I use this blog as a soap box to preach (ahem... to talk :-) about subjects that interest me.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Probably not a scam...

A few days ago, I published in this blog my second article about email scams. Then, just yesterday, I received the following email:

At first sight, it looks reasonable. A few years ago I wrote a book titled Beginning JSP, JSF, and Tomcat Web Development http://zambon.com.au/non_fiction/books_and_manuals/jsp_jsf_tomcat/, and Udemy does offer courses online at udemy.com http://www.udemy.com/

But this email remain suspicious, because the links don't point to the URLs they claim to be pointing to: if you hover with the cursor over the link Udemy.com at the beginning of the message, you see that it actually points to go.toutapp.com/vmqy0979d (as shown in the snapshot). The link in the middle of the message points to another go.toutapp.com page: 97rma91x6. The two links apparently pointing to two different press releases, actually point to the same page 1edz9gz8n, and the link to www.udemy.com points to fc7tpmwsj.

Now, all this could be perfectly legitimate, as toutapp.com http://toutapp.com exists and provides services to track access to websites. Also, the pages mentioned in the email exist.

This might just be a "good old-fashion" junk mail, like all unsolicited messages that offer services or products. But this hiding of URLs behind links that claim to point to other pages is in itself suspicious, and I strongly recommend never to follow them. I don't.


  1. Heyo! So I'm being a slight stalker here, for which I apologize in advance :) But alas - I'm the community manager at Udemy, and I promise we're not a scam, no fingers crossed. The whole ToutApp thing is, like you said, something we use to check the efficacy of our email campaigns...which we see now may look fishy to the trained eye. But we're most certainly not trying to trick you - we genuinely would love for you to teach a course with us...

    Or, if you'd prefer, this is simply "good old fashioned junk mail" :)

    With warm regards,
    Kristina Bjoran
    CMg @ Udemy

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi there!

    I'm the Founder here at ToutApp and thought I'd chime in here as well. First of all, my sincerest apologies that our linking method caused any sort of confusion.

    The linking method we use in the emails is by no means meant to be scammy and even after processing nearly over a half a million emails in our company's short history, we haven't heard of any issues with them.

    The best way to think of this is a simple URL shortner (like Bit.ly, or Twitter's own t.co) -- they shorten the URLs, send it through the servers so that we can get valuable insights into how our customers can write better emails to serve you better.

    We're working hard to make sure we provide an excellent experience for both our customers and the people they email to grow their business and we'll take your feedback to heart and see what we can do to make the links more transparent.

    I'm happy to talk about this further, feel free to email me directly: tk at toutapp.

    ToutApp, Inc.

  4. Well, now it is my turn to apologise!

    As I said, I didn't really think it was a scam. But I [once more] wanted to warn the readers that one of the easiest ways to uncover scams is to investigate the links and see whether they are legitimate.

    Perhaps I should also state, in all fairness, that "good old-fashioned" junk mails rely on volume to catch the tail of the distribution. That is, those few people who respond to them. Searching for possible partners and contacting them (as opposed to buying millions of addresses) is a much more legitimate way to start business relationships. Perhaps one could say that "there is junk and junk!"