What Is Referral Key? (My Referral Key Review. Free Steak Aplenty)

Referral Key is one weird force to be reckoned with.

Three times in the past week I have received email invitations from someone in my address book that state, “If you’re taking on new clients, I’d like to include you in my private referral network to send you business leads through Referral Key.”

All three times these invitations came from a person I sort of know on varying degrees, and all three times these invitations have confused me immensely. So I decided to investigate what new, hot thing I was missing.

On the surface, Referral Key seems to be a way to get and give referrals on stuff. Although the concept of “cash rewards” sounds a bit spammy, to say the least, I’ll go in with an open mind and think that maybe that’s just bad website copy. I click forward, to presumably confirm my dear friend’s referral.

Here’s where things got confusing.

In accepting the “referral invitation” from one person, I had to enter in some data in order to “accept” the invite — never mind that I’m not entirely sure what that means. Most importantly, though, I encountered the following drop down menu, where it became blindingly clear to me that I didn’t (seem) to fit in.

I needed to choose one area of expertise, and these were my options:

Without seeing anything remotely near my true area of expertise, I consider clicking “computer” (not dentistry, although I was tempted, as you see above). However, we all know, “computer” is a pretty bad description of a silicon valley business type. I ended up choosing “consultant” — semi-accurately lumping myself in with everyone who has learned at least one skill in their lifetime they like to tell others about.

It was then that the weirdness of cash rewards re-entered the picture.

Cash, L.L. Bean, Callaway Golf (three decades into my life I still don’t understand what they do…), and wait…what’s that?

Yes! Steak! Who doesn’t want to refer qualified business leads for…wait for it…steak!?!??!!

I click on the steak of course, and then enter in to view my profile.

Amazingly, I already have a direct message waiting for me! Someone already knows I’m here!

Referral Key has taken a key from MySpace and my very own Tom has sent me my first welcome!

The Tom of Referral Key is Lewis Weinstein and it says he’s been in business 5 years. I’m assuming not at Referral Key, but you never can tell with these stealth start-ups;).

Most enticingly, though, I see that there’s a little wrapped present at the bottom of Tom’s Lewis’s icon that promises me $75. I love presents, and quickly click through to find that if I refer someone to Lewis I’ll be bringing home a whole lotta steak.

Meanwhile, I’ve got another direct message in my inbox, this time from someone saying they’ve already taken a “quick peek at my profile” (I haven’t uploaded one) and who also happens to offer a whopping $1,000 referral prize in the bottom of his profile picture. Although I am once again dazzled by the conversion of extra zeros to steak, I’m still confused…who do I refer, and why?

Granted, it seems like I could annoy everyone I’ve ever gotten the email of by sending them an invite and hope that 20 of those people sign up for Referral Key and one of them somehow finds their way to be a client (for what I’m not sure) of Lewis’s…but…that someone how just doesn’t seem like a very effective way to get steak. Nor to network.

Back to square one, I decide to look up some Referral Key reviews of how people are really using the service. I like Mashable, and I see they gave the following entirely, thoroughly cautiously tepid comment:

I’m not entirely invigorated by the fact that the “concept of this service is solid”, so I looked for more people giving reviews of the service. And I see this.

Well that’s funny, I think.

Let’s review those four reviewers again:

  • Boston Business Journal
  • The Boston Global
  • Investment News
  • Constant Contact

Now, if you’re a regular Jane like me with some experience with Constant Contact (say for sending newsletters for your non-profit organization), you may also be confused why they are listed alongside the Boston Globe as reviewers of the bright new service that is Referral Key.

Some digging found this quote from them:

It’s cool that Constant Contact likes referral key, but I’m a bit baffled why they are listed as an endorsement. Since, on the surface, they seem a bit of a competitor (and not a trusted international news source), I would assume that’s because Referral Key is using something of their back-end. Then I re-read the first phrase again. Ah yes, “working with” – collaboration confirmed! (Objective endorsement negated.)

My Conclusion on Referral Key:

After 15 good minutes my most concrete conclusion about Referral Key is that I should offer myself as a Consultant “referral” to Referral Key to provide them the valued advice that a) I am not a dentist (aka their expertise categories need re-hauling), b) Constant Contact is not a good endorser for their homepage, and c) simple case studies of Referral Key efficacy are needed to entice people to sign up.

Your Review?

Like all new things, Referral Key has the one in a million chance of being the next great thing. To get there, though, it’ll need some referrals (!) from people who have used it well.

Have you used it well and lived to tell? Tell us how, as I’m a) eager for mind-changing and b) always up for the possibility of earning FREESTEAKFREESTEAK off of my referrals for dentistry consultations.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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297 thoughts on “What Is Referral Key? (My Referral Key Review. Free Steak Aplenty)

  1. Thank you for your entertaining, yet informative review!

    I received an email from a supposed and familiar contact asking me to click a particular link and to help him/her (I could not identify the orientation) to build good business contact through my social profile contacts.

    I did not take any action yet, but I went on to check what the referral key is all about and I found your review which helped me alot.

    Surprisingly! I received a fresh email on the spot saying that they want to, “recommend,” me (this time to play on my mind; we all know how good it sounds when you say you want to recommend a friend especially when he/she recently lost his/her Job).

    Now I became a little confused, but I smiled knowing so well what the strategy is all about. Check the difference: 1) From using my network to build sales contact, now to 2) Helping me by recommending me for opportunities.

    Seriously I could not find a good line between the two or I should say that I could not balance the equation very well; so I simply deleted both of the emails just in the quest to stay safe from spam.

    Thank you once again!

  2. I keep getting invited by mostly people I don’t know. Once I emailed someone who sent me an invite and asked how they found me why they felt I would benefit from this service and could they tell me briefly about the service and if it is so great why is the invitation only good for X amount of time? I’m still waiting for their reply. That was three months ago. You have confirmed my feelings about ReferralKey and not giving it a thought when I hit delete! Oh and one last thing. My profession isn’t remotely listed. Though now I wonder, if I sign up and choose “other” does it ask what other is and can I put hooker? Would be interesting to see who sends referrals then🤔

  3. you just answered my questions that I had…..as I’m a marketing consultant in the men’s industry…..and nothing on here applied to me
    as well …… (I hate linkedon as well, as does nothing for me in my industry)
    So I shall not get involved with Referral Key….just another / bunch of
    e-mails to delete every day….I don’t hv time for that/this

  4. Thank you for writing this review, it really helped. I was never thinking of signing up, it helped me understand more of what they’re after.

    Informative and entertaining reading!

  5. This article is so relevant and could have been written in 2018. Or does the author actually have a time machine and went back in time to 2011 in order to look like a prophet??? I’m so freaking out right now!!! Is this aliens?? I need my medical marijuana! No more reading six year old stories for me. Never again!
    Oh and I almost forgot why I’m here. Referral Key sucks! Stay out of my email! And that’s it I’m done.

  6. I got an email in my business email account today, 8/28/2017, from Referral Key saying I needed to click a link to see what my “business profile” looked like and update it. I DELETED the message. Then, I decided to search the internet for Referral Key. Howdy, I found you! Am going to investigate further. I hope no one clicks on that link!!

  7. Ha ha. Thanks. Nice review. Humorous and light, but not vicious, and objectively analytical. The New York Italian guy response to Referral Key might go something like this: “Hey, I got your free steak right here, pal!”

  8. I’m still trying to figure out its purpose as well. My feed on there looks like a bunch of shameless self-promotion. The layout also looks kind of dated/grimey.

    Then again, with the recent updates LinkedIn has been making (becoming very Facebooky/Instagrammy) – there is definitely room for the next big thing in this market to push through full steam ahead!

  9. After reading this well written review I’ve decided, it’s not for me!
    Thanks for the time you have put into this.


  10. Here’s an article from the Boston Business Journal. I will say that I’ve been piddling with ReferallKey for a year or so and I have given them a number of contacts. None of those contacts came back to me with any comments, other than to also embrace the service by approving the connection. Some have even gone on to be users of the service, which is what it’s for. I think we’re all so jumpy given all the spam and hacking news going on out there that we often become so jaded in our outlook that we might miss something that’s actually good. Thank you, and here the link:


  11. I’m working to understand it as well. It’s been around for some time now, so I hardly think that it’s a scam. Whether it works for us or not is yet to be seen. I have to be honest, there is very little out there on how to make this service sit up and bark. I’m throwing it some bones now to see what happens.

