I have five very loyal followers of this blog. Three are lawyers, one is a legal secretary and one is a legal assistant. They reblog everything I post onto their blogs and Tweet some of what I post on their Twitter feeds. From what I see, they are equally loyal followers of other legal blogs, such as Above the Law.
The problem is, they appear not to be real. And I am wondering why someone is going to the trouble of maintaining these fake accounts. I assume it has something to do with gaming Google or driving SEO. But I am at a loss to understand it and hope someone smarter than me will explain it.
Most troubling about it is that there are fake lawyer blogs and social media accounts operating openly on the web. Could consumers be deceived by these accounts? I think so. Could they be harmed? I’m not sure. It depends on why these accounts exist.
Some of the paths from these accounts lead to a Southern California personal injury firm. But I have no idea whether the firm is involved in the scheme of fake sites or simply a pawn in it.
Here is how I came across them. When other blogs link to my blog posts, WordPress, my blog publishing platform, tells me that. Lately, these five separate blogs have all started reposting everything I post. They always do it in unison, within a minute or two of each other. Their blogs clearly were all created by the same person or persons, using essentially the same page layout and nearly identical list of links to their other supposed social media accounts.
One of the blogs, for example, purports to be that of a lawyer named Jake Gill. His blog describes him as a public defender, although it doesn’t say where. The blog also lists a variety of personal links, such as to a Twitter account, a Tumblr account and a YouTube channel. The Twitter account lists his location as Braselton, Ga.
As far as I can determine, there is no lawyer named Jake Gill registered to practice in Georgia. There is a Jacob Gill in Oregon who goes by Jake, but his picture and profile do not match this Jake Gill.
In fact, when I ran the supposed Georgia Jake Gill’s photo through Google image search. it identically matched the profile photo of an endodontist in Arizona named John Smith. (Although, from the endodontist’s profile, I found myself wondering if even he is a real person.)
Below, the image to the left is the supposed Georgia lawyer Jake Gill. The image to the right is the Arizona endodontist John Smith.
Another of these blogs belongs to a supposed lawyer named Joseph Quinn. His blog describes him as a disability attorney. Like Gill’s, his blog does not list a location, but it includes the same list of personal links, inlcuding to a Twitter account that lists his location as Philadelphia.
I searched the lawyer registry of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and found no Joseph Quinn active in Philadelphia. There is a Joseph Quinn listed for Philadelphia, but he is noted as deceased.
I ran Joseph Quinn’s photo through Google image search and what do you think I found? A match on a personals site for someone named lonelykelvin1, described as a 53-year-old man in Los Angeles. Below to the left is the supposed lawyer Joseph Quinn and to the right is lonelykelvin1 from L.A.
I could go through and tell you similar information about my other fake followers. There is another supposed lawyer. A fourth is supposedly a legal office assistant in Sugar Land, Tex. The fifth is supposedly a legal secretary somewhere.
That fifth fake person, Gladys Barton, is the one that leads to the California law firm. Interestingly, her blog and Twitter profiles do not match. Her blog says:
I perform secretarial duties using legal terminology, procedures, and documents. Prepare legal papers and correspondence, such as summonses, complaints, motions, and subpoenas. Also assist with legal research.
But her Twitter profile, which puts her location as Atlanta, Ga., says:
Conduct retail activities of businesses operating exclusively online is what I do.
And her Twitter profile points not to her own blog, but to the blog of the Rawa Law Group, a PI and workers’ comp firm in Chino, Calif. In addition, her YouTube page identifies her as a “Rawa Law Group Blogger.”
And by now it won’t surprise you to learn that the picture of Gladys Barton has matches in Google image search on dozens of different web pages, from a grants and contracts administrator at the Duke Social Science Research Institute to a Drupal training page to a beef retailer to a WordPress theme dummy page to the Turkish Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
Below is the supposed legal secretary to the left and the Drupal-page version on the right.
As I said at the outset, I have no way of knowing whether the Rawa Law Group is involved in these fake sites or merely a pawn of them.
It is troubling, however, to realize that there are fake lawyer blogs and Twitter accounts out there that some innocent person could take as real.
If anyone can educate me on why this is being done and by whom, I’d love to know more.