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.
- The “client” sends you a check (or a credit card transfer from stolen card) for a bigger amount than you’ve requested.
- After that, “client” asks you to pay the overpayment to his consultant.
- The real owner of the check/credit card disputes the transaction and gets it reversed.
- 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 <email@example.com>
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.
(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 ??
Another one from the same sender:
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.
The latest one from STACY DAVID <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Note: the sender name is Stacy David, but the mail signature states "James Robertson". Apparently, something went wrong with email templates :)
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.
(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 "email@example.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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> (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?
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.