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flippa-scams-uncovered

Flippa Scams – What You Should Know When Buying a Website

In my last post I talked about 3 ways you can setup your first website. In the 3rd example I talk about buying pre-owned websites on Flippa that are established with existing traffic and revenue. I really like this method because it makes it easy to plug-right-into a website that can immediately make money online. At least that’s the idea.

The hardest part about purchasing a website on Flippa, especially for newbies and first timers, is knowing how to spot and avoid the mine-field of scams. I briefly hit on this subject in my last post, but after thinking about it, I realized the subject needed a more detailed article exposing the various types of false claims & scams abundantly found on Flippa.com.

In my opinion at least 85% of the websites for sale on flippa are complete crap & worthless, full of false claims or misleading. It’s just the nature of the product. That being said, among the remaining 15%, some real gems can be found, if you know what to look for, or even more importantly, if you know what to avoid.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really love Flippa and consider it an amazing resource. I actually scan it every week, because you never know when an amazing opportunity might show up. I have personally purchased multiple websites on Flippa and have even uncovered some unscrupulous practices with some of the sites that I bought.

Types of Websites for sale on Flippa

Ok lets jump right into it. Basically there are 3 types of webistes that sell on Flippa. Within each of these 3 categories are things to be aware of.

Domain names This is referring to the selling of just the name, no content or pages. There are 3 types of domain-names most commonly for sale on Flippa.

  1.  Aged domains: Aged names are considered more valuable since it is believed that whatever past authority they had, to a degree will carry over to a new website as well as any preexisting back-links.
  2. Exact match domain: These are names that exactly match a Google search query that receive monthly traffic according to the Google key-word tool. Not too long ago it was well known that exact match domain-names were much easier to rank than a domain without the key-words in it. Post penguin update, exact match domains now carry considerable less authority weight, however many people still believe they have built in automatic value.
  3. Short Domains: Most Short catchy & short key-word .com names have already been registered, so its also common to find these types for sale on Flippa, many times with ridiculous price tags.

Things to be aware of when buying a pre-owned domain name:

  • Google Banned or black-listed domain-names: If a domain-name is banned you don’t want to have anything to do with it. No matter how catchy, short or how old the domain-name is, if it was banned it is worthless. Basically this means it wont be indexed by Google, and will have zero organic traffic. You can use this free tool to check if a domain is banned iwebtool.com/google_banned
  • Penalized or sandboxed domain-names: A domain name that was once well ranked but fell out of grace with Google. A penalized domain-name will be difficult to rank.
  • Names that violate trademarks: Domain-names with popular trademark keywords in them. Scammers know that these can many times rank well relatively fast under the radar, then sell them quickly with traffic. Problem is they can be shut down at anytime and even be accompanied by a lawsuit.
  • Old domain-name with new website: One method commonly used amongst domain sellers is to purchase domain-names that have recently expired (The previous owner may have just let it go or shut down their site and stopped paying the annual registration. After a certain grace period they become up for grabs). Sometimes these expired names will have a decent page-rank based on the previous website. The new owner will slap a quick new website together with the aged domain-name then sell it on Flippa with the high PR before the page rankings are updated, and drop-back to zero. Page Rank is only updated a few times a year. If there is any history on the domain-name, you can usually dig it up by searching the domain in Google and looking for any past references to it.

Cloned sites & autoblogs – These are probably the majority of the sites you will find for sale on Flippa. A clone site is basically an exact copy of a previously desinged website, but with a different domain-name and maybe slightly different look, but for the most part a clone. They use a push button script to clone the site then change the url and logo. These are very common with niche sites and so called web businesses in box sites(common examples include websites that sell fake, facebook likes, twitter followers, and internet traffic).

Flippa sellers are turning these clones out by the hundreds every month. They usually look impressively designed and flashy. There is nothing wrong with these types of sites, and I actually think it can be a great way to start a new website, however you should know there may be hundreds or even thousands just like it. Be prepared to edit existing content or create new content all together as well as build traffic and market the site from scratch.

You can usually tell these because they will have recently registered domain-names with less then 3 months online and will primarily advertise the POTENTIAL EARNINGS or POTENTIAL TRAFFIC.

