web design scam text correspondence

Recently, we’ve received a number of different requests for website redesign proposals that had some odd and striking similarities, enough to trigger alarm bells that something wasn’t right. What started as a simple text message turned into a call with the Secret Service (yeah, really). We all know how prevalent scams are online, so it’s no surprise that these extend to specifically crafted web design scams, SEO scams and other scams that directly target photographers, designers and other creative professionals. In the web design industry, we’re all targets. Be alert, trust your instincts and reach out to others in your professional community.

Here’s how the scams work

They’re called the Third Party Payout Scam, the Payment Reversal Scam, the Advanced Fee Scam or the Overpayment Scam. The Fraud Prevention department at credit card payment processor Stripe put it like this:

I can see that you work in web design. Designers such as yourself are common targets for a type of scam known as a Third Party Payout. Essentially, the scammer makes a payment (generally in the thousands) for a project, and pays more than they need so you can then transfer money direct to a third party (e.g. a consultant, graphic designer, etc). I imagine your correspondence with your ‘client’ has been along these line. As I’m sure you’ve figured out, the fix is that the card used is stolen and the third party is actually the scammer. So when the legitimate cardholder disputes the payment the business is left holding the bag on the money retrieved from their account and what they transferred to the scammer.

What’s amazing about these web design scams

  1. How involved they are – by the time any money were to actually make it back to the scammers, a lot of work and time is devoted to each scam
  2. How long they’ve been going on for – these scams have been going on for a while, and they don’t look to stop
  3. The exact scams aren’t changing much – a basic web search will turn up dozens of minor variations on the same web design scams that are being recrafted into seo scams, designer scams and other freelancer scams
  4. The scammers will email you, text you and sometimes even talk on the phone with you – it’s amazing just how easily a scammer can be totally anonymous hiding behind a throw away webmail account and a Google Voice phone number

Here’s how the web design scams went down

The first scam came through from Kent Walter <kentwaltersnr@gmail.com> and seemed strange because it mentioned a budget right off the bat (what clients reveal their budget in a blind outreach email) and asked “are you the owner” – strange. It also referenced another website to copy – pretty unusual. Here’s the full email:

From: Kent Walter <kentwaltersnr@gmail.com>

Good I just want to open a new Indian Restaurant i need a website for my business to grow the site should be up & running by ending of March i don’t want a shopping cart in my reservation page also i don’t have a domain name yet i prefer: DHARMAKENTRESTAURANT.COM My budget is $5000-10000 for the web design i need you to go through this example link site: http://www.indikausa.com, i want the same page as this site i want only English language you will be updating the site for me. I have a private project consultant, he has the text content with logo along with the image artwork get back to me with an estimate including hosting i will like to know if you are the owner or the manager?

Thank you

This person is the scammer: “I have a private project consultant, he has the text content with logo along with the image artwork”

web design scam fake website sitemap

“Kent” even sent through a sitemap drawing of the website he wanted to make – pretty funny in retrospect. And since this time, the website http://www.indikausa.com has been suspended by HostGator. I emailed with “Kent Walker” a few times until I realized the whole thing was going nowhere – he never responded to basic discovery questions. I didn’t suspect this was a web design scam. Until a few weeks went by.

The second web design scam came through a few weeks later – early in the morning as a text message from someone claiming to be Luis Lee at (732) 893-0731. The first text read “good day are you available for a website design.” Our business number accepts text messages and our Google My Business listing allows potential customers to text message us. Here’s where the alarm bells start going off:

From Luis Lee (732) 893-0731

am luis i would love to know if you can handle website design for a new company and also if you do accept credit cards ?? kindly get back to me with your email so i can send you the job details.

And it gets even more fishy when the email came through from luis lee <luislee23@yahoo.com>

From: luis lee <luislee23@yahoo.com>

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.

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 leetopfarmproduce.com
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. i will be provideing 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 $4000 to $6000

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

Regards

This person is the scammer: “i have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site”

I immediately thought, “There is that same email we received from the Indian Restaurant a few weeks ago. What are the odds.” It became obvious pretty quick that both were web design scams.

