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I've noticed a pattern in StackOverflow and on another forum I participate on ... a user asks a question, always related to difficulties with corrupted PPT files, and within a short time, gets an answer with vague suggestions, some of them incorrect or irrelevant, and a link to the same site or forum page on the same site:

www.filerepairforum.com/forum/microsoft/microsoft-aa/powerpoint/242-%E2%80%8Bcan-t-open-the-file-ppt

Here are some examples:

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/26168678/an-error-occurs-when-opening-a-file-ppt

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/26164914/ppt-corrupted-fonts-changed-images-swopped-for-no-reason

If you follow the link to the suggested forum, there are links to other forums (Technet, for example) where there are links to commercial file recovery programs.

If you look at the examples on SO above, you'll find that both the OP and the response come from people who've joined SO only within the last few days.

And the OP in one case, ClariceVerreau is the one who PROVIDES links to "answers" on the filerepairforum.com site. IOW, it's pretty clear that this is a setup. Spammers and shills.

What's the suggested way of dealing with this?

  • flagging is always an option – John Dvorak Oct 4 '14 at 19:33
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    These are spam, just flag them. – Martijn Pieters Oct 4 '14 at 19:33
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    Thanks ... will do. – Steve Rindsberg Oct 4 '14 at 19:34
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    superuser.com/questions/819902/… <- same – Mat Oct 4 '14 at 19:39
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    @MartijnPieters more than spam, it's a sock puppet ring. – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Oct 4 '14 at 19:43
  • @Sha it is more spam than sock puppeting. – nicael Oct 4 '14 at 19:44
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    @nicael nope, common spam is a single account posting direct spam. This is case of a single spammer with many accounts, gaining reputation by accepting answers then upvoting each other. Such rings can cause big trouble, e.g. sticking questions in the Hot Network Questions sidebar thus gaining ultra high traffic to their website. – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Oct 4 '14 at 19:47
  • @Sha I mean that their purpose is to promote their site rather than get rep :) – nicael Oct 4 '14 at 19:48
  • @Mat Yes, just saw that and the other identical post on SuperUser and flagged both as spam too. Thanks. – Steve Rindsberg Oct 4 '14 at 19:50
  • spammers gone to the hell with their spam. !!. – nicael Oct 4 '14 at 19:55
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    Yup, it's part of a coordinated campaign to spam file recovery tools to Stack Overflow, Super User, Server Fault, and other sites on the network: meta.stackoverflow.com/a/269868/19679 . They've been getting progressively more creative with their spam, now seeding questions with one account and answering with another. The real problem is that reviewers are usually approving their spam now, so I have to sweep through every few days and remove the spam that made it through. – Brad Larson Oct 4 '14 at 21:34
  • For example, both of the spam examples you provide above received "No Action Needed" reviews on SO. Makes me shake my head and sigh. – Brad Larson Oct 4 '14 at 21:36
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    @Brad I'll give it to the spammer, it's hard to see any problem when looking on each answer apart. It does appear legit. – Shadow The Dragon Wizard Oct 4 '14 at 22:33
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Flag the question and answer as spam. If you think that it might not be obvious that they are trying to seed questions then use a custom flag to explain.

Mods tend to deal with spam flags quite quickly so they will be seen and dealt with (as they have already).

We'll also alert the mods on other sites (or the Community Managers if they have a lot of accounts) so that they can be destroyed everywhere.

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    Thanks for the add'l suggestion, ChrisF. FYI, I'd seen these messages first on Microsoft's Answers forum. After our discussion here, I went back there to see if anything could be done to eliminate them and lo 'n behold, the threads had already been deleted. I like this pattern. ;-) – Steve Rindsberg Oct 4 '14 at 20:26

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