SkillPages Email Spamming: A Warning, a Story, an Apology, & a P.S.A.
First, an apology to all of my contacts who I inadvertently spammed. I got taken in by SkillPages a service that is gaining users by spamming contacts of new members as soon as they sign up to the site.
I guess this is going to happen to the best of us sooner or later and it happened to me today. Even though I am generally super, duper cautious about what apps and sites I allow to access my data today I slipped up and the results were…horrible. I received the below email this afternoon and thought to myself “Cool! A new site for connecting from a business perspective. Being the social media addict that I am I’ve got to check it out. As well, I know Jamie and he is a good guy who I trust not to send me spam. I am going to have to check this site out.”
What I should have done was google the site. If I had, I would have seen these autocompletes*:
The above does not look like the kind of site I want to be associated with or allow to have my information without a lot more research. The third result is VIRUS for crying out loud! That is not promising but it gets worse.. Below is a screenshot of the Google search results for just the word “SkillPages”*:
The fourth result from Google is “Spam from SkillPages” from Western University (of Ontario). If you look at the Wikipedia article, the third Google search result, about SkillPages it has a full subsection devoted to: “Spam and blocking by educational institutes.” The ninth search results, a CNET article from Dec 11, 2012 titled, “LinkedIn for the working stiffs: SkillPages hits 10M users” there is no mention by the author of these nefarious practices but can you guess what the three comments (previous to the one I added) were about? That’s right! SkillPages spamming activities. Oh how I wish I had done this Google search BEFOREHAND.
*NOTE: The autocomplete screenshot and Google search screenshot was obtained using Google Chrome Incognito Mode as I didn’t want my personal search/browsing history to affect the results from Google.
I clicked the link and signed in to SkillPages with my Google Account Oauth. It asked me to sign in with Facebook and I did but I ensured I set it that only I would have access to see posts it created on my wall. I didn’t connect it to Twitter as I still wanted to explore this site. A couple of minutes later two of my email accounts which forward to my main email accounts received emails within one minute of each other as seen below:
What was this?!?! I’d been had! Quickly, I switched into recovery mode/damage control. I went to the SkillPages Support and looked for a way to stop the service from sending these emails. I have almost 1,000 people in my “My Contacts” in my Gmail account. I know compared to some people that isn’t a lot and in a way I am extremely thankful for that! However, A LOT of those contacts have multiple email addresses so the number is actually quite a bit bigger. Maybe I would be able to stop some of the emails in their tracks before my entire contact list got spammed. Not a word mentioned on the SkillPages FAQ about this issue. The site was beginning to look more and more shady by the second.
Next, I jumped over to my Google Account Settings and went to the “Authorized Access to your Google Account” page (that link should work for you too) and revoked the access which SkillPages had to my Google Account. Hopefully, I did it fast enough to prevent every email from going out but, then again, maybe SkillPages already downloaded my entire contact list and was continuing to go down the list sending spammy emails on my behalf. I next went to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and Google Talk to pre-emptively apologize to everyone who this spammy site had sent the email to without my knowledge. I obviously have no desire to email every one of my contacts to apologize because what would probably just be more annoying!
After getting some work done which I was in the midst of doing when the spam wave hit I settled down to write this post as an apology to my contacts, a public service announcement to the Internet as a whole, and a warning in the hopes that I save someone from spamming their friends via this site. I also tweeted at the author of the aforementioned CNET post – a writer named Donna Tam – and asked her to update her post to warn others. Hopefully she does but to help her see the importance of doing this I suggest you tweet at her as well – on Twitter she is @DonnaYTam – and write a comment on her post.
Lastly, I tweeted at SkillPages asking them how to make the spam stop and opened a ticket with their Support team (as seen below) telling them how angered I was by their actions. I don’t know if it will accomplish anything or even if they’ll respond to it but I thought it was better than nothing.
I know I am going to be A LOT more careful in the future when I accept invites to sites and I hope you will too after reading this. Have you ever had anything like this happen to you? Let me know in the comments!