In this post, I would like to share a real story with you, for website designers compaines or even individuals. This has happened for a lot of people and people lost a lot of money and time.
The scammer usually finds you from your online profile. Like on UpWork, Thumbtack, Freelancer, LinkedIn, etc.
Here’s the scammer that contacted me via email from email@example.com:
Hello I heard you do web design are you available?
As a web developer, you would reply “I am available “. You don’t expect anything weird yet. However, you might think where did this person find me from?
The next thing they send is this form, it could be different for each developer:
I have small scale business which i
want to turn into large scale business i want you to understand that I’m presently out of the state on a business trip 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?
i,ll be back in 60 days and i want something similar with the website i sent to you earlier do you undestand?
I need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible. www.attra.ncat.org 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.
1. I want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
2. I want only English language.
3. I don’t have a domain yet but i want the domain name as farmsproducts.co.
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. i will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
6. i want the site up and running before my return
You may feel that this is actually real, because there are some details in the text. However, the bolded is little strange for me at the beginning. I also checked farmsproducts.co and farmsproducts.com and they were taken. So I emailed back and said I am able to do the project and I’ll send the estimate for them.
The requested URL had about 16 pages, according to our pricing, this would cost more than $2,000. So I sent the estimate to the future scammer. There was no negotiation whatsoever as he agreed to the terms and conditions. I requested $1125 from him to get started. He signed and returned the estimate to me.
This is not normal to see your client does not ask any questions. Usually, real businesses ask more!
Anyway, he started to text me (from phone number: 912-785-4175, he called himself Edward Palunbinskas). The first text message:
OK I’m ready to proceed with the deposit today to start working ASAP
Well, sounds perfect, right? So true to be right! And then:
I hope you accept credit card payment and I’ll need you to do me a favor regarding to my consultant to work things out perfectly?
Hmmm… strange … but a lot of businesses do accept credit cards and this isn’t too weird. However, nobody likes to get paid by CC’s. You would like cash! So I declined the offer and asked for a real cash or direct deposit. He said:
But I can only make payment with my credit card at the moment. Do you have square?
Square is a payment gateway to accept credit cards. Like PayPal & Stripe or authorize.net. I did not have Square account. So I asked for PayPal account. I’m assuming every developer does have a PayPal account. But he said something weirder, he said that my card does not work with PayPal. It works with Square! I was a little worried, but I became greedy and I agreed!
The payment processor was created and linked to my bank account. All of these happened in a few hours. I told him that I’ll be charged some fees for credit cards. I made an invoice and emailed him to pay me. But he texted me:
Can I forward you my card information while you process payment manually?
Again, I was not thinking enough to at least ask WHY! But for some reason, I found it rude and was thinking about the money, especially now that Coronavirus is around. So I agreed. Next text message was even more stranger:
Can you charge the sum of $4,500 on my card while you the sum of $1,125 for your deposit while you transfer the sum of $3,000 to my consultant to provide the content information for my website and you can have the rest for the charges and tips Do you understand?
The Do you understand made me think more. I was suspecting that this is a scam but I said OK but it will take a few days to get started. I should see the money in my bank account.
Tip: Never hurry to get the work started. Wait until the fund is cleared and then start the work. Do not assume that the money will be in your account. Until you see the money in your bank account.
He sent the credit card (Visa) with Niles, IL (60714) address. I was OK because I told him that I don’t get started until the money is in the bank account. And I don’t have cash (I would say the same thing regardless of my bank funds)! And I caught him when he said this:
Do you have $1,500 with you now or $2,000?
I want you to help me to transfer the sum of $1,500 or $2,000 to the consultant now for him to release the details for the website and you can balance him when you have the funds available in your account so you can get the website started tomorrow
Well there was a problem! Square suspended my account due to the unusual activity. But he knew that they’ll let you to transfer $2,000 instantly. I did not tell him anything. He said they’ll release the funds don’t panic, don’t worry. But I did not agree. I told him until the money is my bank account, I will not do anything.
Can you help me to send the consultant any amount you have available for now for him to release the content information right now so you can look into them and figure things out?
I only have his email and Zelle information
I’ll make sure he contact you immediately he receive the transfer to discuss much better
Do you have Zelle or cash app ?
And I did not agree. I said I will wait until the money is released. And then I can send you what you want. Until the fake private consultant texted me from (251) 230-3710.
I was tired of this and I googled the number above and found that this guy or person is a scammer. So I picked up the phone and called 911. I know that there is no reason to panic but I wanted to let them know that I just became aware of this and not to commit any illegal action.
The police knew about this scam, so they stored my information and they told me to refund the person and do not do business with them anymore. And if they ever threaten your life or safety, call on us!
And then I texted him that I will not accept any credit card payments. And and I only accept cash, check, direct deposit when they’re available in the bank account.
And he never got back to me again!
How can they scam the web designer?
Usually they would pay you by a credit card. The credit card will not be accpeted by the payment company. It’s either becuase it’s a fake credit card or it has a problem. Bascailly, you will be required to send the money back to the payment processor. Meanwhile the scammer asks you to deposit some money and when your money is gone, it’s Bye Bye!
And now… let’s see how we can identify scammers: