What’s With These Fake Lawyer Blogs and Twitter Accounts?

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.

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  • Michael Prywes
    • Bob Ambrogi

      Fascinating.

      • Michael Prywes

        Bob, it is absolutely fascinating. It continues to this day–LifeHack does not respond to me.The articles are scraped by other blogs, and I often get shoutouts for articles I don’t write. A few times people complained to me about content of certain articles, especially when they are about mental health. As far as I can tell, this is part of a grand data mining/artificial intelligence/machine learning experiment. But, then again, it may be part of a “click farm” in Bangalore or Manila, as was portrayed on the show “Silicon Valley.” So far, no real harm has come to me yet.

  • Andy Cabasso

    You’re being catfished, Bob!

  • Ed Clinton

    The people in the photos are too good looking to be in the legal profession.

    • Bob Ambrogi

      Reason enough to be suspicious!

  • Carl DeLuca

    Here’s a twist. I recently have been contacted by someone who asked if they could publish a guest blog on the Alphalegal Directory. The emails I received from this person were not quite right. There were little syntax and grammatical mistakes, not on the order of the Nigerian scam letters, but still enough to raise some red flags.

    I asked the writer which firm she was from and to submit the article, a head shot and bio and I would let her know. She sent me a link to the firm and the other things I requested. The firm website makes no mention of her and the article was fine, but still somehow “off.” The head shot was of a beautiful, young woman, which supports Ed Clinton’s theory. The article contained a link back to said law firm with no apparent malicious code. I cannot figure out what the scam is, but my gut tells me it is not legit. It does not help that the law firm never contacted me back (the subject of a future blog, “If you publish a website, respond to submissions from your contact form!” perhaps?)

    I will let you know if/when I figure this out. (Btw we tweet your blogs regularly and I can assure you we are real. Note, the unimpressive head shot.)

    http://www.alphalegal.com

    • Bob Ambrogi

      She probably works for an SEO company trying to build links to the law firm’s site. Let me know if you find out more.

  • Timothy B. Corcoran

    I also see when people link to my blog, and while I haven’t run across what you describe, I have no reason to doubt that it could happen, or perhaps is happening. But I don’t know that it causes me harm, so I’m perplexed as to the intent. However, I regularly run across something I wrote embedded into someone else’s blog. Most attribute the quote to me and provide a link, but quite a few provide no attribution except for a link to my blog. I guess they feel that technically they’re providing attribution, but they don’t want to go out of their way to let a reader know that my words aren’t their words. Periodically I’ll find entire articles of mine essentially “stolen” and presented as someone else’s work. I guess I should pursue these and demand removal or at least proper attribution, but I don’t have that kind of time. Notwithstanding the obvious error of outright theft or plagiarism, I guess if someone else feels they can boost their traffic by linking to me, and their efforts cause me no harm, I’m not sure that I should care all that much.

    • Bob Ambrogi

      Tim, I feel your pain on that issue. I frequently find my stuff all over the interwebs, sometimes attributed, sometimes not. I’ve even seen reputable legal writers present material stolen from me as their own work, with absolutely no rewriting. But my concern about these fake-lawyer sites is that they could somehow potentially harm or deceive members of the public.

  • Maria

    Two words: Russian hackers.

    • Bob Ambrogi

      My thought exactly.

  • While I haven’t looked at the sites you describe, this sounds a lot like a “private blog network” (PBN), a family of sites that is built to direct links back to a primary site, and to cause Google’s algorithm to believe that the primary site is generating organic links.

    A lot of grey hat and black hat search engine optimization/marketing (SEO/SEM) is performed by companies that law firms hire without due diligence, and they use dubious, sometimes worthless techniques to build links to a law firm site. When a SEO firm creates and uses a PBN to direct links to a client site, those links will disappear the moment the client discontinues its contract. If the network has not been detected and rendered valueless by Google, links will be added for another client.

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