A little rant about fake medical charities and inbound links

One of the web sites I still maintain as a legacy project is for a forum of NHS clinicians and professionals working in the specialised field of maternal mental health. The nature of their work meant that the web site could not have any contact mechanisms, aside from a basic webadmin@ email address for legal compliance purposes. That address autoforwards to me.

I am very grateful it does, because it allows me to spit out my coffee at the crap that comes through for them on a weekly basis. This forum of professionals who really and truly have better things to do is constantly targed by for-profit faux charities and private health care businesses masquerading as legitimate charities or support resources.

I have even written “please note we do not accept external link requests” at the one place on the web site where the webadmin@ address is provided. They ignore it.

Worse than that, a look at analytics logs shows that many of the inbound links come from marketing firms’ CRM systems.

To be clear: these are not link requests from potential partners. This is sales and marketing, smugly and sickly disguised as support for mental health.

Take this email:

Hello,

My name is Paul and I assist people who suffer with addiction and mental health problems. I’ve set up a free and confidential helpline to assist people who suffer with these issues.  You can find my website here: (URL)

To help people find my website and benefit from what I offer, I would like to ask you if you could add a link from this page on your own website:

You already link to nice.org.uk from this page and that website is fairly similar to my own.   To save you time, I’ve even included the link text you can upload to

(Googlebait snippet removed)

I really do thank you for doing me this small but important favour. I know this will benefit those who need my help the most. I’ve also attached my website logo to this email. Feel free to upload this along with the above link.

Kind regards,
Paul Jones.
(Company and URL)

Paul is a very busy fellow, becuase he also sent this a week earlier:

Hello,

My name is Paul and I work for a London-based organisation that rehabilitates people who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction. You can read about us here: (URL) I have just completed a blog article about mental health issues affecting Londoners. When I was researching this article, I noticed you currently link to www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/pdfs/costs_of_perinatal_mh_summary.pdf from this page on your website: (url)

Is it possible for you to update (your url) to also link to my website? Ourselves and centreformentalhealth.org.uk cover many of the same issues, so it makes sense to also make people aware of (my URL) too. If this is possible, please insert the below link text into (your URL):

(Googlebait snippet removed)

I’ve also attached our website logo. Feel free to upload this along with the above link. I really appreciate your help. Let me know when done, and I can of course link back to (your url)

Many thanks,

Paul Jones
(Company and URL)

Now here’s the same Paul again, a fortnight before that, with a different group but a nearly identical logo to the first email. The name in the email was “Paul Clarke”, despite identifying himself as “Paul Jones”.

Hello, 

My name is Paul Jones.

I operate a free helpline for people suffering from eating disorders. This helpline is called (redacted). I started this helpline in 2011 following my own successful recovery.

Now that I have retired from life as property developer, I now dedicate my time to (redacted) providing free help and advice.

I was wondering if it’s possible for you to provide a ‘web link’ to (redacted) from this page on your website: (your url)

My website is somewhat similar to Royal College of Psychiatrists’s website. I noticed you currently link to Royal College of Psychiatrists’s website at this page on your website: (your URL)

Could I ask you also link to my website from this page?

Why link to my website? I feel your website visitors could benefit from my free advice. To ensure my advice is sound, I am fully audited by (a regulator of some sort.)

To add the link, simply insert the below:

(Googlebait snippet removed)

I’ve also attached my website logo for you to upload.

Let me know when this is done. I shall of course link back to (your URL) on website.

I sincerely look forward to your reply,

Paul Jones
(redacted)

So that’s Paul, of many surnames, private-for-profit faux medical organisations, and marketing money from property wealth. Or so he says.

Then there are the arse-kissers: perky cheerleaders trying to land free advertising for their for-profit, American-only health care services. So naturally, these geniuses target a site for Scottish NHS clinicians.

This first one is shilling a site set up by ambulance-chasing lawyers looking for people to sue.

And how about this fake charity, pretending to be everyone’s best friend while playing the cancer violin. The emails were sent from a Filipino IP.

Each of these marketing firms follow up their emails with impressively consistent cheerfulness.

Parasites are parasites, whatever story they spin or cards they play. If you run a web site similar to the one that I do, be very skeptical about the link requests coming through. Here’s the red flag to look out for: the fact that they’re asking at all.

About the author
Heather Burns is a digital law specialist in Glasgow, Scotland. She researches, writes, publishes, consults, and speaks extensively on internet laws and policies which affect the crafts of web design and development. She has been designing and developing web sites since 1997 and has been a professional web site designer since 2007. She holds a postgraduate certification in internet law and policy from the University of Strathclyde. Learn about hiring Heather to write, speak, or consult.