But then my brain quickly went to “how do these web design scams work? – how do they play out – what kind of people are doing this?” I have no intentions in vigilante justice. Or intentions of repeating the amazing journey of phone scam discovery that took the producers of the Reply All podcast to India to meet the people behind those annoying junk calls from a phone number a few digits off from your own (episodes one and two – will blow your mind).

Curiosity got the best of this cat, so I played along with the web design scam to find out more.

Luis of course eagerly responded to my proposal

I emailed with “Luis Lee” a few times and even made up a quick proposal based on the sitemap of the Agro America website and sent it off to Luis. I even called him to see if he would pick up. I ended up talking to Luis on the phone, though the connection was terrible and neither of us could understand each other. He did, though, email me right back to accept my proposal.

From: luis lee <luislee23@yahoo.com>

Thanks for your response, I am okay with the estimate 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 $5850 plus 3% Cc company charges, You will deduct $2750 as deposit for the design of the website plus extra $100.00 as a tip for handling perfect work for me and you will send the remaining $3,000 to the project consultant that has the text content and the logo for my website so once he receive the $3,000 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, Kindly get back to me so we can proceed with payment asap

Regards
Luis

Here’s the scam: “you will send the remaining $3,000 to the project consultant that has the text content and the logo for my website”

Pretty good location for a gacillia nut business

I asked for a name and address of the company, and was given the kind of uncreative name “Luis Lee LTD” and the address 5603 Peacock Ridge San Antonio, TX 78228. As if more evidence of this web design scam were needed, a quick search on that address showed that it had been listed for sale just 21 hours ago.

fake address used by web design scam attempt

I reached out to Stripe to see if they had any interest in at least tracking an IP address from these people. I can turn my credit card payment processor into testing mode so charges aren’t really processed. The great people at Stripe’s Fraud Prevention department told me to do absolutely nothing like that, to stop all communications and to reach out to the Secret Service with details of the web design scam.

It turns out this particular variant on the Third Party Payout Scam / Payment Reversal Scam / Advanced Fee ScamOverpayment Scam has its own name: the Agro America Scam and the Gacillia Nut Scam. Unlike the Indian Restaurant variant where the example website seems to have been suspended, it seems that Agro America is a legitimate business and doesn’t play a part in this scam. The website did send my computer’s CPUs through the roof, making me wonder about BitCoin / cryptocurrency mining. But enough about the scam.

What to do if you’ve been targeted

  1. Unless any money has been stolen from you, the best thing to do is nothing. Delete the emails / texts and never reply at all. It’s unlikely that the scammers are sitting in a room together and will put you on some kind of organized hey don’t contact this web designer again, she’s onto us type list. More likely is that the scammers are an unconnected group of people using the same scam, are totally disorganized and will probably contact you again. So just delete. We played along for a bit to find out more about the scam out of curiosity, but it’s probably not a good idea.
  2. If you want to report the scam, or have unfortunately lost any money, you can reach out to
    • The Secret Service – we were referred to them by Stripe even though no money had changed hands. The Secret Service is responsible for counterfeiting law violations as well as financial fraud including banking, access device, advance fee fraud and computer fraud, financial document counterfeiting, and money laundering. I had a pretty nice chat on the phone with a Secret Service agent who confirmed how widespread these web design scams are and told me that unless money had changed hands, they weren’t too interested in trying to track anyone down
    • FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) – complaints filed via this website are processed and may be referred to federal, state, local or international law enforcement or regulatory agencies for possible investigation
    • Federal Trade Commission Complaint Assistant

We’ve heard reports from others like fellow web designers Olive Group and Covington Creations about similar encounters. Have you been contacted? Have an update to report?

Updates

Looks like the scammers are moving to Yelp! Is anyone else getting these Yelp scam messages? Seem very similar to other general web design scam emails we’ve gotten dozens of times…

New Message: James H. is requesting a quote

Hi there, please respond with a price estimate. Here are my answers to Yelp’s questions regarding my project:

In which ZIP code are you looking for professionals?
78711

Describe your need:
Good day, am Hanson i would like to know if you can create and handle an informational website design for my new company ? Kindly get back to me as soon as possible with your email or cellphone number so i can send you the job details. Thanks

Thanks for the comments posting the details of all the variants on this same third party payout scam. Hopefully the scammers get tired of spending all this time trying to steal money and put their efforts into something more constructive. Keep up the comments so others can stay alerted!

