If you receive an email in german language from Google’s Search Quality team (email@example.com) telling your site was banned by Google for 30 days please don’t worry. That’s faked. Legit (similar phrased) emails must come from a google.com email address. If the hoax-email comes with an attachment, don’t save or open the attached file (zipped google_webmastertools.exe)!
Here is the email:
Entfernung Ihrer Webseite [domain] aus dem Google Index
The email looks pretty authentic, its style and wording are somewhat Google-ish. I speak German, hence I’m sure that gazillions of innocent Webmasters and site owners buy it and panic. Unfortunately most filters let the zipped attachment (google_webmastertools.exe) pass thru. I didn’t open it myself and I bet it’s not a bright idea to try it.
Google told me that Stefanie from the real Search Quality team over in Dublin will soon post a warning on the german blog.
Here is an original penalty warning in german language:
Entfernung Ihrer Webseite aus dem Google IndexThese emails are sent from firstname.lastname@example.org without attachments.
Update 05/10/2007: Here is Google’s official statement (in german language) and the english version by Vanessa. The attached .exe is a joke, it executes
cmd.exe c\:clear complete harddisc (Hoax.BAT.Small.a).
Update 05/11/2007: Because these emails are easy to mistake for authentic ones from the Search Quality team, Google temporarily discontinued sending them as they work on ways to provide more secure communication mechanisms. This update reads as if Google has stopped to send out penalty notification emails in all languages: “… as we’ve temporarily stopped sending emails about guidelines violations, you can safely assume that any email you receive isn’t from us. Note that we do provide information about some violations in webmaster tools.”.
Update 06/19/2007: German forums and blogs report another flood of these faked emails, and this post got tons of visits from searches for quotes from the email quoted above. Calm down, don’t panic: Google still doesn’t send out penalty notifications via email (in Deutsch). So please ignore the spam and refer to the diagnostics tab in your Webmaster Central account when you assume a penalty.
Update 07/18/2007: Google released the message center where site owners can poll for penalty notifications. They are still working on a safe solution for emails. Probably ‘-950/-30/-n penalties’ won’t get announced any time soon.
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