It started innocently enough, I receive a short text from an unknown number in Orlando saying,
My first thought is, “A new lead, our SEO strategy must be paying off.” This is quickly followed with a short sigh, as I internally lament that everyone feels like when they text they can forego all decorum of grammar and punctuation.
I shoot off an email within 7 minutes of the lead coming in. I also congratulate myself because as we all know, quick responses lead to sales. In my email I ask to set up a call because that is the easiest way to start planning a new website.
“Mark” responds to my email with a polite letter outlining the site he wants to build:
Here is the job details I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in TN and the company is based on Aviation Services such as Services for military and civil aviation, avionics sales, airport handling services 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.
aviationservicesgroup.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. Note: 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 aviexplore.com 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 $5,000 to $7,500 Kindly get back to me with an estimate for the Web Design, Your Full Name: Shop Address: Types Of Credit Card You do Accept: Your Cell Phone #:(so we can communicate via text message: Best Regards Mark
Okay, simple enough. I respond with an email saying in a nutshell, “Yes we can do this,” while asking to set up a call to discuss the details. From there we go back and forth on both email and text with Mark asking repeatedly for a “final price” and my asking for a call and sending over questions that I need answered before I can give him a final price.
It isn’t uncommon that I work with businesses who are building a website for the first time and they don’t understand the lingo or the process of building a WordPress website, so I end up having to educate them. This can be a slow process. I assumed this was the case for Mark and because I was being polite, I missed all the red flags:
- He asked, re-asked and then asked again, before asking a fourth time for details about our accepting credit cards
- I didn’t notice until afterwards, but he started the conversation with the phone number of 4072162198 based in Orlando, Florida and then switched to 4159960804 based in Ignacio California
- He started with the email of [email protected] and then used the email of [email protected] When I asked why, he said it is because his email was hacked
- Every time I asked a question about the site he wanted to build he would give a short response and tell me he trusted me to make it happen
- He wouldn’t respond for a few days or a week and then would impatiently barrage me with texts and emails
Finally the clincher came and I received the classic email:
i will be depositing $1,900 using credit card so work can commence ASAP. i will need a Little favor from you and the reason i need this favor from you is because the consultant does not have the facility to charge credit cards and i also am presently in the hospital for surgery so i will be glad if you can help me out with this favor,The favor i need from you is. i would give you my card info's to charge for $7,000. so $1,900 would be a deposit payment for my website design and the remaining $5000 you would help me send it to the project consultant that has the text content and the logo for my website so once he has the $5000 he would send the text content and logo needed for my website to you also the funds would be sent to him via cash deposit into his account, sending of funds would be after funds clears into your account and also $100 tip for you stress hope you understand me clearly and i will be looking forward to read back from you.Thanks
Ah, Mark was in surgery at the hospital and was asking to pay me with a credit card and then he would give me a $100 tip if he could pay additional money that I would then wire transfer to his consultant who was creating content for the site. That makes perfect sense. I was so impressed that he was so dedicated to building his site that he would write me from the hospital.
Now because I felt bad he was in the hospital and because I am a shrewd businessman I decided to negotiate and ask for a $500 tip instead of $100 and then I went through with the deal and wired his consultant the money . . . NOT! Instead what I actually did was report his email address to Outlook, which isn’t much consolation.
In total I wasted a couple of hours – especially initially when I thought I was teaching a new business owner how to build a WordPress website. Instead I was the one being taught a lesson in a) what to watch for in a scam and b) to trust my gut. Because my gut kept telling me to decline the deal but every time I declined to Mark he would come back and show renewed interest.
What I can’t figure out is why this scam would be successful. Shouldn’t people who build websites be smart enough to not fall for a wire-fraud scheme? Has Mark had enough success that it’s been worth his time to target the demographic of web developers?
How about you? Do you have any funny stories of web development fraud schemes? Or have you ever wired thousands of dollars to someone you didn’t know and are brave enough to admit it? If so, sound off in the comments below.