This stuff never stops. Good thing is that it can be put online so others can find it hopefully before any money changes hands. Just got another of the same scammer emails from leon gregory <leongreg2006@hotmail.com>

From: leon gregory <leongreg2006@hotmail.com>

My name is Gregory Leon and I would like to get a quote for an e-commerce website for customers in Haiti, with the same functionality as Craigslist, but with distinct design. In addition, I want to integrate google translation because Haitians speaks French and Creole. Furthermore, the website will be for small businesses and individuals with goods and services they are interested in selling or advertising via this website. There are additional features I want integrate into the website as well:

Certify SSL, and all traffic to the website will be over HTTPS.
WordPress
Ensure current architecture adequately supports future systems upgrade
Enable electronics gift card payment.
Create ten additional staffs accounts.
Maintain complete ownership of the website and its content.
Mobile-responsive, fast-loading, and able to adapt properly to changing screen sizes
Maintain complete copyright protection of the website and its content
Please send me your quote to include the development, design and a reasonable monthly charge for hosting the website no later than June 1, 2018.

I can be reached at leongreg2006@hotmail.com and by phone at 786-473-4663. Thank you and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Unfortunately, we were in the middle of putting together two proposals and didn’t have the time to catfish more out of Leon. Next time…

This crap never stops. Just got the exact same scam sent it via email from james morgan <jm6994017@gmail.com>

From: james morgan <jm6994017@gmail.com>

Sound good …… I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in 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.

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 yourtopproduce.co
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. i will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
6. My budget is $3000 to $8000

These scammers never stop. You’d think they’d start getting more creative. But everyone knows creativity is inversely related to profitability, or something like that.

Just got another of the same scammer emails from
julian johnson <julian4real147@yahoo.com>

From: julian johnson <julian4real147@yahoo.com>

Here is the job details

i have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in USA 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.
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 UlyateFarm.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 $19,000

Kindly get back to me with:
(1) an estimate

Favorable Regards,
Julian Johnson.

Sent from my ipad

I asked for the name address and phone number of Julian’s business, and he said it was

JULLYFARM
USA
OFFICE 1754 Woodruff Road #153
Greenville, South Carolina
29607, USA
+1-785-428-2862

I called the number and spoke with someone I couldn’t really understand. It was a busy day in the office so I didn’t dig much deeper, but I did email Julian to get a life and stop stealing money from people.

blog post author avatar
Written with by Alex Wright

Runs a creative digital marketing, web design and SEO agency in Austin, Texas   |   Likes good looking, fast performing and high ranking websites   |   Doesn't want to understand Snapchat   |   Wants nothing to do with bananas   |   Wishes he were a BMX superstar

371 thoughts on “Avoid Web Design Scams

  1. Got same email here as well.. from Roberts Brown

    I just opened a new Indian Restaurant which I run now and I need a website for my business to grow, So I need you to go through this link site: https://www.tandoorindian.com but I need something more perfect than this if possible, I will like you to get back to me with an estimate which include hosting. I want only English language and you will be updating the site for me. I want the site up and running before ending of next month also I don’t have a domain name yet and i will prefer: rubydelicacy.net My budget is $2000-$7000 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. Please go ahead and check site sample 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 check as payment within US or FRANCE ?

  2. Hey! I read this article about a year ago. This week I received a message from someone requesting website development services. I got a bit of a deja vu feeling while reading it, but couldn’t put a finger on why. Then today I remembered that it’s exactly like one of the examples in this article. Here is the message:

    “My name is peter wadell i have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business i want you to understand that I’m presently out of the state on a business trip 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?

    I need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible..
    www.http://attra.ncat.org 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 farmsproducts.cc
    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 my return”

    This person replied to my messages almost instantly, and seemed very eager to get started and deposit the first payment, even before we said anything about the actual project costs. That’s when I remembered the article.

    Thanks Alex for writing this, and helped me save time (and potentially money as well)!

