We recently received a strange request for web design services. Instead of this potential customer contacting us through our RFP Form or calling us on the phone, they used our general contact form and asked us if we could “handle website design for a new company” and also “if we accept credit cards?” This odd request came from a Jennifer Webb who says her company is called Agric and has a return email address of firstname.lastname@example.org.
A search for the company name of “Agric” doesn’t turn up anything significant. However, when you Google the email address of “email@example.com,” you will see that we are not alone in this new type of scam.
Were we duped? Hell no! Did I play along? Absolutely!
Below is the sequence of of our conversation and what I feel was a funny response to them on my part after they pulled the trigger on their scam.
Let’s begin with their initial message.
Hi I’m Jennifer, I wanna know if you can handle website design for a new company and also if you do you accept credit cards?
Phone: (612) 440-8973
Yes we can do web design for a new company and we do accept Visa, MC, Amex and Discover.
You can either submit a RFP at https://www.searchrank.com/quote/ or just provide more info by replying to this email of what you are looking for specifically.
I look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience.
Thanks for your response i have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in city 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 http://http://www.westphalia.com.au 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.
- I want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
- I want only English language
- I don’t have a domain yet but i want the domain name as www.premium-farm.me
- you will be updating the site for me.
- i will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
- i want the site up and running before ending of next month.
- My budget is $4000 to $6500
Kindly get back to me with:
(1) An estimate
(2) And will like to know if you are the owner ?
(3) Your cellphone number so that we can have suitable text on phone
Thank you for sending this information. I do have a few additional questions/comments before I can provide a quote.
1. First of all, premium-farm.me is not available to purchase. You might try searching https://directnic.com/ or another domain name registrar to see what other variations of this domain or alternative are available.
2. After you provided a site example to look at, you said, “site would only be informational.” So, is it safe to assume that you DO NOT need ecommerce functionality? In other words, you will not be selling products through the site?
Let me know on these two items and I’ll get back with you promptly with a quote. Also, I am one of the owners/founders of the company and while my mobile number is listed below, I do not use text for business purposes. Email is preferred and we can also discuss over phone, whichever of these two is most convenient for you.
David I’m okay with all you have said also i’ll like you to get me a domain name and calculate everything so that you can get back to me with the total estimate cost so that we can proceed with the payment Asap ….
You have not answered question # 2 below. Please answer and I will then be able to provide a quote on web site development.
i don’t want ecommerce functionality for now so i’ll like you to kindly go ahead an put together a quote so that i can know how much the service is gonna cost me so that we can proceed with the payment soon
At this point, it is pretty evident that this is a person (criminal) that is trying to pull a scam. But what if it is a legitimate request for web design services? Maybe the person is just ignorant? So I proceed with the response below which is common form letter text that we use to pitch web development.
Here are the details of what we provide with web design service and costs for your project.
Web Site Design
We utilize WordPress for the content management system which provides you and easy-to-use content management system allowing you to manage, update and even add to your site. WordPress additionally offers blog functionality should you decide you want to have a blog as part of your web site.
WordPress will be professionally installed using a mySQL database and once installed, WordPress will be properly configured for optimal performance as well as security.
As for the theme (or design) of your site, we will customize any of the hundreds of WordPress themes that are currently available enabling you to utilize all of the features of WordPress without necessarily having to have a new theme designed from scratch. We will coordinate your logos, images, color scheme, layout, etc. so that your site has it’s own unique look and feel.
Your web site will be fully responsive meaning it will be mobile-friendly and adapt to various screen sizes (i.e., PC, tablets, smart phones).
WordPress sites as described above are $2,500 and can initially include up to 10 pages of content. Keep in mind that you are not necessarily limited to any number of pages, however the larger the site, the more time involved in creating additional pages which may drive up the cost.
If you can provide me a basic outline of what you feel your site might include, such as a list of pages or possibly what you wish to display in a web site, I can then put together a more precise quote.
Let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to hearing back from you soon.
And now, it is time for the scammer to reveal their scam.
I am okay with the estimate $2,500 . everything sound good and I’m ready to make payment now with my credit card, I understand the content for this site would be needed so work can start asap but i will need a Little favor from you and the favor is that I will send you my credit card to charge for the sum of $3,450.00 plus 3% Cc company charges, You will deduct $1,250.00 as deposit for the design of the website plus extra $200.00 as a tip for handling perfect work for me and you will send the remaining $2,000.00 to the project consultant that has the text content and the logo for my website so once he receive the $2,000.00 he would send the text content and logo needed for my website to you so work can start asap,Sending of funds would be after money clears into your account and You will be charging my card for remaining balance upon completion of work,also what credit card merchant did you use to process payment? Kindly get back to me with your Cell phone number so that i can always text you so we can proceed with payment Asap.
So, I thought this was interesting that they were going to give me a credit card to bill, which will obviously be a fake or stolen credit card, as oppossed to a money order. The rest of it smells very familiar to a typical Money Order Scam that many have experienced when trying to sell something online, such as Craigslist or Auto Trader or any other online type of marketplace.
What this criminal is offering sounds too good to be true, which is why so many suckers fall prey to such a ploy. I bill their credit card $3,450.00 plus an additional 3% for the percentage that Visa, MC, AMX, etc. charges. That’s an additional $103.50 added to the $3,450. If this isn’t nice enough of them to be willing to pay the credit card processing fees of $103.50, they add a $200 tip on top of their already very generous offer. I’m then to send $2,000 to this so-called “project consultant.” I end up with $1,553.50 initially with the ability to bill another $1,250 once the web site is complete.
Sounds great, right? Except what really happens is not only will the bank end up reversing the entire charge of $3,753.50 once they discover it is fraudulent, you are out the additional $2,000 you sent to the “project consultant.”
Anyone with half a brain would smell this out as a complete scam. Most often, I would ignore the person from this point on. However in this case, I decided to have a bit of fun with them.
I sent them the following response:
Actually we cannot accept credit cards for this type of project but rather cash only. And we need the full amount (nothing less and nothing more) of $2,500 before we can begin work.
So, this is what I need you to do: Get $2,500 in $100 bills (that’s 25 of them) and put them in a letter size yellow envelope that has a self-sticking seal. Then mail them to our address which is 4802 E. Ray Rd, Suite 23-530, Phoenix, AZ 85044.
Please make sure the $100 bills are all forward facing as our accounts receivable staffer is very particular about this. We certainly don’t want to upset the person who handles the money, do we? 😉
Oh and if you can do me one more favor: Believe it or not, the person who handles our money actually hates the “smell” of money. So, if you can throw in the envelope one of those car air fresheners, that would be really nice. Pine, vanilla or new car smell are their favorites.
Let me know once you have mailed the full amount and then I can anxiously await your package. Let me know if you have any questions.
Are you surprised that I have not received any further response from them? 😉