  12. Hilarious article!
    I was also confused when I received that email yesterday from a ¨friend¨back in high school, so I Googled the company and I was brought here. Thanks for the in-depth and witty review!

  13. Thanks Claire for your review. Well written. I think I am getting invites from LinkedIn account. Wishing you lots of dental referrals and steak too.

  14. Hi Claire – I see you wrote this in 2011 and it’s now 2017 and your blog is still helping us avoid embarrassing ourselves and annoying our LinkedIn contacts – a big thank you, and Happy New Year!

  15. I started receiving invites late last month. Don’t really know the people that are sending and they don’t use their own email so I don’t even know if they are real. Seems really sketchy to me. No thanks but thanks (for the article).

  16. Luv your comments Claire.
    As a french speaking person, I was confused when I got that email…since I am not so internationally known, yet 😉
    I think you are a great ally to rewrite or point out awkwardness 😉
    You have quite the greatest abilities as a journalist and communicator.
    Keep up the great work and I wish you lots of free steak, you deserve it!!

  17. Hello,
    I just got that email myself and didn’t know what to think about it. Your review was very useful, thanks a lot !
    Kindest regards,

  18. It seems involvement in Linkedin is an open invitation to spam meisters. I am constantly receiving “referral network” invitations from friends of friends. These are all mixed in the spam folder with a variety of other proposals from; a place trying to sell me the latest Oakleys, to someone trying to sell me logo car mats, and who could forget a constant notification from a courier, who wasn’t able to deliver numerous things I obviously didn’t order.

    My thought here?

    Perhaps a whole pile of steaks could be gleaned, by referrals of all these nice people I don’t know, which could net me a large BBQ with my first hand friends. I just haven’t worked out the logistics, of getting the courier who can’t seem to deliver all those unexpected packages, to actually deliver my truck load of steaks from various sources.

    Me thinks “empty Junk folder” seems to be the best response.

  19. Hi Claire,

    Thank you for the review. I received the following very confusing email this afternoon, in which Referral Key appears to be impersonating a medical school colleague (I scrubbed personal and company names from the email, and added spaces to the emailed link to prevent accidental click-throughs):

    Hi – It’s ,

    Hope all is well. I’d like to recommend clients to so I’ve added you to my referral network.

    Simply click the link below and we can start exchanging referrals. Thanks!


    http: //www. referralkey. com/accept.php?i=37835147O4207235O558d2d&t=1461533254

  20. Thanks Claire (and all your loyal followers for their comments too)……for an excellent article and for saving me a heap of time. It certainly doesn’t look like the type of referral system I would choose to join at the moment. My invitation also came through as associate on LinkedIn as many others have by the looks of things. Thanks again.

  21. Claire,

    Thank you for taking the time to go through Referral Key’s process and write about it. Your article is informative and useful, and a good read.


    • Thanks Claire I too had no idea who this was even from!
      Great share, great info, thank you very much – for the humor too!

  22. Hi Claire

    Thanks for this review.

    I got an invitation to Referral Key this morning from a total stranger, whose name would fit on a Ugandan money scam. I don’t have a business to which she could refer clients.

    You’ve saved me doing any more research before deleting the email from my Outlook junk box. You were second on my list but #1 was pretty useless.

    I have a natural and curiosity a naive, trusting nature. Fortunately life on t’interweb has taught me to be suspicious

    Thanks again for the review.

  23. Thanks for the review Claire – I received an invite this morning and a quick google review found your article. Steak in return for referrals is a fantastic concept though, with you there!

    FYI – Wilkipedia entery for Callaway Golf – Callaway Golf Company is an American global sporting goods company that designs, manufactures, markets and sells golf equipment, golf accessories and golf lifestyle-related products in more than 70 countries worldwide.

    Who knew?

  24. I’m always getting e-mails from Referral Key for my (totally non-business) blog, Diary of an Internet Nobody.
    I initially thought it was one of those sites that drives traffic to blogs, websites etc, but having read your review that doesn’t seem to be the case. Or is it?
    Will signing up to their site increase the traffic to my blog or is this badly targeted spam?

  25. I signed up to this “spammy” site over a year ago, (it’s not all that new) and aside from a few emails from folks I’d never heard of, who had nothing to do with the industry I’m in (artist management, and no, I was not and am not looking for new clients), all I got was spam email with offers I had no desire nor reason to accept. I subscribed from them. Every once in a while I’ll get a request to “join” again, and at the bottom of the email is the “unsubscribe” button. Hmmm, if I’ve already unsubscribed, why are you still sending me your crap? LOL
    On the flipside, I am a subscribed member to your (Claire) newsletter, so when I received yet another request from a music industry associate, I did some more checking on reviews…and found this one. I thought perhaps I was overreacting in my usual Jersey girl/redhead/Aries/Scottish way. So glad it’s NOT me….LOL

  26. Daves kratom is really really really fresh. OMG I have been looking my whole life for this…I hope they don’t ban it…

  27. Kratom is my favorite option. Organic W/ FREE Shipping from DAVESKRATOM… Even OVERNIGHT on KILOS for $200!!! And The Fresh Level Is Amazing.Never Seen Anytihng Like It

    • I do not believe it is LinkedIn selling data. I do believe that when a person signs up they are giving this company permission to export their (the person signing up) entire contact list to them (Referral Key). The new member then has the option to uncheck anyone they choose, but I think most people don’t see that or just don’t pay attention.

  28. I’m confused too. It feels very ‘spammy’. I signed up this morning. When I returned from church, I have two new emails waiting for me with “Are you taking on new clients?” I think I might be pulling the plug on this ‘referral key’ stuff soon.

  29. Thanks Claire. This clarification really helped, as I was being bombarded with emails from various remote individuals – I am pretty certain though, that they are getting my details from LinkedIn – because its the only forum on which my business is linked to my personal email ….. (never got around to changing it). That for me is a cause for concern …..

  30. Hi,
    Just received an invitation and I was wondering why this guy whom i have not met more than a couple of times in my life and who probably has nothing to do with what I am into should be sending me this mail….
    And then I read your review.
    You helped me make up my mind.

  31. Thanks for this post. I just received an invite and was debating whether to accept. Your review helped to push me into the ‘no’ category. I can’t see why I’d spend time and energy on this as opposed to LinkedIn, which I think pays higher returns from referrals than steak.

    Also, Brett’s comment below about eventually seeing Lewis on ‘American Greed’ is hilarious!

  32. Thank you CLAIRE,

    Also I have had problems to understand everything behind Referral. Now I will take care of everything they send to me. Luck that I never singed in neither of them.

    Best Regards
    Akadir Osoble

  33. Thanks for the review, Clair. I just received an invite from a former co-worker I haven’t seen or spoken to in almost a decade. I’m a consultant in procurement/supply chain and he is/was an HR/recruiter in the IT sector. And both of us are in Australia. So, yes, it’s possible (barely), that we could use the service to refer client’s back and forth. Not that we’ve ever done that in the past, but anything’s possible, right? Anyway, I jumped on Google and looked for reviews of Referral Key and you were top of the list. After reading your review, I can understand why. Their possible rewards (other than cash and who doesn’t want more of that?) aren’t available in OZ and steak has a somewhat different connotation down here that up in the States. After all, we have Emu, Croc and Kangaroo as well as beef plus I find Turkey steak at the markets from time to time. So I’m going to want a lot more specificity when I want steak. Anyway, no, I didn’t sign up and I’ve sent an email to that long lost friend to explain why I’m not joining up and your review for his consideration.
    Thanks again.

  34. I feel like we will see Lewis on one of those American Greed shows someday. This Referral Key is ridiculous and reeks of spam/scam. Do they have investors? It seems like it would take a fair amount of cash to keep the servers running.

