Update, March, 2015: The W.B. Goodwin Community Center removed itself from the internet about 3 months after this blog post, and about 5 1/2 months after a similar blog post on the topic by fellow blogger Ryan Ozawa. However, webmasters still need to be on the lookout for “spam for the children” scams; another example of which is detailed in this post.
The W.B. Goodwin Community Center does not exist. Their website, a screen shot of which is shown here, is a front for a seedy internet link building scamming/spamming operation. They contacted us via our website contact email address in August, and duped us into posting a link on our links page to an unnamed Geocaching information page on a .co.uk domain. Then just yesterday, we received a request to post another Geocaching related link hosted on the same domain, and we knew something was amiss. This post obviously has little to do with Geocaching, but we’re hoping it will be indexed highly by search engines, and other webmasters will see it when they search for more information on this “W.B. Goodwin Community Center”. It’s a pretty interesting story though, so why not read on?
The original W.B. Goodwin Community Center email
As received by us on August 19th, 2014, a heartfelt story about helping “Jeremy” build his self confidence:
On Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 10:26 AM, Kate Manganiello <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
A boy who’s volunteering at our center came across your page https://www.opencaching.us/articles.php?page=links while making a resource guide for our hiking club’s intranet page and I just had to tell you! He wanted to share another page he really loved:
“Using a GPS for Fun: Geocaching 101” [Link to Geocaching 101 page on a .co.uk domain redacted]
Would you mind adding this page Jeremy found to your site with all of your other helpful resources? I think it would really help boost his self-confidence and might even encourage him to volunteer more often:)
Thanks, let us know what you think! Kate
Student Services WB Goodwin Memorial CC email@example.com
Contacted again, to link to a different page on the same site!
On November 3rd, 2014, we were again contacted by a Woman (allegedly she is one, at least), and asked to link to a different Geocaching related page, but on that same website with a .co.uk domain name. Did she not see we already linked to that site? Did she really think we would fall for it again if she did? We were still given a heartfelt story involving a child, who in this case introduced his Mother to Geocaching. This email was not from an alleged counselor at the nonexistent W.B. Goodwin Community Center, but the connection to that type of scam, all while spamming for the same .co.uk website was obvious:
My name is Jess. My son recently came home from a sleepover at a friend’s house very excited about having gone geocaching. He really enjoyed it and wants to go again. Since I am not terribly familiar with geocaching I was looking for some information when I found your page – http://www.opencachingnorthamerica.us/articles.php?page=links
Geocaching sounds like a fun activity and I am excited to get out and try it with my son. I wanted to voice my appreciation for the resources you have put together in addition to sharing another page with you – [Link to a different Geocaching related page on the same name redacted .co.uk domain]
The page has some great information on geocaching as well as other games that involve the use of GPS. I thought you might be interested in including it in your resources given all the good information on the page. Thank you again for sharing your geocaching knowledge.
You blew it “Jess”. You got too greedy with the links, and exposed your company’s scam. Within seconds of reading that, your OCNA blogger Googled W.B. Goodwin Community Center again (as he did in August), and found the 3rd link on the search was a post by a fellow blogger who was intrigued by the scam, but didn’t fall for it. As we said, we too are now blogging about it to get the word out.
We weren’t the only ones duped!
That same Google search for W.B. Goodwin Community Center shows dozens and dozens of webmasters were duped into posting links on their respective links pages on their sites. And those are only the ones who gave attribution to the W.B. Goodwin Community Center! If you do not go out of your way to mention (i.e. thank) them, as we did not, you will not show up on a Google search of W.B. Goodwin Community Center. The biggest name out there is probably the Research department at Michigan State University, where you see a link suggested by “Monica Kent’s” class on the right hand side of the page. By the way, we wouldn’t doubt all the links below it, attributed to Charter School students and Librarians and such, are really spammer suggested links as well. Other big names duped include City of Boise, Idaho, and the Richland County, Ohio Health Department, who thanks not only the teacher at the nonexistent W.B. Goodwin Community Center for the links, but her six fictitious students by name! Seriously? Tricking people into posting spam links on their own website, and they go out of their way to thank you for it? What a racket they have going!
For a nonexistent Community Center, it sure seems to change locations!
Last August, after receiving the initial email and finding there was a W.B. Goodwin Elementary School in Charleston, S.C., the curious OCNA Blogger asked the alleged “Kate Manganiello” if that was where the W.B. Goodwin Community Center was located, seeing as there is nothing on their site indicating where it is. She emailed back saying that it was. That’s funny, look at that Michigan State page again. They say the W.B. Goodwin Community Center is located in Ashville, N.C.; and a webpage from Mifflin County Pa. says the Center is located in Springfield, Pa.; so which one is it? Oh that’s right The W.B. Goodwin Community Center does not exist. Knowing that fact, it’s actually kind of cute to look over their whole site, with it’s rather generic references to being a Community Center, such as their descriptions of their programs and services and their “this month” and “next month” day of the month only calendar of events. We think our favorite though might be the allegedly “coming soon” Goodwin CC 5K run, to be held in “the downtown area”. 🙂
Webmasters, do not fall for this scam like we initially did. If the email comes from other than goodwincc.org, report it to that email provider. Report the scam/spam to the company whom these con artists are spamming for. We’ll bet in most cases they don’t know such methods are being used to increase their sites search engine ranking.