  3. Well Looks like they tried to target us as well!

    We got the following email from one of the email IDs listed here.

    Hello, I need a graphic designer for my new business. I have a private project photographer who will hand over the necessary documents, pictures and specifications to you. My budget for the graphics design is $1000- $5000. Reply me if you are interested in the project through my gmail only (jeffthompson2002@gmail.com ) so I can send you the full job details.
    Name of the Person it said – Jefferson Thompson

  4. Thanks for posting this thread. I got a similar email too last week. Luckily I did not encourage the conversation after third party involvement. So relieved to find this thread
    ———
    Email: jeffthompson2002@gmail.com
    ——–
    Here is the job details,

    I need a graphics designer who will design the logo , artwork and handle all the graphics contents that will be needed for the website. I want you to handle the following designs:

    -Banner design (4 different types of design)
    -Flier design (10 different types of design)
    -Business Card design (2 different types of design)
    -Logo design (1)
    -Poster design (10 different types of design)

    I will like you to get back to me with an estimate or price range for the project for now. I want you to be through with the designing of logo and artwork before I am back to the state. My budget for the graphics design is $1000-$5000. I have a private project photographer, she has the pictures, text contents, colors, necessary documents, and specification that you will need for the designing and she will get in touch with you as we proceed.

    So please get back to me with an estimate for the designs listed above asap, also will like to know if you are the owner or the manager and do you accept credit card or check as payment.

    Thank you.

    1. We also received the same email by yesterday from the same guy with the same email id.

      Find this first mail as below:
      From The Email: jeffthompson2002@gmail.com
      Hello, I need a graphic designer for my new business. I have a private project photographer who will hand over the necessary documents, pictures and specifications to you. My budget for the graphics design is $1000- $5000. Reply me if you are interested in the project through my gmail only (jeffthompson2002@gmail.com ) so I can send you the full job details.

  5. Our web design company also get this scam email today from Roberto Jefferson form ForBusinessEntAndAll@outlook.com email address.
    Jefferson: “Hello!
    I hope this e-mail finds you well! This is Roberto Jefferson. I would love to know if you can handle web design for a new company?? kindly get back to me ASAP
    Regards
    Jefferson”

    Me:”Hello, Mr. Jefferson,
    Ofcorse we can handle web design for new company.
    Do You need only design or web design and web page development. Also need to know more details about company and what kind of web page do you want?
    Maybe you have some description or we can discuss details through phone?”

    Jefferson:
    “Great! I have business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in AL and the company is based on importing and exporting of Salon Equipment such as Dryer, hair cream, Weavon,Hairdressing,Clippers, 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.https://zdca.thehybridcreative.com/… I have a private consultant that has the text content and logo for the site. the site would only be informational, so i need you to give me an estimate.

    1. I want 15 to 20 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 solutionrobertojsalon.com.4. You will be updating the site for me 2 times in a month. 5. i will be proving the images, logos and content for the site. 6. i want the site up and running before ending of 2 to 4 months. 7. My budget is $6,000.00 to $17,000.00 Regards
    Jefferson”

    Me: “sended estimate price”

    Jefferson: “Thanks, I’m very much satisfied with the total estimate, quite affordable . Here’s an exclusive just to show some seriousness and dedication. I am willing to pay up the sum of $3,000 as an upfront payment for the job using my credit card so work can commence ASAP. i understand the content for this site would be needed so as for the job to commence. regarding the content, i will need a little favor from you And the reason why i need this favor from you is because the consultant that has the content and logo for the website does not have the facility to charge credit cards and i am presently in the hospital with my Daughter for surgery so i will be glad if you can help me out with this favor. Thanks”

    Me:”What favor?”

    Jefferson:”The favor i need from you is. i would give you my card info’s to charge for $9,550 plus credit card company charges, so $3,000 would be a down payment for my website design and the remaining $6,350 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 $6,350 he would send the text content and logo needed for my website to you also the funds would be sent to him via Instant Transfer or Cashier Check into his account, sending of funds would be after funds clears into your account And also $200tip for your stress So i will be looking forward to read back from you. Thanks

    Regards
    Jefferson”

    Me:”We do not accept card payments, we accept only bank transfer payments with invoice. Only way we are doing business we send official invoice after signing contract.”

