Several times a day, I get messages asking something like: “How much do you charge for guest articles on Zero2Billions?” People try to get inbound links from Zero2Billions for SEO reasons. The theory is: Links from Zero2Billions give your site credence in Google’s eyes, so it’s worth doing. But is that really what’s going on here?
I knew I should ignore this, after a few hundred of them, but then I received a message from someone who had paid someone on Fiverr, a site for freelancers, for a link on Zero2Billions. He had been conned and came to me to ask when I would publish the article. I’m confused; apparently, someone has used my name as a contact at Zero2Billions. Needless to say, I told him I couldn’t help it and took it with Fiverr.
So I was wondering what would happen if I tried to buy an article on Zero2Billions.
A search on Fiverr shows dozens of people offering articles on this site. I got involved with a few of them and paid for them. I do this using my real full name too, so there’s no confusion about who’s asking.
Fiverr cleans the house
Scammers are out in full force. “I have conveyed this to my contact. It will take 16 days to publish, but please release the payment now, and I guarantee it will be published,” someone replied. Asking for funds to be disbursed before the end result is fraud.
“Funds remain in ‘pending’ status for a 14 day clearing period,” Fiverr explained on its website. “This timeline is for financial processing and buyer satisfaction guarantee.” In other words, when a seller tells you you have to wait 16 days, they’re not waiting for their insider contact to hit “issue”, they’re waiting for the funds to disburse.
“This service should never have entered our platform. Thanks for letting us know about this, because we can update our tools to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We take this very seriously, and the services you mentioned have been removed,” a Fiverr spokesperson told me. “We’ve actually seen some of these services make it past our devices because bad actors are trying to trick the system, but the team is proactively tracking and adapting the techniques used in every way possible. When found, they were immediately taken down, and the seller was blocked. We are constantly updating our algorithms and automated tools to actively catch, remove and block these services before they reach the market.”
Fiverr really cleans up its act; today, three weeks after I spoke to the Fiverr team, a search for “Zero2Billions” returned no results. However, that doesn’t mean the problem is solved; scammers have recently moved to a different target and are no longer promising articles on Zero2Billions.
The scammers I spoke to are willing to do anything to keep their scam alive. Some create fake websites, saying they have submitted the work. When I pointed out that a link to a site that didn’t have techcrunch.com in the URL wasn’t an article directly on Zero2Billions, I received several bogus arguments in return. Some post screenshots of “published” articles on Zero2Billions. The Photoshop work isn’t great, and of course the article can’t be found anywhere on this site. When challenged about it, I was told I didn’t know how to use Google. They got cagy when I suggested they send me the link.
One Fiverr scammer said his contact was Jagmeet — one of my respected colleagues, who would never do something as stupid as accept money for links on Zero2Billions. I checked with Jagmeet and was told that, yes, of course he didn’t do that. Then I received a message from “Jagmeet” on Telegram:
Of course, that’s a trick question; I have never met Jagmeet in person but the real Jagmeet would know that. This Fiverr scammer (“Kurt Dylan,” if you are reading this – Hi!) is so incompetent.
When Fiverr finally closed his account, after Dylan had tried to submit his work half a dozen times, and after I sent a screenshot to Fiverr, I received a final message from my new friend.
So who is running this scam?
One of the scammers who spoke to me told me he is a 23 year old male living in Lagos, Nigeria. He didn’t have a job, and he explained that he and a number of his friends were trying to get people to pay money for this interaction. However, it became clear that it was simpler than some wolf hustler trying to make a quick buck; it turns out he didn’t really know that it’s impossible for someone to publish an article on Zero2Billions like this.
He was told by others what to say and how to run this scam, across multiple platforms. I never had firm confirmation of what was going on, but I had the very clear impression that this was a form of organized crime. Indeed, he explained that when he was paid, he would have to pay two-thirds of his earnings to a third party.
This is a recurring theme of some scammers. They told me they had to pay someone money, and that I had to pay them fast, so they wouldn’t get in trouble. When questioned, they weren’t clear on who this “someone” was, but it was unreasonable to assume that a number of these con artists were being run by the same people who were the masterminds behind the operation.
“We have a Trust and Safety Team working around the clock to quickly respond to reports of inappropriate content as well as implement manual searches on the site,” said a Fiverr spokesperson. “Building trust in our platform continues to be a priority for Fiverr.”