  35. Thank you for your input. I received an invite from someone claiming to know me, but who I’m 100% positive I don’t know. This person wanted to refer me to Yahoo Voices, which has been defunct for a couple of years now. After reading your experience, I’m very happy I did not follow through with the signup.

    Thanks again,

  36. Thank you CLAIRE,

    Also I have had problems to understand everything behind RF. Now I will delete everything they have sent me. A couple of days ago i made a research for another similar Co.(?), FanBox and came to the same conclusion and deleted everything from them. Luck that I never singed in neither of them.

    Kindest regards


    Thomas Buskhagen
    Mr Country Presents/Country News Publ.

  37. Thank you for doing all this research on Referral Key. After reading all the publicity supplied by Referral Key, it just seemed to be too good to be true and you proved it was too good to be true. Basically it’s one of those companies that my Daddy spoke to me about, i.e. if it looks or sounds to good to be true, keep your hands deep in your pockets.

  38. Now that I know the CEO’s name, I will direct my ‘eyes of fire’ at him. A woman named Brenda Young said she wanted me to connect on Referral Key s I set up an account and connected it to LinkedIn. Referral Key then, without my permission or allowing me to send the note, sent a message to all of my LIN contacts asking them to join. What a lousy, underhanded P-O-S thing to do!!!!
    I have apologized to my LIN network and I will be sure to deactivate my referral key account. Bunch of jerks!

  39. Thank you for this entertaining and informative review! I’ve received 3 invites so far and was pretty perplexed as to the purpose and the benefit. You just confirmed what I’ve always thought – it’s better to continue buying my steaks locally.

  40. Did anyone notice this hilarious press release?
    “Referral Key Announces Integration with Constant Contact as a Tech Partner for Small Business Marketing Tools”

    It turns out it means that the Referral Key folks have actually learned how to use the Constant Contact API to integrate CC web services with theirs. Wowsers!

  41. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for this, I’ve just received a Referral Key invite, and I couldn’t understand how it would benefit me. I think it is yet another organisation wanting access to my client list which I have spent years developing, through providing a service which they want. Your groundwork seems to confirm my understanding. Steer clear. Life is too short. If I want steak, I can do that on my own.

  42. Dear Claire

    Thanks for your post and view!
    A bit too late for me as I did register but you made me laugh, despite the fact that I have realised that I am far too naïve.
    Take care
    Best regards

  43. Thanks for the in-depth review! You saved me the time and trouble of finding out the details. I went to the home page and there was not enough informati9n for me to determine if this was worth my time, so thankfully your blog answered all my questions. #nofreesteakforme

  44. Claire,
    Nice job of capitalizing on an unknown new thing and offering insightful information while including your services. I am at a spot in my business where I’m stuck in a rut that I cannot get out of and feel your style would help me get out of this rut, unfortunately I’m under-funded and undermanned which leads me to a deeper rut. I know I need to become a better blogger, some day! I will be looking at your free Blogging tips.
    P.S. I’ve been signed up for Referral Key for twenty minutes now and I’ve already received acceptance from 6 people I’m linked to.



  45. Hey Claire.
    Thanks for the great due diligence. Love your writing style. My thought is this. Fine its a start-up. I can support that but I don’t like the teaser approach (but would never say no to a steak). If you are a legitimate service then give me the full story up front, not on the installment plan. Then I can make an informed decision. BTW my little consulting service is so small and obscure I’m amazed they found me. Perhaps Tom, er that is Lawrence, should be finally solving the mystery of Jimmy Hoffa and leaving me alone!

    Many thanks


  46. I received 4 of these ‘notifiations’ that friends of mine want to refer business to me. Interestingly none of them are on Referral Key. A very spammy service in my opinion

  47. As I found out working with music marketing, the referral process – especially for affiliates – cannot be more lucrative than the value of the product that is purchased. In other words – of a song costs $0.99 to buy, you cannot give more than $0.99 as a referral bonus.

  48. I did exactly what you did on Referral Key after a mere acquaintance sent me an invite …….Which is how I found your post. So glad that I did. Not going to go forward. If I ever hear from this acquaintance again, I will ask them “How is that work for ya?” Thank you.

  49. So glad I decided to research Referral Key before just clicking the button. The article is well written, well researched and to the point. Thank-you.

  50. So I joined this thing and it sent out an email to every contact I have and yes some of them I don’t know all that well, I am guilty of adding strangers to my LinkedIn Profile.

    On the bright side, I have gotten flooded with emails from friends and it has stirred up some opportunities already. Also, it was a vehicle for people to tell me they have moved to another position at another Company, I may have not known this without sending out that email blast.

    I have to say the link looks like spam though, they could to a much better job putting a nicer hyperlink to click on, but other than that it was a way to reach a lot of people and find out more about their current offerings.

    Happy Networking.)


    • Hi-ho, Claire and all! You convinced me that Referral Key isn’t my cup of tea (or jo, you see).

      Thank you and blessings,


    • KEV!!!!!!!! Sigh. Your experience doesn’t mean it’s a GOOD thing to be involved with Referralkey. You could’ve sent out your own email blast to your contacts without anyone’s help with about 4 keystrokes (after writing the email). But NOW – your contacts all are inextricably linked to Referral’s database and you’re gonna have to hope to GOD that Referralkey displays some degree of restraint and professionalism (remote chance) using your contacts. Maybe you’re in a profession that doesn’t care. I’m in healthcare, and I would expect most of my clients to take a dim view of this type of spamming. I just got an email from a colleague I don’t know very well, about referralkey. So I got on the internet to see why the hell she was sending this to me, because it was so vague. It took me 2 minutes to come up with this very excellent review and another that says something similar. The result? I’ve blocked my colleague’s emails but before doing so, wrote her a note letting her know she’s just jeopardizing her patients’ trust and alienating her colleagues with this crap. Life is too short. Thanks, Claire – you saved me a lot of time to confirm what I was already sure in my bones was true.

  51. Hi Claire, thanks for this excellent review, and I am extremely sorry that I didn’t see it before. I have signed up with them, and so far not much more has happened, except an impressive number of total strangers who have asked me to confirm them as connections. While I do believe that some of these people are acting in good faith, and probably just like me just hoping that some good will come from it, at the same time, something altogether less amusing has been happening: my personal inbox seems to have been kidnapped by get-rich-quick programmes and the people behind them. I am assuming that’s the main goal of the exercise, list building and detail selling. Has anyone else experienced this?

  52. Considering the person who sent me an email is constantly pushing her expensive, life changing, something or another from her latest MLM scam on Facebook I deleted it promptly. Glad to see I made the right choice.

  53. Thank you for this review. I just got email from someone inviting me to join her in this.

    I’m afraid I have a habit of accepting Linkedin invitations without much thought. I’ve heard that members are penalized when their invitations are declined. And, honestly, I do recognize most of the names. (We are all writers.)

    But this one…looked rather scary, and the requirement to give up my info caused me to close that tab. I’ll now delete that email–which was from someone whose name I don’t recognize–and forget the whole thing.

    Thanks for the post! You are new to me, but I’ve subscribed to your feed and look forward to your insights.

  54. Thanks for the post concerning Referral Key. I was surprised to read so many articles against it. I should have GOOGLED first. (I read it after joining, but before exporting–all was not lost.) One of these articles was actually a sponsored link-that’s dedication! I’ll have to remember to do more research before joining something. Thanks again for the post.

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  56. Thanks for posting this. Just got an email from someone using the site (who I’ve never met and lives Down Under, btw,) asking how I was and that they wanted to send referrals to my stepmum (mentioned her name, but withdrawn for privacy), hence they added me. lovely, I have to be a go-between for them….yeah, not happening bud. This is the first I’ve heard of either of them–referral key and the guy who sent it, but the guy who sent it is on linked-in (which I am part of) and the company listed on his email matches up with the one on his linked-in, plus in his favor, but still not signing up for (what appears to be) a scam site. This was very detailed and gave me some good info on the site. thanks so much

  57. Thank you muchly. I have gotten a few emails from them and was wondering what the deal was. One was from an actual doctor. That is sort of scary.

  58. Awesome note, i enjoyed reading it, it also answered just the questions i was having.

    thanks for saving my time!

