Be Careful of Web Design Scams!

Written by MasterA       
  • Miscellaneous
  • October 23, 2019

    You may be very happy when someone contacts you on your website requesting for a quote for your Web Design service with a budget of $5,000 to $10,000. This shows that your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts has paid off. However, you should be very careful when random people contact you online requesting for your services. We recently received multiple Web Design requests that looks very odd and we knew that something wasn’t quite right. We all know that there are lots of online scams, so we need to be very careful when selling services online. As an international Web Design company, we serve customers from all around the world and it can sometimes difficult to differentiate between legitimate customers and scammers, when you can’t meet up with them due to location limitations. In this article, we will provide you with tips on how to identify potential scammers who may request your services.

    How the Scam works?

    These scams are called the Third-Party Transfer Scam, also known as the Payment Reversal Scam. Before we let you know how the scam works, we would like you to take a look at the first email we received from the scammer:

    “My wife has small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in MI and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Gacillia Nut and Cocoa so i need a best of the best layout design for it. Can you handle that for me ?. so i need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible .https://agroamerica.com/en/…. the site would only be informational, so i need you to give me an estimate based on the site i gave you to check out, the estimate should include hosting and i want the same page as the site i gave you to check out and i have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.

    Note:

    1. She want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.

    2. She want only English language

    3. She doesn’t have a domain yet but she want the domain name as yourtopfarmproduce.com

    4. you will be updating the site for my wife.

    5. The private project consultant is also working on how to provide the images, logos and content for the site.

    6. Her budget is $5000 to $10000”

    Firstly, you can already see a few odd things about this email. The first thing is this person claims to be from MI, I am assuming Michigan, USA? However, his English is very poor, has bad grammar and it doesn’t sound like someone from USA. Interestingly, we were on Google Analytics when he used our contact form and we found out that this person was actually from Nigeria. When we looked at their name online, there was actually someone with the same name from Michigan, USA so they are pretending to be someone else. For privacy reasons, we won’t mention names in this article.

    Another weird thing is that all they want is to copy another website and there are very little requirements. The reason is because they want to send you the money quickly so they are giving you very basic requirements.

    So now lets go into how the scam works. As you can see with the scammer, he has a very large budget and also a private consultant. The private consultant is actually the scammer himself. When you give him a quote, he will just accept your quote and then he will pay you more than your quoted amount. He will then make up very lame excuses like he is too busy to pay his private consultant so he sends you extra money so that you can transfer the money to the private consultant on behalf of him. The truth is that the scammer is using a stolen credit card to pay you so when the actual owner of the credit card requests a chargeback, they will take back all the money that the scammer paid for the quote and you ended up losing money equivalent to the private consultant’s charge.

    How to spot and prevent these scams?

    Here are some tips to help you spot and prevent these scams:

    Use Contact Form: We use WordPress’s Contact Form 7 on our website and one feature that we use is the tracking of the sender’s IP address. As I mentioned earlier, the scammer was pretending to be someone from the United States but they were located in Nigeria. Check their IP address to see if they are actually from the location they claim to be in. If you are collecting IP addresses, make sure that you are GDPR compliant.

    Poor English: Maybe they are a legitimate customer and English is not their first language but I would be a little bit more careful if they English is poor, especially if they claim to be from an English speaking country.

    Google their message: If you are unsure if they are a legitimate customer, google their message. A lot of scammers are using the same template message to request web designs. If you find a similar message online, do not reply to their message.

    Bank Transfer: Chargeback scams are very common for PayPal and Credit Card payments but you cannot request chargebacks from bank transfers so receiving payment using bank transfer is one way of preventing these scams. If you are a CryptoCurrency fan like us, you can also accept that as a form of payment as there are also no chargebacks available.

    Multiple Messages: A few weeks after our Agriculture product web design request, we received another one:

    “I just open a new elementary school which I run now and I need a website for my school to grow, So I need you to go through this example link site: https://www.birmingham.k12.mi.us/beverly, but I need something more perfect than this if possible, I will like you to get back to me with an estimate and the estimate should include hosting and I want you to understand I want the same page as the example site I gave you to check and I want only English language and I want you to know you will be updating the site for me. I want the site up and running before end of November and also I don’t have a domain name yet and i will prefer: Marilynhyneselementerysch.net. My budget is $5000-12000 for the web design, I have a private project consultant, she has the text content and the logos for the site with the image artwork, so please go ahead and check the example website and get back to me with an estimate cost also I will like to know if you are the owner or the manager and do you accept credit card and check as payment. Thank you”

    Again, there is a high budget and another private consultant. Interestingly, this time, they message us the same message twice within 3 hours. If they send the same message multiple times then it must be a scam.

    Never Pay a third party on behalf of a client: Never ever pay a third party on behalf of a client. If the client sends you extra money for you to pay on behalf of them, reject the request and refund them the extra money. If they make a fuss about it, refund them in full and reject the project. It is not worth taking the risk.

    We hope that this article can help you prevent being victims of scams. These scammers are not just targeting web designers but also graphics designers and other digital agencies so be very careful! Thankfully, we didn’t fall into this trap as we knew something was very odd since receiving the first email. If you receive similar emails, feel free to post them in the comments below as this can help other people identify these scams.

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