Skip to main content

Fraud against web-design/web-development companies

Jan 9, 2020

Recently, we’ve received a couple of quite similar emails from different prospects. Both contacts were asking for web development services and were eager to pay 50% with the only restriction they were asking to pay via check. Do you know any client who shares their budget in first email? Or maybe you know any client who offers to pay 50% upfront payment without any questions about the contract? I felt suspicious about that as well.

After a short research on the web, I realised that this is a popular scam scheme.

Usually, this scam scheme is called Third Party Payout Scam, the Payment Reversal Scam, the Advanced Fee Scam or the Overpayment Scam. The idea is quite simple.

  1. The “client” sends you a check (or a credit card transfer from stolen card) for a bigger amount than you’ve requested.
  2. After that, “client” asks you to pay the overpayment to his consultant.
  3. The real owner of the check/credit card disputes the transaction and gets it reversed.
  4. You end up transferring money to “consultant” from your own pocket.

How to recognize that you’ve received a scam letter

  • Client requests a simple job. Travel agency/restaurant website, usually they ask for an exact copy of existing website. No complex features;
  • Client discloses budget in the first message. Budget seems to be a bit extensive for a small restaurant website;
  • Client says that all content and images will be shared by a consultant;
  • Client offers a generous 50% upfront payment prior to asking anything about a contract or delivery dates (it never happened to me in 4 years of being a CEO);
  • Client asks for a payment via check, because of being traveling abroad.

Letters we’ve received at ZANZARRA

From: James Petal <jamespetal26@outlook.com>

Hello

 I am James Petal living at FL,USA.My family is about to open an hotel in FL,USA.I want a website created for the hotel and i need you to get a lovely layout design for it.

Can you handle the job? I need you to check this hotel website https://www.warehousehotel.com .Its a website of an hotel in Manheim,PA USA where i once lodge for weeks.I love the simplicity of the hotel and every other thing about it so i will like you to use that has a sample site.Create an hotel website similar to that for me with the same number of pages and style.In fact i will be happy if you can make the website to look exactly like the sample website given.

You need to take note of the following;

***I want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
***The domain name will be goosehotel or goosehotel.net but .com is preferable.
***My budget is $5000 including domain name at godadddy.com
***You will be getting the domain name from the money i will be paying
***I do not want a live chat included
***I  have the images of the hotel and all the contents for the hotel,address,contact information,emails etc with someone working for us,so i will be providing that once half of your payment is received to start working.

I also want to know if your company accept check payment ?Am in Canada right now so i want the site running up before i get back to Florida in the next 4 weeks.Kindly check the sample website,then get back to me with an estimate price.

James Petal
(CEO Goose Hotel)

Shayla Wilks <Shaylawilks@outlook.com>

I just open a new Thailand restaurant in Houston Texas, which I now run and I need a website for my business to grow. I need you to go through this example link site: millvalleythailand.com 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 benchmark website I gave you to check and I only want it in English language. You will be responsible for updating the site quarterly or yearly.

The site should be up and running before ending of next month and I don't want a shopping cart in my reservation page also I don't have a domain name yet and I will prefer: BAQINUEWRESTAURANT.NET.

My budget is $2000-$7500 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 site.

Kindly get back to me with:
(1) an estimate
(2) And will like to know if you are the owner ??

Regards

Shayla Wilks

Another one from the same sender:

Hello Alex,

I read your email and i found all information/approach perfect. This email also confirms my readiness to use your proposal and to proceed further.

Please i'd your payment information so that i can issue out your deposit payment in form of check payment mailed and address to you since that is my only available payment method right now.

1. Full name on check:
2. Mailing address with Apt/Rm # if needed (No PO Box):
3. Your direct cell phone number :
4. 70% deposit amount due:

As informed earlier, the consultant has the necessary content, logo etc. for the new website and will be in touch as soon as there is a payment/contract agreement.

I could have called but traveling around Asia right now and won't be available for calls until i get back to the states in November (two days to the launch date). Email should do justice and would always try to reply email fast.

Please let me know if there is any paperwork to sign.