    1. I got the same scam this week (July 2020)
      May I ask you a question? So once you said no, you don’t take credit card payments, the scammer stopped contacting you, and no damage was done to you?
      I did click on the sample website link https://zdca.thehybridcreative.com and it seems like a legit site, but I am scared because I should never never click on a link from a email.

      I have been researching about small business scams and there is an awful one, that if you can go to specific websites they install malware in your computer to steal your bank account passwords

      I don’t think it is this case but your feedback would give me some reassurance. So please let me know! Thank you!

      Here is the scam info I refer:
      4. Bank account takeover
      “The most common and dangerous scam for small businesses is account takeover,” according to Michael Benardo, Chief of the FDIC’s Cyber-Fraud and Financial Crimes Section. “By sending fake e-mails and using fake Web sites to deliver malicious software, such as keystroke loggers, fraudsters may be able to obtain the IDs and passwords for online bank accounts and then make withdrawals from accounts.”2 In addition to using caution when online, be sure to monitor your bank accounts daily to make sure no unauthorized electronic transfers are being made. Ask your bank what anti-fraud alerts they may offer.

  6. got the same email and being targeted 3 times in this same month with a different platform.
    1st person asked me to help him with his sister’s school website.
    2nd person asked me to help him with his new restaurant.
    3rd person asked me to help him with his new Indian restaurant.

    Still confused, How they will make money out of it. if anyone can explain.

    1. They tell you they are going to pay you a large amount and that part of the fee needs to go to another contractor. They pay you with a check, you pay the contractor, the check they sent is fraudulent and bounces but by then you’ve paid the contractor. They are the contractor. It’s called a third party payout.

  7. Hello Alex,
    Thanks a lot for saving me from fraud 😀
    those shitty people mailed me with the same body from different email then i get a pretty shock what’s going on 😀
    then i searched for the main story. i found this. Thanks again.

  8. I received the same query with following lines:
    “I just open a new Indian Restaurant which i run now and i need a
    website for my business to grow, So i need you to go through this
    example link site: http://carsonkitchen.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
    4weeks 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: http://carssaskitchen.com, My budget is $750/$1,500 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
    will like to know if you are the owner or the manager and do you
    accept bank cashier check as payment.”

    upon my response, the next response was:
    “Thanks for the response back, I want you to get back to me with the estimate cost and will be glad to give you the opportunity to do the job for me. I hope I will get a perfect job from you and I would have preferred to pay you by pay pal or credit card machine but I was warn by my bank not to use my card on pay pal or any other merchant again because they double remit my account twice in the past and I don’t want to go against my bank warning. I will gladly mail out the payment to you by check. I am located in USA and it does not matter the Country you are provided you assured me a good and quality job. I need your name and address or your representative name and address in USA to send the payment to so that i can make an upfront payment and you can proceed on my web design. I also understand you will need the text
    Hello once again, I need name/address and cellphone number in USA to send the payment to so that i can make an upfront payment and you can proceed on content with the logo and other document files to start work on my web design asap as you know the document files are with my project consultant and she will have them send to you via email… Thank you.”

    That “Hello once again” in last paragraph and poor grammar turned on the alarm in my mind and I did quick search and found this article

    1. Just got emails from l.mcdaniiiel24@gmail.com
      Good Morning Dave,

      The check payment of $10000.90 is already on its way to you via FedEx courier. The Project consultant little funds for logistic was added along with your initial 50% deposit.

      Once the payment of $10000.90 cleared in your account, you can send the Project consultant her money and she will be hooking you up with necessary data needed to get started.

      Project consultant has the text content and the logos for the site with the image artwork,I could have pay her directly but she does not have facility to check or credit card at the moment.

      I hope you understand and sorry for any inconvenience.

      Best Regards

      Thank god I googled the email

      Thanks!

      1. I got a email from a Linda at l.mcdaniiiel24@gmail.com asking to buy Scentsy products for me for a wedding and told me she would send the check. After she said she sent it she said her uncle put too much money on the check and I need to cash it and send her back the difference. The check came from someone one with a totally different name and the envelope had another name on it and it looked super fake! She messaged me to cash it immediately on Christmas and send her the difference ASAP. I ignored her messages after I found this thread. Just something seemed very off about it.

        1. I also got one from l.mcdaniiiel24@gmail.com – saying her business is Essential Nutrient Inc. Seemed a bit fishy only because I had received similar ones from an “auto body shop” and the line about a “new” business. I choose not to engage with “Linda” at all because of finding this site (thanks so much!). “Her” email also seemed off because the phone number was a ridiculous arrangements of numbers – 2010000000.

        2. Thanks for saving me the time/effort to put together an estimate! I, too, got an email from Linda McDaniel (l.mcdaniiiel24@gmail.com) for a company called: AMERICAN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT INC.

          This was the second scam request I received from the Adobe Portfolio “Contact Form” I recently set up.

          The first was on 1/22/20 from Sarah jones (sj504835@gmail.com),
          with the message:
          “i have a small scale business which i want to turn in large scale business now it located in california and the company is based on importing and exporting of sport wears such as running jackets, jersey dance wears.”

          The typos and importing/exporting elements alerted me right away, but I was curious enough to send back a quick reply because of how close her wording was to my company’s tagline is “Making Small Business Look Like Big Business”.

          I replied:
          “Tell me a little more about what type of graphic design needs you have for your business.” … and purposely left my phone number out of my reply.

          Sarah got back to me a week later with a very detailed list of what she wanted for a very elaborate website, including project budget, and this closing:
          Kindly get back to me with:
          (1) an estimate
          (2) your cell phone number
          (3) And will like to know if you are the owner ?
          (4) Do you accept USA certified CHECK as means of payment?

          I knew then that my instincts were right — this was a scam — no one gives you their budget, and talks about methods of payment when seeking an estimate.

          I sent back this quick reply:
          “I’m sorry. I can not take on your project. I don’t do website design.”

          What I *should have* done was never responded in the first place. That must have moved to me a list of people to target for a print-design version of the scam.

          On April 9, I received this from Linda McDaniel :
          “I’d love to have a logo and brochure created for my new business. Please let me know your interest and would send you more details. Thank you”

          My spidey-senses were up again, but I still sent off a brief reply (also sans phone number): “Hi Linda! Tell me a little about your business and what you’re looking for in a logo.”

          Got a reply back today with a very detailed plan for an online brochure and logo design that *almost* seemed real to me. There was a lot of more “personal” type touches to the wording in what she was and wasn’t looking for in a design, which almost had me fooled into believing it might be legit, including this closing line:
          “Keep safe and protect yourself from the virus.”

          What still had me suspicious:
          – disclosure of the project budget — not once, but twice (and they weren’t the same number)
          – mention that I’d be working with a “project consultant”
          – a similar closing to the other scam email:
          Kindly get back to me with:
          (1) a price estimate/quote :
          (2) your cell phone number:
          (3) And will like to know if you are the owner?

          I decided to google her name and company name before replying and found this page.

          Thanks again for the info. I will not be responding to Linda’s most recent email and will trust my instincts and not reply to any more of these.

          Additionally… I’m seriously considering moving my website off the Adobe Portfolio platform, as the contact form on that seems to be what’s generated these scam requests.

    1. Same! He is using this email address with me: williamsoyin044@gmail.com

      Here is his last message to me:
      “Here’s what I need from you, I’m ready to make payment now with my credit card, I understand the content for this site would be needed so the project can begin asap. I am going to need you to send an invoice for the sum of $4850 plus 3% Cc company charges, you will deduct $1750 as deposit for your service and you will send $3000 to the project consultant that has the text content and the logo for my website via cash deposit to his account, so once he receives the money, he would send the text content and logo needed for my website to you so you can commence asap, you can have the remaining $100 as tip for helping with the consultant’s fee. Sending of funds would be after money clears into your account and you will be charging my card for your balance upon completion. I need your help because the consultant doesn’t have facilities to bill credit cards at the moment and the project has to begin on time so we can meet the proposed deadline plus my present situation won’t allow me to other options. Kindly bear with me. I Look forward to your favorable reply. “

      1. Thanks for your quick response,Here is the job details below…

        I just open a new Indian Restaurant which i run now and i need a website for my business to grow, So i need you to go through this example link site:http://www.indikausa.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: KAITINDRESTAURANT.COM, My budget is $750/$1,500 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 will like to know if you are the owner or the

        — can you explain hoe it is scam??

