DBS Bank, keyword spammers

Short and sweet: DBS, Singapore’s largest bank, is keyword-spamming on Silicon Valley’s favourite Q&A site Quora.

They’ve been doing this for ages on Hardwarezone.com.sg, a Singaporean tech forum, but their activity’s recently started spreading to Quora.

The spammers’ modus operandi - and I don’t know whether this is being done directly by DBS or by a misguided external marketing team - is highly unusual, and seems designed to make the answers less likely to be flagged as spam. 

While most keyword spammers try to automate their posts and flood the target site with volume, the DBS spam posts appear to be handwritten, and are tailored to the question being asked. The only giveaways that the answer’s not authentic are a link to a DBS or POSB website, attached to a relevant phrase in the post; and a history of posts filled with similar links. 

Here are two Quora profiles that’ve been used by the spammers - and recently banned: Sebastian Lai; Sarah Beringer

The Sarah Beringer profile has been taken down by Quora and the answers blanked, but I was able to take some screenshots from the Sebastian Lai profile before it was taken down. 

All of the DBS.com links in the screenshots below point to DBS’s Private Banking or Treasures (private-client) websites, and most of them point to this “Investments” page on the DBS Private Bank subsite

Each answer appears to be manually written, and each one has a DBS link wrapped around the keywords “investments, “hedge funds”, “wealth management”, or “investment banking services”. 

A quick search on Google for “link:dbs.com site:quora.com” pulls up a few more profiles engaged in the same spamming for the personal banking side of DBS: Jolin Chén; Alison Fisher; and searching for “posb site:quora.com” brings up the Jolin Chén and Alison Fisher accounts again, this time linked to posts about DBS’s wholly-owned subsidiary POSB

It’s not clear - and there’s no way to tell, without access to Quora’s logs - whether this is being done by DBS themselves, or by a marketing agency going off the reservation. But whether it’s an in-house job or not, it doesn’t make DBS look very good. 

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