Emails requesting I remove links from my site

Over the past few months, I have received three emails along the lines of this one:

It has come to our attention that your site may be linking to our own in a manner which we believe may be mutually harmful in SEO terms. For this reason, I would be very grateful if you would please remove all links to this site at your earliest convenience, letting me know that you have done so.

If you run a blog, have you received similar emails? My standard reply is along these lines:

I am happy to remove the link to <company name> from my site if necessary. However, before I do that...

(Forgive me for being paranoid and ultra-sceptical but...)

How do I know that you're not working for a competitor to <company name> who is trying to decrease the ranking of <company name> on search engines? I see that your email address comes from the domain <company name.suffix> but we all know that it's trivial to fake the "from" address of an email.

Please can you confirm that if I was to contact <company name> directly then they would confirm that you are working for them?

I understand that the Google Penguin search engine algorithm update targets "black-hat SEO techniques" such as participating in link schemes. However, I must emphasise that my website is just an "organic" blog. I was not paid to accept links from <company name>. If you feel that <company name> has been unfairly targeted by Google then please complain to Google using their Penguin feedback form.

Again, I'm really sorry to be so very sceptical about this. I just want to make sure I'm not being duped.

Following my reply, all three people who have contacted me have, so far at least, gone quiet.

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Hmmm, it sounds you were right to be suspicious. I think that fact that no one responded to your reply speaks volumes. And for the record, I haven't had any such emails, and I link to a lot of smart metering companies!

Yeah. None of the smart meter companies I link to have contacted me. It's mostly just people who are nominally contacting me from LED manufacturers.

My good friend (and ninja webby person) Ed sent a couple of tweets to me about this. He says "It's relatively common bullshit scam. Tell them where to go and do not remove any links. it's simple black-hat SEO. With the value of link spam now reduced, removing links to competitors is next best."

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