      2. Oyin Williams (Scammer name)
        22:26 (1 hour ago)

        Scammer email address: williamsoyin044@gmail.com (He did Same)

        Here’s what I need from you, I’m ready to make payment now with my credit card, I understand the content for this site would be needed so the project can begin asap. I am going to need you to send an invoice for the sum of $4850 plus 3% Cc company charges, you will deduct $1750 as deposit for your service and you will send $3000 to the project consultant that has the text content and the logo for my website via cash deposit to his account, so once he receives the money, he would send the text content and logo needed for my website to you so you can commence asap, you can have the remaining $100 as tip for helping with the consultant’s fee. Sending of funds would be after money clears into your account and you will be charging my card for your balance upon completion. I need your help because the consultant doesn’t have facilities to bill credit cards at the moment and the project has to begin on time so we can meet the proposed deadline plus my present situation won’t allow me to other options. Kindly bear with me. I Look forward to your favorable reply.

        Oyin Williams
        Thu, 7 Nov, 21:05 (6 days ago)

        to me

        Quick question, do you accept credit card payments? Because i can’t do cash transactions at the moment

        Regards,
        PS : I am also going to need a little help from you regarding my consultant

  9. BEWARE!
    April Petal
    910 north
    Sanjose Texas,79603
    +1(302)385-6483

    I did told you i was gonna get back to you soon,sorry am getting back to you late,here is the details of the new job for you.Am a CEO and an entrepreneur so i dont really have the time but lets get things straightened up cos i will be less busy for days.My name is April Petals(CEO April Petals Restaurant)living in Florida USA.

    I will be needing you to build a world class website for our newly about to be opened restaurant.I will want you to create the website within the space of 4 to 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 https://www.lamarchaberkeley.com . 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.

    Also i will like to inform you that there will be no shopping cart in my observation page and there will be no chat include also.I will be preferring the domain name (aprilpetalsrestaurant.com or aprilpetalsrestaurant.net).

    Note: My budget is not more than $5500.So kindly get back to me with your total estimate for the job with domain price include.

    Note;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.

    Do you accept check payment?kindly let me know

    April Petals

    (CEO April Petals Restaurant)

  10. In the last 2 days, I’ve gotten 2 emails like this. One from Ashley and one from Michael via Gmail.

    “Who designed your website?

    Regards,”

    Funny thing, I don’t have a website. I’m a retired, 66 year old woman who’s into photography and fungus!

    Is this is the same kind of scam?

  11. Our graphic design company received two design request spam/phishing emails on September 9, 2019:

    1. From Oyin Williams (williamsoyin044@gmail.com) for an apparel website for the domain ELITEXCLUSIVEAPPARELS.COM following the same template as what others are reporting.

    2. From stan jenifer (jeniferstan11@gmail.com) for catalog & logo design for a newly established furniture company called Oakwey. I found it followed a template referenced in a Reddit thread under r/graphic_design > phishing scams.

    1. I just received an email from Stan Jenifer (Jeniferstan11@gmail.com) as well. The only difference is that instead of OAKWEY they used WILLOW as their company. The also said that they do not use paypal because of some bank problems but insisted I use quick book intuit. so thank you for outing this scammer!!

  12. A good article, but what a shame these scammers will never stop in stealing people hard earn money. Thanks for sharing your experience…

  13. The scam is being attempted often on my Arch Drafting business as well. Must be because my biz name has “design” at the end. The emails ask (about three a week in my spam) if I create plans for homes, etc. The red flag is the bad english and misspellings. The one time I did reply, I asked for specifics such as: What city is the project located? What square footage will the project be? I didn’t hear back so I figured it was a scam. I am curious how the scam works and google brought me here.

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