  59. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading it,
    you might be a great author.I will remember to bookmark your blog and may come back sometime soon.

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  60. Having worked/connected with many high-profile clients, I’m also very protective with trusted relationships built over the years. For me; it’s not unlike work in television, when one wonders on-set wishing to mingle with ‘A-list’ talent, now it’s by virtual cyber mingling and/or ‘tagging’ with a touch of cyber-eavesdropping as some apps are designed to monitor your contact list and browser history.

  61. If you like the idea of more referrals, but don’t want your referral marketing tool emailing your contacts without asking you first, check out RefGo. Our personal marketing solution combines referral marketing with contact management, email marketing, customer review management, the only mobile website you’ll ever need, gifting and more.

    Malcolm Lewis
    Founder/CEO RefGo

  62. I have received a few of these from contacts that I only have in LinkedIn…mmm seems to me that there is a bit of an issue there!

  63. A friend of mine on Linkedin sent me a link to the site. Like you said there was not a listing for my expertise so I used other, but was unable to put in a full description. I use a server email just in case I start getting juke mail from the site. I just signed up a few minutes ago on my phone and wanted to bookmark on my computer and the first thing I saw when I search for referal key was reviews. That got me worried because usually where there are reviews there are troubles. Oh well guess it can’t be any worse than sales spider.

  64. Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Taking a few
    minutes and actual effort to produce a good article…
    but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and don’t
    seem to get anything done.

  65. Thank you for this post! I’ve gotten these several times and they are tempting as they use my mail for kids business name as the subject line. As I haven’t been working that for a year or so, and have been missing it, it sets off an endorphin or two to jump back into it. I know I’m not really in a place to do so right now, though. But these emails make me want to. So today I almost filled in all the info, then I decided to do a quick Google search. So I appreciate your taking the time to spread the word.

  66. Great review! The email I got from Referral Key looked very suspicious – e.g. oversized font for the link. Glad to have found your review before I did anything silly. I had secretly hoped that it was a competitor to LinkedIn (which I use but would rather not due to its aggressive push to upgrade for every tiny bit of extra functionality). Sadly it was not to be. Thanks again.

    • I just received an email from someone I know through Referral Key. What would you advise? Should I just delete the email? Because after what I’ve read here I’m not particularly keen on accepting any Referral Key invitations.

  67. Free Steak… I misss\ed that!? I might have signed up even faster! I found the invite a little creepy because I didn’t think I knew the person who sent me the invite… or the person who sent me the second invite as a colleague of the first ‘friend’ just a few moments later. I had noticed, by chance, on my website stats just an hour earlier that there was someone spending a lot of time on my site, bouncing around like 20+ pages (BTW_ thank you!), so I assumed the two were related and that someone was checking me out and extended the invite. Guess you could consider me optimistic! Regardless, I will not abuse my LinkedIn connections by sharing any such contact info. Thanks for the great post! I will look to gather more info and most likely be unsubscribing ASAP!

  68. Hi Claire, I met you at COCA in St. Louis last year.

    A few years ago, I wrote about Referral Key as well (click above). In the comments, one of the founders of the service accused me of writing a “spear piece.” We had a nice back-and-forth on that. Then, about a year or so after that, he called me and we had a much nicer discussion. He explained to me that they had made many improvements to the service. I don’t think Referral Key liked where my blog post was placing in Google results.

    I found your post because someone left a comment supportive of Referral Key that was eerily similar to one on your blog, and a reader of mine brought it to my attention.

  69. I, for one, am grateful to Referral Key for existing, sending me an email and thereby triggering a series of events that led me to find your blog. Subscribed. Downloaded e-book gift(s)(thanks very much) and deleted that Referral Key email. Glad to be aboard.

  70. Well done Claire: great and helpful post: in a nutshell, it’s a stupid pointless and annoying system to get as much reach with as little value as possible, trading on people’s desperation to get referrals!

    If you want referrals, get feedback from clients, then get permission to ask for referrals (it’s a 3 step process, can be systemised, but definitely NOT about cash (or steak!) rewards!)

  71. I greatly appreciate your advise in this blog post Claire! I was just spammed and when I compare my brief interaction to what I’ve read here, it doesn’t appear that much has improved. I also find the threatening tone in the unsubscribe response desperate and unprofessional.

    “Unsubscribe – I never want to exchange referrals with professionals I know.”

    As if Referral Key has control over how I conduct business. Very tacky.

  72. Currently it looks like BlogEngine is thee preferred blogging platform available right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what yyou are using on your blog?

  73. I’m glad I read this. Maybe they should link up with LinkedIn to gain some relevancy. They should integrate their website and add it as an additional service and remove the free stakes and use a point system that you can use on the website whether it be sit at the top of the time line for local vendors or sending gifts to friends. I’m surprised this spam has been around for so long I’m just getting it now.

  74. Hilarious in-depth review of your experience with Referral Key. Having been tempted to take it for a test drive after receiving several “invitations”, methinks I will sacrifice the FREESTEAKS and pass. Looking forward, however, to reading more of your posts!

  75. I do not even know the way I finished up here, however I thought this publish
    used to be good. I don’t know who you might be but certainly you are going
    to a famous blogger if you happen to are not already.

  76. Claire, love your article, thanks for saving me time and effort.
    I have received 3 of these jaunty invitations this morning alone. I am a recruiter in Cambodia and doubt very much I am ever going to be able to collect on my free steak!
    Keep up the good work.

  77. Folks… STEAK??? With all due respect: 1. WHO pays me for sharing my information 2. WHO pays me for referring other people and 3. WHY would I want to be paid in steak when I am vegan??? LOL I find this hilarious, I was invited by a guy on my LinkedIn network, an ex-client I dealt with when with my previous employer, and I sort of disregarded his email, but now that I know SOMEONE pays me STEAK instead of Tofurky I must sign up!!! Dear God… PS Claire, thanks for the post!

  78. Thanks for taking the time to look into this Claire – received one of the emails today and thought it all seemed rather odd and you’ve confirmed that it most definitely is 🙂

  79. Thanks Claire, great post and infos… I got “my” referral key this morning and the result is that I will follow you now… I guess you are a good investment of time!!

    • Thanks for the info Claire. Glad the world contains folks like you. Mine came from a friend who I thought might really have business to send my way, but a small red flag showed up and I am glad you were here to verify this for me.

  80. Here’s the secret to knowing it’s a hoax… All the dates on these post are extremely close together. It’s just a lot of people getting crap emails in hopes you’re stupid enough to click yes.

    • Sometimes getting your name on a list is good advertising.I joined and imediatly had my telephone ringing asking me what this is about.I think its a great way to get your name out there.Sure there will be spam,but its free advertising.The People who called me asked me what this was about,we talked and also exchanged our business wants.

      • That’s pretty much what happened to me. I let RK scoop my Linkedin address book. About 90% of the folks joined. About 10% asked if it was really coming from me. Telephone calls led to discussing business possibilities. It may not be what they had in mind, but it gave people reasons to talk, so that wasn’t a bad thing.

        One said that allowing private message allowed RK to access your entire computer. I haven’t seen that yet. Anyone else?

        • so…you found that it was Legit Ty ?? I got hooked on it this morning and its generated a lot of email back at me…which i quite fine. I only did it with my LinkedIn “connections” which are pretty broad and wide open. Curious to hear any further thoughts you have before I decide to “take it down”…cheers

      • I just started using referral key too, and if you are already networking in other social atmospheres then this is perfect. We exchange business cards, but can’t keep track of them all. When I login to referral key I get to see the list of clients or other business owners with an option to send them a referral, perfect, I give the info and done. As far as spam and advertising, to me its no different then weeding through your site here with all the adds on the right, but the spam gets caught in my spam filters

    • Marty, I just received an email asking me to join. My first impulse was to find out if it was legit, because it, also, seemed to be a Ponzi scheme.
      Claire, I’m grateful that you did some of the legwork for me.

