Spam Accusations, Lead Generation Pitfalls and the CAN:SPAM Act

Lead generation campaigns are a powerful and effective tool to generate business for you.Good things come for the price of some extra cost and resources you should consider before you start a large lead generation campaign.

Those campaigns could be a huge benefit to your business, but also harm it just as much. If issues like the following are not being addressed and acted on for example.

Background
Earlier this month did I get and email from a visitor of my site via my contact form that goes like this:

For the last 2 months, I have been getting e-mails for a many reasons, but when I try to opt-out I get a notice that the page is not in service. I have traced these e-mails back to this web site. I would like to ask very nicely that my e-mail address be taken off any and all lists that come from this web site.
My address is xxxxx@yyyyy.zzz
Thank you
Sxxxxxxx

I thought to myself WTF. Does the email say that I allegedly am spamming and violate the CAN:SPAM act, mainly because failing to provide the recipient with an opt-out method, but also because of not providing a valid physical postal address in the email, if the email can be identified as an advertisement.

Check one. Is that email in any of my commercial email lists (Advertising). Nope.
Is there a subscription to my blogs feed RSS via Feedburner Email? Nope

I do not have any reference to that person anywhere. Well, I responded, explained the situation, and pointed out the mistake that must have been made. I offered my help. This required that I get the original spam in question sent to me. I also wanted to find out what methods the receiver of the spam used which lead him to me.

I got the original email message. I learned that a search in Google for the company name mentioned in the commercial email brought my site up as the no.1 result.

Before I continued to investigate the alleged spam email itself, did I explain the mistakes about how to use Google to find the companies site. The name of the company mentioned in the email was LeadGen Media Inc. I will start with the search query used by the person that contacted me.

Some Googleing Tips
I searched in Google for: LeadGen Media Inc. but not as phrase search.
See Google search results.

It returns this page as the no. 3 result in the search results page.

If you look at the page, you will notice that it contains all 3 words of the query “LeadGen”, “Media” and “Inc.”, but not the exact phrase “LeadGen Media Inc.”.

A search in Google for the exact phrase and cumbrowski.com does not show up at all. See here.

However, the sites that do show up are not looking very “inviting” to me.

I removed the “Inc.” from the query since there are various ways to spell that and reduced the query to “LeadGen Media” (exact phrase match). Like this.

Now are the results much better.

The Beneficiary #1
The no 1 result for “LeadGen Media” is a site called “leadgenmedia.net”. It is owned by LeadGen Media, a company that is owned by iMedia Holdings, Inc..

iMedia Holdings, Inc. has some other companies as well, which are all Internet Marketing and Advertising related.

They seem to be the technology/service provider for the email marketing, but not responsible for the mailings itself. That is only a guess. What is not a guess is the fact that LeadGen Media operates a lead generation website at “easycashawards.com” that collects email addresses for commercial mailings.

The entity who sent the email is not LeadGen Media, but an affiliate of them who gets paid commission by LeadGen Media for referring “leads” (= emails etc.) . Since rogue affiliates will never become extinct, LeadGen might not be to blame. It depends on how they will react to a complaint, take it serious or turn their blind eye to what affiliates do on their behalf. This is hard to tell at this point. It would be different if more cases like this would turn up.

What I would do, if I were you
I hope that they do take this stuff serious. I recommended to send an email (which I found) to LeadGen Media with the complaint, the original spam email attached and if necessary my response with all the details about the email too.

The Beneficiary #2 (the affiliate)
The second beneficiary is the owner of the domain that is directly advertised in the SPAM email: “LeavesFive.com”. LeavesFive.com is owned and operated by Jupiter Data Management. Address and phone number is available at:
http://whois.domaintools.com/leavesfive.com

They make money (commission on a CPA or CPS basis) for promoting offers provided by others. They are an affiliate.

Legal Stuff
The actual spammer might be somebody working for them, but that does not make legally a difference. The “from address” jeannine AT leavesfive DOT com suggests that it is them, directly, sending the bulk emails.

They are the ones that are responsible for the email and the ones that need to do the explaining where they got the recipients email from. I recommended to double check old emails to verify that the email was never used to opt-in to offers from that company (maybe via another website) and for opt-ins via any property owned by LeadGen Media. It might have been a sweepstake or free offer.

If that is the case or possible (theoretically), the only appropriate action is to demand from those two companies the removal of the email address from their Databases (opt-out).

Theoretical Scenario
Note: This is completely hypothetical and I am not claiming by any means that the involved companies did anything like what I am going to explain. It is only used as a practical example to illustrate possible options to the readers.

If the email was never used for anything remotely like that, further legal steps are a viable option.

You might be eligible to be paid for damages caused by their actions. It could also cause much more severe legal issues for the involved company (specifically Jupiter Data Management). They are located in the United States and are required to comply with the CAN-SPAM act of 2003.

Disclaimer
I am not a lawyer and suggest contacting a lawyer for advice, if you decide to take legal actions because of this. I finished the emails with some technical details about the domains, links involved, redirections and affiliate ids.

I am not sure, but I believe that the lack of a working opt-out mechanism is already a violation of the CAN:SPAM act. The ways, how the affiliate site is setup, the details of the offer link in the email and the performed redirections invoked are not helping to improve the way you could look at the affiliate and its promotional methods. Quite the contrary: it does four redirects for the link used in the email and the homepage of the affiliate site redirects 2 times to a property of LeadGen Media via affiliate link. Mhh.

Conclusion and a piece of advice
I would not consider the inclusion of this in an affiliate marketing best practices guide.

This is an example of what could come with the high volume produced by lead generation services and affiliates. If considerable amounts of money are to be made, you can be sure that not so clean partners to absolute crooks will be into the game as well. Things like this are hard to impossible to monitor, but what you can monitor are signals like weird sounding customer complaints.

If they start to come in, then it is time to start digging and have a closer look at individual partners.

Cheers!

Carsten Cumbrowski

About Carsten Cumbrowski

Internet Marketer, Entrepreneur and Blogger. To learn more about me and what I am doing, visit my website and check out the “about” section.

Twitter: ccumbrowski

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