An auto-blog is basically the same cloned principle but a website with a built in script that scrapes content from various locations on the web then re-posts it on the blog. The idea sounds awesome, you just set it up and leave it on autopilot. I have personally experimented with these, and can say from my experience they straight SUCK. Google hates automated duplicate content and does everything in their power to stomp it out.

Pre-owned websites – Existing or aged websites are currently the only type of websites that interest me on Flippa. When I do a search on Flippa I filter and only look at websites that have at least 1 year minimum online.

Finding an established website with existing traffic and revenue can save you years of time that it might take to develop a website from scratch. A great method to get a jump start on a business idea is to find a preexisting website that resembles your subject & business idea, then remodel it. There are some great opportunities that show up here and there on Flippa, you just need to know how to sift through the 80%-90% of crap to find them.

Things to be aware of when purchasing a niche, clone or pre-owned website.

  • Everything from buying a pre-owned domain: Applies to niche, clone and pre-owned websites
  • Duplicate content: The bottom line is, that if you acquire a website with all duplicate content you will never rank well in the search engines. Before you buy a site or articles you can double check for duplicate content here for FREE http://www.copyscape.com/
  • Fake Traffic: Flippa has a feature called verified Google Analytics. The problem is the only thing it verifies is that it is a true unaltered screen-shot of your account. What this doesn’t tell you, is where the traffic is coming from. It is very easy to buy fake traffic in the form of isp bots. There are even companies that sell fake manual traffic for cheap. They can randomize things like origin, key-words & duration.
  • This is a common practice with sites that are less then 6 months old. The scammer will build a website, build fake traffic for 2-4 months then list it for sale. They will be loaded with all kinds of bullshit excuses why they need to sell or cant setup a payment solution on the site; which is their loss but your gain. The solution to this is to request they share their Google analytics(read only) with you. This way you can check details like traffic origin, key-words used, bounce rate, landing pages, number of pages visited, exit pages, referrals, etc. If a website only has a couple months of analytical history or the seller refuses to share Analytics, PROCEED WITH EXREME CAUTION.
  • Fake revenue: Showing revenue Is considered the most important indicator of value, so as you can imagine faking or lying about a websites revenue is very popular amongst Flippa scammers. Flippa has a feature called “verified Google adsense”, so you know an adsense screen-shot is legit. however usually when a site is claiming a significant income the majority income will be from other revenue sources such as affiliate accounts, Paypal processing, or credit card payment gateways.
    The truth is that it can be very difficult to 100% verify a websites true revenue, since there are so many ways to lie about it, such as photoshoping a screen-shots, showing income statements from something else but claiming it’s from the website. If the site is only showing a few months or less of revenue assume there is some form of trickery going on.
  • Deliberately excluding costs: These include, but are not limited to, traffic generating Pay-per-click Adword costs, banner & text advertising, and paid forum & directory listings. Many of these can be discovered by viewing their Google Analyitcs – traffic sources – referrals.
  • Tampered or malicious code: An example of this that I uncovered was a seller who was selling niche websites with all the Adsense, amazon, and other affiliate ads and wigets in place using wordpress plugins. He would sell the site with instructions on how to swap out your Adsnese and affiliate ID’s. What he did not disclose, was that the PHP code had been altered in the plugins to force sharing a percentage of all commissions earned, with his own ID’s.
  • New seller: Beware of new sellers with no ratings/reviews selling a high priced website.
  • If it sounds to good & cheap to be true it probably is: A website that claims a monthly revenue of $1500 yet the reserve is set at $1000 and the buy- it-now is set at $2500 should raise a red flag.

 Conclusion

Buying and selling websites is becoming big business. The industry is still in its infancy. Unlike a brick and mortar business websites can be set up in a flash for almost no cost, and because of the purley digital nature, scammers are an apparent problem.

My philosophy: When looking at purchasing a website on flippa, assume that every listing is hiding something or misleading. It’s our job as the buyer to find out what. Do your due diligence and if your gut is telling you something is off, just walk.

If you found this article helpful please hit the like button bellow.


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28 Comments

  1. Ophelie

    08.22.2012

    Reply

    Hi Moe — Ophelie from Flippa here. That’s a great overview of buying on Flippa, and the precautions that should be taken.

    Your point on Analytics is a good one. Google used to send us a report that included geographical location of traffic sources, which was useful in detecting fake traffic.