  81. It’s always a bit baffling to be invited to something and not know what it is. When you click over there (thinking ‘well, I’ve been invited. Perhaps I should show up.;) you land on a page that simply asks you to accept the invitation. Not an ‘About’ or’FAQ’ or ‘How it works’ page in sight. Considering how hard it is to get people to sign up for stuff even when they know what it is, I’m not overly optimistic about the success of this site, even with the free steak 😉

  82. Well, I guess I’m glad I got that Referral Key email, b/c searching for info on referral key led me to this very interesting blog. So it wasn’t a waste, even if it was a stupid, spammy piece of BS I want nothing to do with.

  83. Referral Key is a waste of time. Their main business is building up their “member” number though a classic join and suck your contacts from other networks approach. Notice they have ads via AdChoices; By saying the service is free means they need to get any kind of person signed up to make the AdChoice ads pay off.

    Read through the posts people on Referral Key published (some below) will show you this is a site with little content policing, lots of scam like posts and a slimy feeling that makes you want to wash the keyboard off after visiting.

    Recommendation? Just avoid Referral Key.


    “How wealthy are you? Do you know how to calculate your wealth? I guarantee you there’s an unconventional secret that is effectively and accurately true than the norm. Feel free to contact Stewardship Finance for consultation of your Financial future.”





  84. Thanks for this post, Claire. I too was sent an invite from a LinkedIn friend, went to the link and couldn’t figure out what I was accepting from that page. Sounds like a self-perpetuating cycle that might have been a good idea at one point but seems to offer me nothing more than more spammage for my contacts and a steak dinner! Delete!

  85. I received an email from a “Dave Simpson” who’s email was “member@referralkey.com”, and he claims to want to “send business my way.” I plan to block all future emails from referral key.com. There is no “Dave Simpson” that I know of from any business in the past. …really… as if this guy knows me… My advice is to block it.

  86. While I may not get any free steaks, I’m actually glad I received a referral key email invite just so I could google it and find this article. Dentist or not, I’m referring people to you Claire! You’re hilarious.

  87. Hi Clair, Great winning post, and thanks for doing the great research. Needless to say I will not be subscribing to Referral Key, however I will be subscribing to your blog and following you on Twitter and LinkedIn. Keep up the great work. Best wishes, Antonio

    • I received an invitation to Referral Key today. Since I know the name of the game is to get my name out there I went ahead and signed up.
      Honestly, I do not know if it spam or not, so at this point I guess I can hope in one hand and see what I get in the other.
      Due to the nature of my business, Scandinavian genealogical research, anybody with Scandinavian ancestors are potential clients, so if I can get my name and website in front of lets say 10.000 people who otherwise would not know of my existence and one or two decides to contact me for a project it may be worth while for me. Only time will show. Another thing is that neither my physical location or the location of my clients has any bearing on weather I can be of service to my clients because most of my research is done on the Internet. I have had clients on five continents and even though I am located in the United States I can honestly say that some of the smoothest transactions I have had has been with clients in Australia and Europe through the use of emails and PayPal.

  88. Like a lot of the other people who have commented, I received a referral email. It was form a linkedin connect that I’m not that familiar with. Before completely disregarding, I decided to do research and ended up here. It is one of the vaguest companies I’ve ever heard of. I suppose the purpose is to recommend people and/or businesses (?) to one another but it feels more like affiliate linking, a chain letter, and pyramid scheme rolled into one. I’m gonna pass. The owner should do more to clarify the company’s purpose and make (potential) users feel secure.

  89. Thanks for the post, Claire. Although I’ve received my first invite from a LinkedIn contact, I am not going to sign up at this stage. It seems like a good idea but in its very beginning. Anyway, a great post! I will definitely subscribe to your blog 🙂

  90. Thank you Claire for writing this post. It was very helpful. I’m also going to pass it along to the person who referred me to Referral Key. Thankfully, I ALWAYS DO RESEARCH before joining any online program. I learned my lesson years ago. Now I go in with my eyes wide open!

  91. Great post. I received my first invite today and, wanting to do my due diligence, I did a quick review search and found your site. Because of your great post I will not be subscribing to Referral Key…but I did subscribe to your newsletter. All the best to you.

  92. Thanks for the heads up…. just got an email from someone I don’t know very well about it… but if you ever need any creative art, please check out my website!


  93. Claire –
    Thank you SOOOO much for taking the time to write your review. You have no idea how much time you have saved when you collectively count up all the people who have read your review instead of wasting time taking action on a fruitless endeavor.

    I have a busy day and even though I rarely have enough time to spend posting a comment, yours definitely warranted one, so a huge kudos to you!

    Fondly, Jeanne

  94. Wow, great review of RK! I just received an invite today from someone I semi met on a social network. So glad I googled it and found your review. I love your writing style too. It is so like something I would write lol! Thanks for all your research….saves the rest of us a lot of grief. BTW..if anyone wants a REAL free lead system and marketing tools….check it out.

  95. I am now about to send the second invitation from them to my spam folder. I hesitated and googled ReferralKey and came across your excellent research! Confirmed my suspicions. Thanks

  96. The net has spread to the UK, so Referral Key has been busy. You have very neatly confirmed my suspicions and saved me the time of delving deeper. Thank you. Since this has generated so many replies, maybe we should all network amongst ourselves… so, anyone looking for a fantastic holiday can contact me!!!!

  97. Hi Claire – or should I say ‘AHHH’!(to the dentist in you) Thank you so much for your post, as I also received the RK email today and began to research as I did not want to sign up for one more thing, and I also did not trust. I was glad to find your review in my research, thank you for showing what they really are, so we can be safe.

    Thank you to ‘Joseph- web designer, Oct. 8th’ post also, as the review made me not want to sign up and reading Joseph’s review of contract for them made me want to mark it spam, so as not to receive it again!

    One final note, because Constant Contact is now ‘working with’ RK, I wonder if they will begin pulling from this account as well? I wanted to mention another possible database that is similar: Oprius.com, (maybe better in my opinion) as an alternative and very easy to use. I have used it for over five years. I would not be happy if my database or my client’s data was invaded to collect data for others. My clients trust me to keep their data safe and uncompromised.

    Thank you again for reviewing RK and bringing it to light!
    ~Tammy of Tammy’s Office Solutions

  98. I all the time used to study piece of writing in news papers but now as I
    am a user of net so from now I am using net for articles or reviews, thanks to web.

  99. Hi Claire,

    i got a referal key too. Looked suspicous to me therefore I googled and found your nice report.
    I love your writing style!

    Thanks a lot

    Regards from germany

  100. Hi Claire – Thanks so much for this thorough and very entertaining piece of research. Saved me a lot of headache! I definitely think they should pay you consultancy fees…

  101. Thank you Claire! You saved me (director of operations) and my employer a lot of headaches with your post! We are a tiny young family company (5 years young)
    No thank you Referral Key, I think we prefer the old fashioned way of rolling up our sleeves to improve our business!

  102. Thanks a lot for this complete article it helped me a lot. I don’t trust many pages, so I also made some research about it, glad to find your post. It helped me a lot.

    Have a great day!! & Thanks for shareing.

  103. Thanks for this info Claire, we received so many emails from our reliable contacts from Referral Key and it looks like a spam. Good we did our research first before signing up.

  104. Be very wary, when you read through the terms and conditions that you have to accept in order to proceed and register your account, it says that they do not delete your data even if you close the account. It also says that it reserves the right to sell on any personal or company data that you enter in to their system forevermore:
    “The Company retains an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free right to duplicate, improve, distribute, publish, sell, remove, retain, add, process, analyze, use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, any Information you provide directly or indirectly, on the Site, including but not limited to any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques or data, without any further consent, notice, and/or compensation to you or to any third parties.”

    They also have huge charges of $1000 or even up to $10’000 that they will charge you for breaching their terms and conditions in any way. They say that they may not even warn you before pursuing you for the money! :
    “If you post content in violation of this Agreement, you agree to promptly pay the Company One Thousand Dollars ($1,000) for each breaching item of content. We may (but shall not be required to) to issue you a warning before assessing damages.

    If you copy, duplicate, reproduce, sell, re-sell, or exploit for any purpose any content in violation of this Agreement, you agree to pay Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000).

