly attractive, at least I looked “okay”. So yeah, when compliments started coming in, I was really taken aback. Had I known I was considered attractive, I may have had a completely different view in life! Maybe I would’ve tried to do something more glamorous than blogging. Or not. Heh.

10. What’s left for you to accomplish, both in and outside of blogging?

I’m an INFJ – so apparently, it’s my curse to want something more, something better, always. 🙂

Plus, I have a long Dream List and an even longer To Do List, both of which will probably outlive me, as I don’t think I can ever check off all the boxes in my lifetime.

Right now, I’m going just trying to make the most of the blessings I’ve been given both personally and professionally. I’m doing some work on my “what’s next” plan, which hopefully includes finishing my 2nd post-grad degree, taking more time to write and blog, and indulging some of my other passions and dreams.
 

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