Beware of fancy infographics–spammers may be lurking behind them

Infographics are the latest trick for suckering you into signing up for spammy Web sites. Here's a story about one of them.

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Literally two minutes after I finished the last application, my phone rang. It was Southern New Hampshire University, calling to see if I had any questions about my application. I told her what I was doing and asked to be taken off her call list. Four minutes after that, the Florida Institute of Technology called me. While I was chatting with them, the University of Phoenix called. They proceeded to call me three times a day, every day, for the next week. They would probably still be calling me if I hadn’t told them to knock it off.

I also received other calls, as well as a dozen emails. Mind you, the site is upfront about the fact you’re agreeing to receive email and phone calls. Still, the tsunami of attention was staggering. Somebody really wanted me to sign up for online classes.

The worst part, though, is the fact these anonymous clowns have my contact info and no privacy policy to speak of. Lord only knows who else is going to be spamming me or what my information will be used for. (Fortunately, I used a fake name, spare email address and a Google Voice number that lets me prescreen my calls.)

I was beginning to understand why Google was looking askance at OnlineSchools.org. I did some Googling and discovered several other sites that had received identical oddly worded emails from the site. Most of those sites appear to have been offered “guest posts” by writers working for OnlineSchools.org, a common way to artificially boost SEO (for the record, I’ve never taken anyone up on one of those offers).

Before I knew it, I had been sucked into the murky and the morally dubious world of for-profit online universities, as well as the spammy telemarketers who feed them a steady diet of students.

Who’s behind OnlineSchools.org and what is the deal with online universities? More on that in part two of this series, which will appear later this week.

See also:

Part II: How much money are you really worth to that lead gen site? More than you think.

Part III: Online degrees with the greatest of sleaze

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