    If you use computer programming routines that are intended to aggregate records or reports from the Site or the Services or otherwise damage, interfere with, disrupt, impair, disable or otherwise overburden our Site, you agree to pay One Hundred Dollars ($100) for each report or record that is aggregated, disrupted, damaged or otherwise affected by you.

    In all other cases, you agree to pay the actual damages suffered by the Company, including, but not limited to attorneys’ fees and court costs, to the extent such actual damages can be reasonably calculated.”

    I would strongly recommend that if you dont want your personal details being sold to the worlds spammers and who knows what other companies or people, then dont give them to this company.
    And if you dont want to be pursued by debt collectors for perceived breaches of contract, dont enter in to this very one sided contract in the first place by opening an account with them.

    If however you happen to have any web design leads and you need someone to pass them on to, look me up…..

  105. Thanks for the analysis. My invitation came from a LinkedIn contact, but I’m also a Constant Contact solution provider/associate. I’m not sure what the point-of-entry of these spammers is: Linkedin or CC?

    Spam has a longer shelf-life than steak, but it’s easier to get rid of.

  106. Thank you for this, Referral key just smacked of spam, I’m so glad I googled and found your post!
    I can get my own steak, TYVM!

  107. So glad I found your comment. Seems Im more likely to receive spam than steak, which I hate, so will delete .. and check through for bogus Linkedin contacts.

  108. Hi Claire,
    Thanks for all of your investigative work. Like you, I have been receiving emails from LinkedIn associates that I really do not know. As I got curious, I checked my LinkedIn contacts and everyone that I have received an email from to go to the ReferralKey link does not have a phone number so that I could not call them to find out about this service. Thanks to you, and every one that has posted, I will immediately delete those emails.

  109. This has been very helpful, thanks! I like that you put some humor into your writing as well. I received the invitation from a respectable friend who owns her own business but decided not to sign up after I clicked on the link. So, I just deleted the email thinking that was it. This morning I had another email that was letting me know that my invite was about to expire, which got me thinking that maybe I should go ahead and sign up. I ended up having doubts right after I accepted the invite, which is when I decided to do a search and found your blog. I cancelled my account before filling in the rest of my profile. It might be legit, but it’s not for me. I think this is geared more for people who own their business and are looking for clients.

  110. Oh Yay to you for doing all the research! I received my first Referral Key invitation today and headed to Google to see if anyone knew anything about it.
    Your very thorough research has reiterated my initial questions – “‘What the heck is this?” closely followed by “What the heck does it do?”, and so humorously confirmed my thought that no-one seems to have a clue.

    How nice to have the opportunity to receive steak, for seemingly doing, um…. well nothing much of anything.
    Actually, now that I think on it, receiving anything for doing nothing seems awesome! We should all wish for this. Referral Key may just be the answer to all the prayers of each and every lazy bugger on the planet.

    Hmmm…. I’m off to get some free steaks 😉

  111. Thank you so much Claire !

    I have also experienced to receive this kind of mail in what it was hard to believe if it is real mail or just a spam. I also tried to search for more information about this RK and finally, I saw your post which helps me a lot. I don’t think that RK is worth to sign up because it seems to make me spam my other contact.

    But if you think it is good and valuable to be a part with RK, please suggest me!

    Thank you,

  112. I have received an e-mail inviting me to join. I ignored the first one. Got a second one that said if I wanted to “unsubscribe” ??????? I NEVER subscribed in the first place!

  113. I got the point early on in your post and then spent longer than I care to admit going through the interesting comments spanning over 2 years.

  114. I got an email from a linkedin colleague and clicked the link. The uploaded all my linked in contacts. I got an out of office reply immediately in my inbox and I thought…what the heck. Little did I know that they send out invites on my behalf WITHOUT MY CONSENT OR KNOWLEDGE!! There are people in my linkedin (like my retired Father) that would be puzzled at the email. I even got a scathing email from a linkedin contact that I should have removed, but had neglected to do so. I am furious that these people can send out spam on my behalf. I am sure this is against the law and I plan on doing something about it. I sent out apology emails to all my contacts telling them the were spammed…great…

  115. Thanks for this write-up Claire. I received an invitation a few days ago but didn’t act on it. Toady, I received a reminder, so copied and pasted the text of the link (I’m an old hand at this!) out of curiosity. In the couple of years since you wrote your post, they haven’t updated their categories. Doing a quick bit of research I came across your site. I must say I’m glad I did. This is one I’ll definitely be avoiding.

    Best regards,


  116. What I have found is they are data mining from linked-in I got a e-mail from one of my friends on linked-in asking me to join , I checked back with her via linked-in and se told me she had NOT sent the e-mail to invite me to this site ! I then went to my ” who has looked at your profile page ” on linked in and found a “someone on web power had looked at my profile , when checking back with my friend it seems she had also had a visit from someone from “web power ” my advice to anyone getting a e-mail from a so called friend is not to open the link to the invitation it is just a scam

  117. After joining referral key after responding to a request I spent 3 days responding to my Linkedin contacts on wy they got this email…tainted my A+ social reputation…not a happy camper right now

  118. Wow a gal who still eats steak! Thanks for the review, just got hit with a random RK request. Very helpful.

  119. Thank you, Claire, for sparing my time, and doing this with the great sense of humour 🙂
    Reading an article saved my time and made my day 🙂

  120. Great post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and I am impressed!

    Extremely helpful information specially the remaining part 🙂 I maintain such
    info a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a long time.
    Thank you and best of luck.

  121. Hi Claire,

    I was getting similar emails & today, thought of joining it. Compared to your review, there are many changes I see :

    1. The list of profession is much less, more focused on marketing.
    2. There is no money involved. At least, I didn’t get the $75 update, just a minute video showing how you can use Referral Key.

    I don’t know how it will work out but hoping that its not a spam site.

  122. Thanks so much for the review Claire…. I too like many others it seems have had a strange email arrive in my inbox from Referral Key. Despite reading through their website I have NO idea what they actually do and I’m wondering if they may work well in some industries but not others.

    If you don’t run a business that uses “clients” it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Your run down clarified I was not the only one stumped 🙂


  123. Thanks for the review Claire… This has helped me make my mind up to ignore the requests and to continue on as normal with my internal referral and recommendation system that I already embrace.

  124. This discussion has been so helpful and informative, and many thanks to you, Claire, for your investigation and humorous discourse on the Referral Key network. I’ve just zapped a half-dozen emails inviting me to join. Best wishes for happiness and success to all!

  125. UK based – received my first Referral Key this morning -had no clue what it was about and first look at their site didnt reveal much. Thanks for the informative review.

  126. Thank you for this post also. I have been receiving these emails from people I don’t know also. SO I like to do research. They go to my junk mail also. Social media is great and we use it, but I think word of motuh referrals are the greatest! You can still offer your clients a great offer and gain a new client without all of the loops and holes. Thanks for a great article. We’re on twitter too! @delaproductions

  127. thanks claire, you have, as well as all the other comments, confirmed my suspicians… Just another wannabe company. {sigh}

    Cool site by the way.

    And damn we’re a savvy group ain’t we?

    Go us!


  128. Hey Claire, I just received what appeared to be an automated invite from a friend. We exchanged notes, & she said: “I had no idea the system was going to email a bunch of people on my behalf. Kind of annoyed with it.” I told her that any referral I make is sincere. I never buy or sell referrals. Thank you for sharing this post.

  129. Thanks Claire, glad to see your keeping everyone honest! Your review was perfect, truly appreciate your efforts and I even had a laugh along the way. PS I wont be signing up for the free steak! lol

  130. The nationwide Claire Fan Club of grateful readers grows by one more as I also tip my beanie and bow deeply in appreciate for your valuable public service.

    Seriously, well-done! I already had deleted the give-me-a-break invite from a casual non-business acquaintance, and wondered how many other antennae had twitched.

    No wonder your post earns pride of place atop Google search results, C D-O. You’re a one-stop shop of readable, researched reality-checking!

  131. Thank you for this, I wasn wondering what these invites were and now you’ve saved me the trouble of having to research any further!