Best Regards,

The latest one from STACY DAVID <stacydavid007@gmail.com>

Note: the sender name is Stacy David, but the mail signature states "James Robertson". Apparently, something went wrong with email templates :)

Hello
My  name is Stacy David ,i live in Usa.I will like you to build an hotel
website for my wife and i.The hotel is under construction and its located in
Bee branch,Arkansas.The hotel will be opened in a month time so i will like
you to create a website for the hotel within a month.Can you do this
job?Check this website,its a sample website of what i want the hotel website
to look like https:thestrathconahotel.com .Its a website of an hotel in
Toronto Ontario where i once lodged for few days.I love the simplicity of the
hotel and every other thing about their website so i will like to use that
has a sample website.Create an hotel website similar to that for me.
You need to take note of the following details:
*I want you to include  the amount of the domain to the total cost
*The domain name will be rovershotel.com or Roversusahotel.com
*My budget for this job is $6000
*I dont want chat included
*I have the images and the logos with the contents for the website.Once we
agree on the amount i will send you the details needed for the website.
*I do not want chat included.
*I want the same number of pages of the sample website
I also want to know if the compny accept check payment ?Am in canada right
now and i want the website running up before i get back to USA in 4 weeks
time.Kindly check the sample website and get back to me with the Total cost.
Waiting to hear back from you soon.
Thank you
James Robertson
(CEO Rovers Group of Companies)

Our readers started sharing their own experience with such scammers. Below are their quotes (for privacy reasons, I won't share their contact details):

Thanks for your post about the scam email. I grew suspicious when a
certain Stacy David didn't accept my invitaiton for a Skype call before we
kickedoff their project. I googled "stacydavid007@gmail.com" and found your
post! I think I am going to waste this person's time a little. I wish I had a
better plan to get back at these scammers.

And the next reply from "Stacy David":

 

I was warn by my bank not to use my card on paypal or any other merchant again because they double remit my account twice before and I don't want to go against my bank warning to me and I wish i can be able to wire the funds to you but am very busy here and don't have time to do all that so in view of this my account manager can only send check to the United States on my behalf, I tried to persuade him but he said that he is out of options for now.

Let me know if you have a representative in USA who will receive and deposit the check on your behalf. I will need the full name,address and cellphone number of the recipient of the check in United States. Let me know your thought asap.

Here we've just receive another sample of the fraudulent message from <simonjoness@outlook.com> (I hope you're getting the pattern):

I just opened a new Indian Restaurant which I run now and I need a website for my business to grow, I need you to go through this link site: http://www.gharanarestaurant.com I will like you to get back to me with an estimate which include hosting. I want only English language and table reservation very important. I want the site up and running within two months and I don't want a shopping cart in my reservation page also I don't have a domain name yet and i will prefer: www.JanisRestaurant.Net My budget is $3000-$6000 for the web design. I have a private project consultant, she has the text content and logos for the site with the image artwork. Please go ahead and check site sample and get back to me with an estimate, I will like to know if you are the owner or the manager and do you accept check as payment?

Yet another email, reported by one of our readers Benjamin Frimpong Cudjoe.

Note: I am not posting all the communication in here, only the key message which allows to distinguish the fraudulent request:

Hello
Am not able to use PayPal or any other merchant because i had a double remit
from a website i use few weeks ago.Since then i have a strict instruction
from my bank that i must not use PayPal or wire transfer for any transaction
now matter what pending the time been
However,i can have my personal assistant write you a check and have it sent
to you if you live in USA or to any one you have in USA that could receive a
check for you.
Let me know if you have someone that can receive check on your behalf in
USA.All i will be needing his name,address and mobile number for
communication to have the check sent out to him.
James Robertson
Director(ROBERTSON LTD)

Here is another email from our reader with her story:

Name : Lauraa Raab
Email Id : wilkinsonmonserrate@gmail.com
Phone : +1 (802) 465-1382 [first they asked to text on WhatsApp after doing
that they asked me to mail]
I need you to help in creating a responsive website for a school {Jimmy
College} and must have all necessities for school activities. Here is a
sample link. https://www.marlborough.org I want it to be unique, and will
also follow your good recommendation for me.I would like you to get back to
me with a fixed estimate which includes hosting. This are the features i want
on the site
PHOTO GALLERY
INTERACTIVE FORM / Live chat
EVENT CALENDAR
CONTENT MANAGEMENT
PORTFOLIO
VIDEO GALLERY
BLOG
I want the website up and running within two months. I also don't have a
domain name but am open to suggestions. My budget is $3000-$7000 for web
design and development. I have a private consultant for the text content,
logos, Video, pictures with the artworks for the site. Please get back to me
with an estimate, also I will like to inform you that I will be paying you
with a US check. Do you accept checks as payment within the US ?
After I'm replying that I won't accept payments via check
They sent this email again :
I was warn by my bank not to use my card on paypal or any other merchant
again because they double remit my account twice before and I don't want to
go against my bank warning to me and I wish i can be able to wire the funds
to you but am very busy here and don't have time to do all that so in view of
this my account manager can only send check to the United States on my
behalf, I tried to persuade him but he said that he is out of options for
now.
Let me know if you have a representative in USA who will receive and deposit
the check on your behalf. I will need the full name,address and cellphone
number of the recipient of the check in United States. Let me know your
thought asap

