I’ve recently seen quite a few authors discussing that their book has been found on various piracy sites. I wanted to write a blog explaining a little bit about the difference between piracy and clickbait, as often, these piracy sites are not entirely what they seem.
If you go to Google and type the word “free” as well as a book title and an author name, you’ll be presented with pages of websites, claiming they have a link to a free copy of the eBook. Naturally, many authors see this and take it at face value and assume that their book is being pirated.
Nine times out of ten, this not the case. Most of these sites are scams, their goal is to steal personal data, credit card information and provide advertising income.
Let me explain. Many of these sites automatically skim data from popular bookstores, taking book covers, synopsis and other information and automatically generating a new page to add to their website. With such vast catalogues, it’s not long before they catch the eye of search engines.
Once a visitor views that page, they are often presented with a lot of information to make the page, and the offer of a free eBook, seem plausible. There are often modules that recreate fake Facebook conversations, fake download numbers and the lure of fake reviews for authors to wonder about.
From here, the site may ask for one of two things. Your contact details in order to access the site, or to send you the eBook to your email. Or, more frequently these days, your credit card information to subscribe you to a library of unlimited eBooks for a low monthly cost. Both of these promises are nearly always bogus and are just elaborate methods to con data out of users.
Another cruel, yet ingenious scam, is the inclusion of a contact form asking authors to fill in their own details if they see their book on the site and would like it to be removed. Again, this is just a sophisticated way of harvesting your personal information.
To make this more of an issue, every time a user accesses the site, the higher up the search engine rankings that site appears. Causing the scam to be available to more people. It isn’t just wannabe pirates that get caught out by these tactics, it’s authors, publishers, well-meaning readers and more.
There is only one, safe way to deal with these clickbait sites and that is to ask the search engines to remove the link from their directory. The site will still be there, but with no search engines linking to it, it will soon stop receiving traffic. Some people think that Google has no interest in keeping a clean directory but trust me, they are very invested. As soon as people start to doubt the integrity of Google’s search results, their business will fail. It’s essential to them that they are not linking to clickbait sites.
To report a site, simply go to one of the links below and file a quick report:
To report a phishing site (phishing is a site trying to “fish” for information): https://safebrowsing.google.com/safebrowsing/report_phish/
To report a malware site (a site that seems to be trying to download malicious content, like a virus): https://safebrowsing.google.com/safebrowsing/report_badware/
For all other web spam: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/spamreportform
In summary, don’t ever download anything from these sites, even if they claim to be providing you with a free eBook. And never, ever give your private information to them either.