  132. I’m glad you went through the process so I didn’t have to. I’ve been getting emails here and there for months, but today is the first time I decided to see if they were legit. I like your assessment because you kind of leave it open, but it tells me enough to know that I’m not bothering with it, even though I really am a consultant. lol

  133. Thanks for sharing Claire. There is only few famous DJ’s today who can actually charge 10.000 dollars or more and I ‘m sure it’s not hobby DJ Dave who is hammering karaoke hits at the weeding parties. I would never pay such a money for the artist with such a lousy home made webpage. It says a lot about your business and it also says everything about the Referral Key business strategy if they are referring to DJ Dave.

  134. Wow. You are brave to have went that far into the process. I wound up here because the site looked too suspect to go any further without doing some research.

    Thanks for taking your time to provide this information!

  135. this is all a farce. The supposed web site DJDavid.com is a thrown together basic site with no pricing, nothing..just some verbiage tossed together to make it seem like Referral is legit…don’t fall for it. Anyone can toss together a 2 minute web site and list bogus emails set up to go to the same folks that push the referral key…stay away… A rip off….

  136. Interesting review Claire, brought to my attention only after having signed-up for RK and inviting my LinkedIn contacts to join me.

    I interpreted RK as a platform where I could consolidate all of my contacts under one roof and interact with them professionally, with a view of developing collaborative synergies. Perhaps this assessment was incorrect, I have yet to really find out, as it’s still very early days. What I do see however, is that a vast amount of my contacts are already members.

    Notwithstanding, the first big surprise to me, was the fact that the referral email sent to my contacts reads like spam, and is very unprofessional in its presentation. To say the least, I was not best pleased with this, as it prompted a number of my “highly valued” professional contacts to contact me, to ask if the mail was actually from me! Of course, the mail was not actually from me, as it is auto-generated by the RK servers, albeit off the back of my valued contact base.

    When I checked the RK site, I saw no mention of cash referrals or the like, so perhaps this element has been removed from the site, I have no idea. Likewise with regard to the drop-down list of categories, I paid no attention to this, as their is an “other” category which enables you to custom as you wish, so the lack of appropriate categories is really irrelevant. What I did find a problem however, was the lack of multiple choices. I for wonder work in numerous sectors of the fine arts industry, and in several global locations, but in RK, I am restricted to one profession category and one geographic location (not unlike LinkedIn I may have, which presents me with the same problem). These social networking sites seem to assume that we must all live in one place, and I for one live between two opposing sides of the globe!

    To summarise, I do not believe RK is a scam, nor do I think it is spam. I do not understand how referrals can originate from complete strangers, because they seem to extract names from existing connection data-bases, e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Granted, the latter is pretty ambiguous, as Twitter is not at all a network of professional contacts, but the likes of LinkedIn most certainly is, and perhaps Facebook also, depending upon your personal use. In whatever case, I am signed-up, and have raised some of these issues with Chris Ott, so I’ll be interested to see what response it generates (if any!). I have to say that I am not inspired by the comments above, although many of them seem not to have tried RK at all, and therefore are perhaps commenting more on assumption that actual fact. Time will tell!

  137. I just go a couple of these in my inbox this morning. Much thanks for the explanation, you saved me from having to figure this out my self. Kudos and love the site!

  138. There may actually be something more sinister going on. The day after I responded to an invite to Referral Key from a colleague, my gmail account was hacked to send erectile disfunction spam. I don’t know for sure that it was Referral Key, but I had used my gmail password as my Referral Key password. Are they selling passwords?

  139. Agreed, a bit dodgy. Received my first message today from someone I don’t know in Florida and I’m in Western Canada. Seems to have the potential to plug up “in boxes”.

  140. Hi Claire,
    I was reminded of a drink called Claytons’ that was available in Australia;

    “Claytons – the drink you have when you’re not having a drink”

    It seems that RK is the Clayton’s of referral programs …

    Thanks for saving me the time in verifying RK
    I too enjoyed your writing and informative ‘step by step’ guide
    Great work

  141. Thanks Claire:
    Like others I truly appreciate your terrific review information. I sent a return email to the local contractor who sent me the invite because A) his name is the same as a wonderful hippy I went to college with in Little Rhode Island in the 1960’s- (he came straight out of Greenwich Village); and B) he says he’s a local contractor. If there’s some chance that John has found me, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to reconnect. If I get the phone call, whoever he is, I’ll let you know.

  142. Wait, so, what does Referral Key actually DO?
    I just started getting these invitations, and am not opposed to referrals or sales or money or even free steak… But at the risk of sounding dense, I still do not get what the site is supposed to do. Who pays who for what? with what? Person A refers a client to Person B, client busy something from Person B, so then Person B pays a fee to Person A, and then Referral Key sends free steak to everyone?
    I guess it is my biological imperative to say hooray for the internet and websites and stuff… I just still don’t get it.

    But, thank you, Claire, I really enjoyed your review and appreciated the time and thought you put into it. It is not your fault that I don’t get what RK does.

  143. THANK YOU! I appreciate the thoughtful, intelligent review on this latest “social experiment.” Gave me the insight I needed to look before I leaped…

  144. I think its another form of SPAM or those irritating pop-up ads.

    I marked my “referralkey” email as SPAM. And I also removed my Linkedin connection from the person who sent me the “referralkey”.

    If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. NOTHING IS FREE.

  145. Hello Claire,
    I just received a Referral Key request in my inbox. I recruit Managers/Execs in Production Agriculture, and I was quite suspicious. Your post came up first in a Google review. You saved me a tremendous amount of time in figuring the gist of this. One of your replies commented that they would like to see Linkedin or Facebook leverage referral bonuses. Linkedin does have an area where referrals can be offered but it’s not advertised prominently.
    Thank you for sharing your research. I think Referral Key better serves true dentists, plumbers, DJs, or similar service providers. Besides, “other” is a pretty big category!

  146. I think Referral Key is spam. From what I’ve gleaned before clicking on the link from other reviews, it seems like blind contacts. You’d do just as well to pick a page from the phone book. Also, I’ve had to mark the guy who sent me the “referral” as spam so he’s just burned a connection.

  147. Thanks for the detailed and witty review. I agree with the wait and see approach as I highly value my network (and integrity) so do not want to have anything that could be seen as spam sent to my contacts with my name attached to it.

    Personally, I’d love to see LinkedIn or a Facebook app that leverages those existing networks to develop a solid referral program. On a side note, I work in social media and enjoyed the comments on this post. Particularly that Chris Ott sent a detailed reply. Unfortunately for Referral Key another poster’s review on Chris Ott later on took away from what he had said and he did not come back to respond again.

  148. I received one of these in my email from someone I know to be in Scientology which sent me on a search to see if this is another one of those Scientology front names and if the board, leaders etc are in Scientology. Perhaps? I don’t have time to fully investigate but my gut says yes… I do not support cults…..excellent work Claire and sounds like something I would not want to part of because it sound like”work” and a scam.

  149. Very good review. I have received a couple of invites in the past, but never pursued it.

    The limited categories is somewhat bothersome as you just get lumped in with others.

    I did sign up though as any visibility is a good thing especially as it costs nothing.

  150. Thanks for the research. The other thing that stands out to me is the concept of getting paid for referrals, an absolute no-no for anyone in the medical field. Hands down a violation of anti-kickback laws in medicine. I am running away from something that sounds to good to be true.

  151. Thanks so much for the review that came at the top of my google search for “reviews of referral key”. Looks like people are getting lots of emails about this service. I appreciate your thorough research and will wait to see what happens before I decide to sign up.

  152. Your hard work and thorough analysis saved me a ton, especially in the embarrassment department. In today’s world, not to have detailed and credible expertise categories is sign of carelessness and ‘under utilized’ marketing opportunity. Thank you.

  153. Thanks Claire.
    I just received my first RK invitation. So I immediately started researching and did not find very much. Your analysis confirms my opinion and hold off even trying to sign up. But I think I’ll keep an eye on this for a while

  154. At the risk of repeating what others have said – thanks so much for investigating this new company for me. My instinct said there was something fishy going on, and I don’t like it. It could be an honest mistake on the part of the developers, who have just went for throat so directly that it is off-putting to some people who are used to a slower lead-up before signing on and sharing valuable email addresses, referral contacts etc. And thanks to Shama for a balanced opinion – looking forward to hearing more on how it all works out. For now I will not be signing up but I will keep an eye (and an ear) on RK.

