Buyers beware. A close friend just paid $1000 for a website on Flippa.com that was supposed to generate $250 of adsense revenue monthly. After the site was transferred, it became clear that seller was a thief. Traffic monitoring (after the fact, unfortunately) showed that the traffic was all coming from a click script. Click scripts are simple php or java scripts that can be used to fake traffic figures and click on Google Adsense ads. The more serious problem for my friend was that after he put his Google code into the site, Google banned his account for click fraud. An appeal is pending, but this could take months and cost him a lot of revenue from his other websites that use this Adsense account.
Flippa.com and their decision to allow scammy "Autoblog" websites has brought a proliferation fo such ilk to the popular auction website. Autoblogs are usually WordPress websites that run an add-in to steal content from other sources, potentially opening the owner of the site to possible copyright infringement claims.
Here's generally how the scam works: Seller registers some keywords as a domain that show high competition (something MedicalHeartSurguryDevices.net). They use a script to run up traffic and Adsense clicks for a few months. Adsense seems to lag behind on enforcement for a little while, allowing the seller to show great revenue from the site. The seller just posts regular server logs as "proof" of traffic, which say nothing about the actual source of the traffic and obscures the click script. Seller now offers this great money generating website that requires "zero work," usually on the pretext of needing quick money for another project or having to pay bills. Escrow.com payment is not accepted; they only allow Western Union for the payment. They will also refuse to put traffic monitoring on their website such as Statcounter, because it would reveal the scam.
The new owner pays top dollar for the site. When the dust settles, the new owner has a crappy website that generates no revenue and has no organic traffic, and when Google Adsense fraud enforcement finally catches up, it is the new owner who gets the blame.
I'm mad at Flippa because they have created a market place that provides inadquate protection for the buyer. They do not do enough to flag questionable website auctions, or to allow others to raise pertinent questions. Sellers can simply delete any challenging questions that might expose the scam.
Flippa gives "trust points" to sellers who register a Facebook or LinkedIn account. Yet, they don't show buyers the names of those accounts. Since any scammer anywhere can setup a Facebook or LinkedIn account in about 30 seconds, this has the affect of awarding fake trust to the scammer.
Flippa also tries to verify a phone number. Any scammer can use a disposable cell phone, a payphone or a free webs phone number like those offered through Google -- it means nothing.
What Flippa needs to do is to RED FLAG, or allow the community to red flag, any questionable auction where the seller:
1. Refuses to use Escrow.com
2. Refuses to setup a Statcounter.com account on the website that would provide public view into the traffic
3. Post the name of the Facebook or LinkedIn account
4. Require at least a 5 day auction for all websites (No more '24 hour sale')
5. Charge a big fee for every first time seller. This would deliver a penalty for scammers who sell crappy websites under new accounts every week
6. Make it much more difficult to qualify for a Flippa seller account.
If Flippa insists on being the marketplace where people get Ripped Off, then eventually the good sellers will leave. Bad sellers on Flippa drive down trust and therefor keep bidders at pay, resulting in lower prices for legitate sellers.
Wake up Flippa! You are about to step over the edge. Once your reputation is shit, you will never get it back.