One more fraud attempt reported by one of our readers:

Hello sorry for my late response,ijust open a new spanish Restaurant which I
run now and I need a website for my business to grow,So I need you to go
through this example linksite:https://monterreydoraville.com/ 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 ending of next month and I
don't want a shopping cart in my reservation page also I don't have a domain
name yet and i will prefer: madridRESTAURANT.NET. My budget is $2000-8500 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 site and get back to me with an estimate also I will like
to know if you are the owner or the manager and do you accept credit card

Yet another big thread from one of our readers:

Hello
Here is the details of the new job for you. My name is Thomas Harry and my
wife is Christina Harry, we are residing in Texas USA.
I will be needing you to build a world class website for our newly about to
be opened hotel. I will want you to create the website within the space 5
weeks, no prolongation about this. I said 4 to 5 weeks because the interior
decoration of the website is the only thing left and it will be ready by that
time, so i want both the restaurant and the website to start running the same
day.
Look at this website here [link] I want you to check
this website and create something similar to that for me, let me know if you
can. So kindly get back to me with an estimation, the estimate should include
the hosting too.
So you need to check that sample website first and then let me know if you
can build something similar to that for me in the space of 3 -4 weeks. I will
be sending you the logos and the images and every other things you need for
the job ,all you need to do is to build.
Also i will like to inform you that there will be no shopping cart in my
reservation page and there will be no chat include also.
Note: My budget is not more than $5000.So kindly get back to me with your
total estimate for the job with domain price include.
*I will be providing the logos, image and contents. All you need to do is to
create the website
Though i would have prefer a website designer from USA because of
communication and mode.
*I want a simple and nice design just like the sample website giving but it
should be much more classic and graphic wise than this.
*Let me know the amount you want for the job, my budget for the job is $5000
with hosting included(Give me know an explanation or let me know if your
price is more than my budget)
*I want the domain name to be meakershotel.com
Please email me back asap at lieutenant.christina.harry@hotmail.com
Thomas Harry

Hello
Thanks for the response back. I saw your email and am okay with it. I really
do want you to create this website for me but there are some issues that I
will like us to resolve first before moving forward. First is the issue of
payment.
I was warned by my bank not to use my card on pay pal or any other merchant
again because they double remit my account twice before and I don't want to
go against my bank warning to me and I wish I can be able to wire the funds
to you but am very busy here and don't have time to do all that so in view of
this my account manager can only send cheque/check to you on my behalf, I
tried to persuade him but he said that he is out of options for now. Let me
know your thought asap.
Do you have anybody in the United States that can receive the check on your
behalf? Maybe your brother, cousin, nephew, work partner, brother, sister,
colleague, contact etc.) who can receive a cheque/check on your behalf? If
you have someone in the USA who can receive a check on your behalf get back
to me. What I will be needing is the person's name and address to send the
check/cheque to. I will also be needing his mobile number so that FedEx can
contact him if there is an issue with delivering.
Mr. McConnell

Hello
I will be sending you a check of $7600 which include the private consultant
advance payment, once you clear the money remove your upfront payment of
$2600 and send the rest ($5000) to the private project consultant for her
advance fee(the private Consutant is responsible for the
logos,images,domain,hosting and she's also the brain behind the project)she
has the text content and the logos for the site with the i mage artwork. She
also has every other thing you need to be able to build the website. I could
have payed her myself but she does not have the facility for check(someone to
help her get the check) or credit card at the moment and i couldn't wait for
her to find a way to have her fund but because i want this website to get
build soon that is why i have to do this. I will be sending you her details
when you need it.
Are you clear with that?
Make sure you acknowledge this email
Kindly send me your WhatsApp number, I will be needing it for easy
communication between us
Michael McConnell

New story from our reader

 

The same thing happened with us. When we reached out to him
mentioning that the amount doesn't match the invoiced amount, he chickened
out and never responded. Thankfully, we never put the cheque into clearance,
assuming it can be a fraud. Guy who reached out to us was Kylian Cantona +1
(916) 238-8610. You may want to update his number against the email id
kyliancantona92@outlook.com

Yet another email from our reader. Received an email from <Gloriaanderson002@outlook.com>:

I would love if your company could help with Video Productions for my new business. Get back to me, so as to give you more details

Looks like this fraud affects not web agencies only. One of our readers who does video production reported receiving similar scam letter from <Johnhartman532@outlook.com>:

Sorry for the late response.

