I recently received an email from "Alexa Gunn" (email@example.com; not her real name, I'm sure), telling me that I had broken links on my pages (which is true; between migrating the site and organizing my Google Drive, almost every link for my own materials is broken right now). When I asked which links she was interested in, she gave me the link to this blog, which happens to be working just fine. And then she asked me to post links to two organizations that she had volunteered with.
A few things to note.
1) Email address domain is https://student-email.org/. It says it was created in partnerships with Hofstra University and appears to let students sign up for a Google Apps for Education email address. But I strongly suspect that Hofstra U's name is being used without permission, and when I tried to sign up for an email address using a .edu email address, nothing happened. (I've tweeted all parties involved with this marketing scheme to inform that I suspect their names are being used without permission.)
2) Once again, I'm not including links to the site in question, because I don't want to generate traffic for it. But in this case, the suggested resources had nothing to do with language learning, and were ostensibly focused on tobacco cessation. "Alexa" asked me to link to the American Lung Association (which I would happily do on my resources page if my site were dedicated to tobacco cessation, but instead I'll do it here), and to another site which purportedly was about smoking cessation. But upon clicking around, it became obvious that the site was a marketing tool for the e-cigarette industry. Although "Alexa" indicated in her email that the American Lung Association supports the site in question, in reality, the ALA has issued a statement questioning the unproven claims of success for tobacco cessation by using e-cigs. Excerpt:
The American Lung Association is concerned about the potential health consequences of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), as well as the unproven claims that they can be used to help smokers quit. Presently there is no government oversight of these products. Absent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation, there is no way for the public health and medical community or consumers to know what chemicals are contained in e-cigarettes (also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems or ENDS) or what the short- and long-term health implications might be.
The American Lung Association is troubled about unproven claims that e-cigarettes can be used to help smokers quit. The FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has not approved any e-cigarette as a safe and effective method to help smokers quit. When smokers are ready to quit, they should call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or talk with their doctors about using one of the seven FDA-approved medications proven to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit.
The takeaway: this marketing tactic asked me to link to both a legitimate site, and a fake smoking cessation site, probably hoping that I would assume that the unknown one was legitimate since they asked me to link to a reputable site (and apparently hoping that I wouldn't notice that neither one had anything to do with learning languages).
So, "Alexa", marketing firm, and e-cig industry, here's my own message: If you want to quit smoking, find resources at the American Lung Association. Changing one bad habit for a different one doesn't benefit you AT ALL, and the e-cig industry right now is entirely unregulated, meaning that there are no controls over what goes in e-cigs, or oversight to ensure that the actual ingredients match the description you've been given.
Thanks to all that are updating the comments with names & email addresses! That makes it easier for others to find in a Google search when they're trying to find out more info about the junk marketers.
I received another one this week from Amy Creighton (firstname.lastname@example.org) from the domain scholaremail.org. I replied to see what the product was, and sure enough, it is also e-cigarettes. As always, all links have been deleted to avoid generating traffic for these sites.