Every so often, we receive an email requesting information on services. It comes with the territory of operating a business. When we received an email from one Johnson Greg, we went about our normal course of client ingest questioning. We sent the gentlemen our proposal.
It wasn't until Mister Greg's follow-up email that little red flags started flying.
Scams have been around forever. As long as money has been a thing, people have sought to find an easy way to access it. It has not slowed down in the internet age, and no industry is safe. If there is an easy way for a criminal to make money, they will seize the opportunity. This is the first time I had seen it focus on the web design industry.
The email came across our sales address on a Friday afternoon. Everyone was packing up and heading out, so we decided to leave it until Monday. The message read, and I quote:
Here is the job details
I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in TX 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://www.agroamerica.com... 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 (topfarmproduce.market)
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 ending of next month.
7. My budget is $4,000 to $5,000
Kindly get back to me with an estimate
Hope to read from you
Occasionally, we do see requests for agricultural and industrial work, so at the time, it didn't seem too questionable. Even with the awful spelling and grammar, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. I know people who send horribly formatted emails.
Our project manager sent out a reply with our proposal, and within a day, we had a reply. Keri's email came across my desk, with Johnson's reply tacked on. "This is beginning to sound a little shady to me."
Thanks for your response,
I am OK with the estimate and I would like to move on with the job. 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 [amount redacted], You will deduct [amount redacted] as first payment for the design of the website plus extra $150.00 as a tip for handling perfect work for me and you will send the remaining $3,000.00 to the project consultant that has the text content and the logo for my website via cash deposit to his account so once he receive the $3,000.00 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 the monthly payment.
Kindly get back to me so we can proceed with payment ASAP.
"This is beginning to sound a little shady to me."
To the Google we went. After a few moments of research, we found a website listing this same email as a scam. The email they posted, even though it had listed a different contact person, email, and phone number, the text of the message was verbatim.
Any time someone says that a condition of you working for them involves them sending money to you, then you sending money to a third party, it is most likely a scam. This is how the so-called Nigerian Prince has wooed many people out of their hard-earned cash. Most of the time, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. In our case, it was the promise of another client, which isn't necessarily a 'too good to be true' scenario.
To put the final nail in this hot-mess of a coffin, I personally replied with an email stating that we would not be taking him on as a client, included a link to the article we had found, and told him that any further contact with our company would be met with us reporting him to both the FBI and Interpol. His reply?
It's not something you'd want to repeat in front of Grandma.
No matter what industry you're in, if you find that a prospective client wants you to send cash to a third party in a way that is outside of the way your business operates, you've more than likely been targeted by a scammer.
If you can, it is best to ignore suspicious emails all together. If the scammer persists, call the authorities and report them.
Don't be fooled by re-branded Nigerian scams. If something doesn't add up, cease contact.
Do your research.
Know who you're working with, and make sure your work contract is solid. Moreover, never send a third party cash at the insistence of the client. If they can pay you, they can pay the third party as well.
If the worst interaction you have with a scammer is an email laden with f-bombs, consider yourself lucky.