    Website owners can now generate that report and send it directly to potential buyers, or to their listing as a Verified Analytics attachment. It’s always worth asking for a few specific reports, especially for large purchases.

    • Moe

      08.22.2012

      Reply

      Thanks Ophelie. Its an honor to be contacted directly from the source. Thanks for the tip. I am currently watching a Flippa website for sale , so i will be sure to ask the seller for some detailed reports like that.

    • Sarfraj2

      01.15.2013

      Reply

      Hi Ophelie.

      its nice to see the well explained about flippa & buying guidelines. Thanks you

  2. sandra

    09.17.2012

    Reply

    This article was extremely helpful. I have been checking flippa for some time as I want to buy a website. I never knew there are so many ways of being cheated! Now, I know what to check before spending my money.

    • David

      03.02.2013

      Reply

      Hi Moe, and no I didn’t plan on leaving a comment for one of your viewers, however I do have numerous websites, and if I have one this young lady would be interested in we could talk about it.

      I’m not about cheating anyone, and I know how the Flippa dance works, as I just recently lost about $120 there just recently myself.

      I simply withdrew my site from the auction and took the loss because the scammers were trying there best to get my personal info.

      Needless to say they didn’t make out very well, but still I was angry about it.

      I’m actually glad I didn’t sell my site that day anyway because it’s still generating about $600 bucks monthly and has been for about 9 months now.

      Take care Moe, stay in shape young man!
      David

      P.S. I’m sorry, great article Moe, thanks!

      • Moe

        03.06.2013

        Reply

        I still stand by Flippa being a great resource, but you definitely have to stay sharp when you decide to pull the trigger

  3. Ethan

    09.17.2012

    Reply

    Earning money online has become very easy. People are cloning sites or using autopilots to spin contents. They lure people to make huge bucks by buying these cloned sites. It is essential that we are aware of such practice and can stay away from them.

  4. Jeff

    09.17.2012

    Reply

    Earning money online has become very easy. People are cloning sites or using autopilots to spin contents. They lure people to make huge bucks by buying these cloned sites. It is essential that we are aware of such practice and can stay away from them.

  5. Monique

    12.15.2012

    Reply

    I just bought a website on Flippa that I paid a couple of thousands because it had a great monthly revenue and a lot unique visitors.

    Turns out, it has NO VISITORS AT ALL, it is either me or visitors from the same ip address(fake generated visitors).

    I filed a claim with Flippa (waiting 5 days), if it is not resolved, then I will file a claim with the ACCC in Australia.

    Lesson learned, I will never be fooled by fake revenue and visitors again.

    • Moe

      12.15.2012

      Reply

      Sorry to hear about that Monique. There can definitely be a learning curve on spotting scams and choosing the right site to buy, however when you hit a gem it will pay off.

      • Monique

        12.29.2012

        Reply

        It turns out that I have no option than to suck up my loss. Flippa cannot do anything. The seller ran for the hills. I am left with a site that has 0 revenue and 0 visitors. I am trying to re-sale it at 1/3 my cost but with the honest truth about the visitors and revenues. I will never buy from Flippa again.

  6. NextB

    12.24.2012

    Reply

    Flippa will get what you deserve for siding with scammers and helping them commit fraud. Mine has been reported to the FBI and this will be added. Thanks Flippa for helping them rip me off and siding with them. Flippa’s company is a joke and makes me think I need to get into this industry since I can see how quick the company is to crap on the buyers. NO wonder they have been around so long and I just found out about them 6 months. It’s time to show them how to run a company.

    I had to stop buying sites to defend myself from the hackers now attacking everything I had in place and all my current sites. I have been busy working to help get them arrested for stealing money from me. How much did I spend with Flippa? $20,000 and almost all were a scam selling a site with 0 traffic and no money to be generated and then hacking the servers that the sites are moved too.

    I cant type right now because I am shaking because how upset I am because I just found out that my account was suspended and no I didn’t want to keep buying but I cant believe my account was suspended.

    (I don’t know if they know but this is illegal and if this is all Flippa has to offer then expect them be out of business sometime soon.)

    Oh wait, maybe its Flippa. I just REALIZED that all the server info was posted on Flippa meaning it must be Flippa doing the hacking, logging in and stealing from the buyers and crapping on both parties. This would make sense why they would suspend a buyer who is making them money and did nothing wrong.