  155. Just to be fair here, I got an invitation also and filled out my profile info. No, I am not a dentist but a massage therapist, so I clicked on “other”. That allowed me to fill in whatever I wanted which was “massage courses”. This then showed up correctly in my profile. So although the list of choices is not that long, the “other” category allows you to customize it to whatever you want.
    They state that you only pay the referral fee if the referral results in a sale for you which is a perfectly valid concept. I’d be happy paying referral fees all day long if they result in sales.
    I don’t know if RK will take off, and yes, they could provide clearer instructions how it all works, but I think the concept is a good one.

      • Claire ~
        Thanks for the information. One note that should be considered: they have a drop down for real estate. I live in CA, and it is a violation of RESPA (Real Estate Settlement and Procurement Act) to pay a referral fee in a real estate transaction to anyone other than a licensed real estate broker. So I find it strange that a company who’s been in business for 4 years hasn’t been notified of the situation. If my dentist (since everyone seems to be using this analogy) refers me a client and I close that transaction, I cannot pay a referral fee (prohibited by law), but I can extend a hearty Thank You. Would this violate the sites rules? Either way…think I’m satisfied with LinkdIn. Great research and excellent information Claire! Cheers!

        • Anders:

          Obviously, agents in Georgia are constrained by the same regulations – and there are more commercial real estate broker to broker referral sites in place than I can possibly keep up with. I look forward to seeing how RK progresses, since it may be of benefit to some of my clients; however, I will wait a while before I make any recommendations.

  156. Hey Claire–thanks for the info! I just received one of these emails. And as Mom always taught me, I didn’t touch that “cause I didn’t know where it’s been”! I immediately googled for reviews and found yours. As the others have said, you saved me a lot of work and potential spam. Thank goodness I don’t eat beef or I might have been hypnotized by the free steak! 😉

  157. Thanks, Claire, I appreciate the time you have put in to this. I have only received one invite, and I also noticed that I will have to be a DENTIST as they just don’t have Genealogist in their list! This is not something that I will be subscribing to, as I have more than enough work to keep me going … with referrals from people who know my work, not just my name.

  158. Great job, Claire – I too have been wondering what to do with all of these new found “opportunities” and you just saved me a lot of time, and gave me a chuckle at the same time. Good stuff and thanks for sharing it.

  159. Claire,
    Thank you for posting this information. I looked for reviews of said Referral Key as soon as I found an invitation in my Junk mail (that came from someone I didn’t know). My suspicions were confirmed.

    Oh, and Chris, ‘me thinks thou missed the point’ … Claire said Referral Key may be one in a million. She did not say it is.

  160. Pingback: My Referral Key
  161. Hi Claire,

    I say run like the wind from this outfit! First there was the confusing sign up process, then the export/import mess and when I called the number below form more help your new friend Chris Ott was the most impatient, arrogant, rude ass I have ran into in a long time. In fact after being insulted by his rude, pushy demeanor just a few sentances into the conversation I promptly told him to shove it @#!$%$#% !! I don’t think I have ever told a business acquaintance that… if that tells you anything.He emailed me back to say I was banned from the sight 🙂 I will bet that was a first for them too as they sure do seem to push their “free” service and need people to join.. As I told him in my rebuttal….nothing is free! The other problem besides Chris (AKA Jekle/Hyde) is the same thing you mentioned. How can someone recommend me if they do not even know me……useless time waster I would say…right? If I have to pay you to say good things where is the integritty here? I have plenty of clients after thirty years of business that can recommend me on viable grounds. Good Luck!

  162. Thanks for this analysis, Claire. I got an invitation too and was suspicious. The wording is the same as you received. For a four year old site, there’s surprisingly little about Referral Key online. That’s also a concern.

    I don’t see a compelling reason to join another site. I’m happy to give/get referrals where my network already is — on LinkedIn 🙂

  163. Claire,

    It’s Chris from Referral Key. Thanks for the write up and visiting the site.
    Cool blog! I’m not sure Lewis is the “Tom” from MySpace, Lewis isn’t a colleague on Referral Key by default, I think the point on MySpace was that Tom was your friend of the break. We didn’t want to do that. because only you can choose who you want in your RK network. It isn’t about who you went to college with or who worked at your first job.

    We work on transparency and you can call us anytime. Most people think that’s pretty nifty for a website, and Lewis’s message is just a welcome message.

    btw, thanks for the “One in a million”, considering the network size and number of satisfied people I talked with, most members think we are a one in a billion but we’ll take one in a million.

    Obviously since referrals are private you guys don’t get to see what we do but thousands of referrals ain’t bad.

    While I was typing this, I just got this message on my voicemail…

    “Phone Message: “Hi Chris, I joined Referral Key two days ago and landed a $10,000 gig at the Jacob Javits Center. Thanks so much, I’ve used social media to grow my biz for years and have never seen anything like this. It’s unique, simple, and to-the-point. I’m sure there are people all over the world generating real dollars because of this idea. I will tell all of my friends” – Dave Maskin http://djdavid.com/

    We don’t advertise, we let satisfied members refer us.

    If you guys need help stop by the office or give me a call anytime!

    We love to help because we know it can take time getting used to something new. Yes there are a lot of people inviting eachother and we think it’s because we are trying to answer the toughest question in social media, “Beyond making connections and promoting oneself, is it possible to have a network of small busienss owners that actually refer new business to eachother.”

    We spent a lot of research and the last 4 years answering that question.

    Stay in touch…


    • Referralkey is a weak linkedin wannabe based entirely upon lame social media spam email “tricks”, mostly underhanded, attempting to get you to interact with their content-free website.

      You should sign-up if you really enjoy receiving spam email and want ALL your friends to also enjoy receiving spam email. Especially excellent if you want the spam email to include embedded links that look exactly like virus vectors.

      This is a really stinky one folks.

      Summary: AVOID!

    • What I wonder is, how one goes about enticing the already crowded world of social networks and business referral networks to trust something new that lands in an Inbox and from the get go looks suspect.

      Yes there will be needs surrounding good and trustworthy business referrals no matter the distance but what’s better than connecting with our voice, face and a cup of coffee? Would’t it be wonderful to meld what you think your research has delivered in the way of data with that of actual people building the best relationships possible with real live in person connections? WHat has your research, if any, told you about that?

      I received a referralkey.com email from an acquaintance, followed it, allowed referralkey to harvest my over 500 LinkedIn contacts and all I’ve gotten from it is WORK! I’ve had to both apologize – at this point – to any response and explain what I DON’T know it is and to ignore the link in the email.

      This doesn’t bode well for your endeavor.

      Richard Mauro Ricchiuti

      • I got an email from a linkedin colleague and clicked the link. Then like you uploaded all my linked in contacts. I got an out of office reply immediately in my inbox and I thought…what the heck. Little did I know that they send out invites on my behalf WITHOUT MY CONSENT OR KNOWLEDGE!! There are people in my linkedin (like my retired Father) that would be puzzled at the email. I even got a scathing email from a linkedin contact that I should have removed, but had neglected to do so. I am furious that these people can send out spam on my behalf. I am sure this is against the law and I plan on doing something about it.

        • Julie, the same thing happen to me. I have over 1500 contacts that were exposed. This is unbelievable that they would send these inappropriate emails number one, and then without my consent. I found no phone number for customer service to express my concern.

    • This is such a joke. I too got an email which led me to this blog. The guy from the company who posted a response doesn’t even take the time to explain what the company is really about? As far as I can tell it’s a way for people to get other people to sign up for a company/website that does nothing for the people that just signed up. This is like Mary Kay cosmetics without the cosmetics!

  164. Thank you so much for taking the time to investigate this and saving me from having to do it. Like you, I’ve recently begun receiving these from people with whom I normally have little contact. I had my suspicions and they’ve been confirmed by your research. Though Referral Key may indeed become a useful tool at some point in the future (one in a million), for the present I plan to turn these “invitations” down without a moment’s hesitation.