I’ll like to know if I got the right contact with a promotional videographer. I want you to create for me a promotional/instructional video for my new company, based on production and sales of organic foods (plant-based food and drinks). The content created will be used on the company website and also displayed on installed HD TV in my restaurants.

1. Company Name: Papa Murphy's Nutrient Inc.
2. My website is under construction which will be registered soon.
3. Full text content, background music and pictures for this design contents will be submitted to you by my project consultant. You just have to handle the layout and the design
4. I want you to add our core values, mission and vision (This information will be provided by the consultant)
5. My budget for the 3 videos is not more than USD 9500
6. I want this delivered in 4-6 weeks to the latest.
7. Videos will be animated

My Goals and about the project:

You will produce 3 videos, each featuring a different template as selected by me (see below), with an approximate segment time of 120 seconds each. You will deliver 6 videos (1080p); 3 original raw videos and 3 edited videos, one for each original video. Below are the inspirational video templates below:

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8xRBTvbA0U
2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEdam6FgZfA
3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5w1OGknhlc

All videos will have background music and company logos which will also be delivered to you by the project consultant.

Papa Murphy's Nutrient Inc. is a pet project and at the same time a business avenue for me. I will be 10 years a vegan in April, and I hope to expand the business (and my brand then)

To my customers, Papa Murphy's Nutrient Inc. should be able to provide over 500 plant-derived minerals that can improve the value of foods, liquids, nutritional formulations and cosmeceuticals. That way also improves the value of life. Whoever purchases our products would have a guarantee of good living and relish.

Our uniqueness will be a privilege of our 5 locations around Indiana and online stores. Our products are also 100 percent plant-based produce under strict standards from International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). Our brand and style would also stand us out.

Other project essentials:

I want you to know that this is the first time I will be doing a promotional/informational video so I can only give you little details, but you can give a better price quote and work based on the sample templates given above. The videos provided are our inspiration and how the preferred promotional videos should look like.

Kindly get back to me with:

(1) a price estimate/quote based on the inspirational videos:
(2) your cell phone number:
(3) And will like to know if you are the owner?

Keep safe and protect yourself from the virus.

The list of emails we've  received scam emails from:

  • austinmariam@outlook.com
  • allisonwalker0022@outlook.com (surprisingly, communication has started using "i need your savings" message)
  • simonjoness@outlook.com
  • stacydavid007@gmail.com
  • shaylawilks@outlook.com
  • jamespetal26@outlook.com
  • kimberlyvanreeves@outlook.com
  • danamcconnell1234@hotmail.com
  • franklinleonard12345@hotmail.com
  • johnhartman455@outlook.com
  • franklinleonard12345@hotmail.com
  • Melissabarksdale21@outlook.com
  • lieutenant.christina.harry@hotmail.com
  • jarinakbor85@gmail.com
  • malinejam70@gmail.com
  • McConnell WhatsApp +1(443)353-0695
  • Johnhartman532@outlook.com
  • hjohn9555@gmail.com
  • kyliancantona92@outlook.com
  • kinmagaladi10@outlook.com
  • lucasfontana21@outlook.com
  • garynacho1@outlook.com (Gary Nacho)
  • korbynwalton97@gmail.com (Korbyn Walton)
  • Jeannegilbreath@outlook.com (note from the reader: They send almost the exact same email as "John Hartman.")

Note: There were confirmed cases of scammers using freelance platforms (like Upwork) to find and contact a potential victim.

We’re living in a time of great openness and abundance of information. Despite that, it’s quite easy to end up being tricked into a fraud scheme with stolen cards or fake checks.

Keep your eyes open and always question any information that seems unusual. I hope this post will help someone to save their time and nerves.

P.S. Feel free to share any examples of scam emails targeting web development companies. You can send your samples/stories via contact form here and I will add these to the post.