    I am glad they suspended me because I didn’t want to lose any more money and I would have kept spending as I was looking to buy a LARGE SITE ($500k) and WANTED to test the market with a few small buys and got robbed on all of them!!!

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    • Moe

      12.24.2012

      Reply

      I am sorry to hear about your bad experience. Getting taken for 20 Grand is a lot to swallow. When i am thinking about purchasing a site from Flippa, I don’t leave the trust to their built in systems or indicators,because there are so many scams out there. I request certain things from the buyer, and if i sense they are trying to rush me, or are making excuses why they can’t provide certain stats, I simply walk. I Always use an escrow company.

      Well, if in the future you decided to look at buying sites again, i would be more then happy to take a look at any prospects and give you a second opinion.

      • May

        06.28.2013

        Reply

        I have interested in one of the sites in flippa. Could you give me a second opinion?

  7. Amili

    12.24.2012

    Reply

    I have gone through a guide ‘How to Cheat on Flippa to quickly sell your website’ and found this eBook is very good informative material for Buyers to be aware of irrespective of the title, it gives complete information how scammers do their stuff.

    • Moe

      12.24.2012

      Reply

      Thanks, i will check it out.

  8. Ayumi

    03.01.2013

    Reply

    Dear Moe

    I really like your website and have learned so much already. I am looking to buy a website on flippa and would love to utilize your skills and experience to help source out a legit site within my budget. I am willing to reward you for your efforts and time. Looking forward to hear from you.

    Kind regards,
    Ayumi

    • Moe

      03.06.2013

      Reply

      I would be glad to help, just let me know if you find anything of interest or have any questions. You can send a message via contact or even better private message me in the forum. Cheers!

  9. Adam Rush

    03.14.2013

    Reply

    Moe,
    I personally want to thank you for the e-book. The one thing that has drawn me to your site is the fact that you have given me wings to fly with a serious gold mine attached. The thing I’m most impressed about is you could have asked me for money for the book and all this informations that you have shared so freely. You have gotten the right idea which is to get a website up and running generating 200/month….and having at least 100 of course I can probably find a 100 topics to choose from.

    Again I just want to say thank you and keep up the good work. Without valuable information like this people like me who have been scammed in the past by online marketers and affiliates probably would not reenter. I’m not reentering based upon past beliefs but moving forward with a better and much more sound foundation which you have presented!

    Thanks,

    Adam Rush

    • Moe

      03.14.2013

      Reply

      We are glad you feel good about it, thanks for the nice comment. If you have any questions along your journey, join us in the forum, we have members with a lot of experience always willing to help. Good luck!

    • May

      06.28.2013

      Reply

      Are you be willing to share the book with me?

  10. Tony

    03.23.2013

    Reply

    Hi Moe,

    It’s always nice to see useful information like this to help those looking to buy a website on Flippa.com.

    Flippa.com is a great resource and I have no doubt that those buyers that take the time to do their due diligence will find many great opportunities there.

    Keep up the great work, Moe.

    Tony

  11. John

    04.21.2013

    Reply

    Great post, very insightful.

  12. Nepster Martin

    05.08.2013

    Reply

    Moe, Thanks for sharing such informative article. My point of view for buying website from Flippa is totally changed. This article will help the people who want to buy website from Flippa. I appreciate your great work of analyzing Flippa. I also want to add that there are also clones of Flippa, I suggest buyers, do not buy website from fake platforms.

    • Moe

      05.18.2013

      Reply

      What do you mean fake platforms?

  13. Frank

    05.17.2013

    Reply

    Moe, you mentioned a website making $1000 a month selling for $2500 being a red flag. I’m a newbie so my question is, what should I expect to pay for a website making $1000 a month?

    • Moe

      05.18.2013

      Reply

      12 to 36 times the monthly net. Without any information of the site, that’s is a generalized formula.

  14. Flippa buyer

    10.24.2013

    Reply

    I would also like to add that you need to beware of shill bidding where there is a bidder who works with the seller to bump up the price.

    You can easily spot the mole if you look at the bid increments and also the previous bids if the site has been relisted. If a bidder has bid for more sites for less sellers, watch out.

    Also, alexa rankings(proxies), website hits(via proxies), facebook likes etc can be brought over for a few dollars.

    Look at the site and see if you can add value in some way.

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