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

397 thoughts on “Avoid Web Design Scams

  1. Wowww……i am framed too. From the very first day i was feeling that something was fishy and after some back and forth emails the person provided me these details to send payment invoice which i further googled and i ended up here. This group is actually using same phone numbers and EIN numbers so it seems they are not smart at all, Anyways good article and helped me a lot to prove my suspicions right. To share with all of you here is what i got today to send the payment invoice :

    Not reluctant and do not get the request before. For the invoice/agreement/proposal only. Please use below:

    Legal company name: LEENCROWN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT INC.

    Contact person/manager : Linda Crawford

    address: 4444 Westheimer Rd #A31, Houston, TX 77027

    email correspondence : owner@restauranthouston.com

    phone number for invoice only : (502) 383-1153

    EIN# 83-1086546

    1. I received the same exact email from Linda Crawford! I was suspcious from the beginning because nobody every talks budget to an ad agency in their first communication!! The first request came through our website and the following was sent to me when I responded to it. See below:

      I’ll like to know if I got the right contact to a graphic designer. I want you to design for me a logo and an e-brochure for my new company, based on production and sales of organic foods (plant based food and drinks).

      1. Company Name: LEENCROWN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT INC.
      2. My website is under constructions which would be registered soon.
      3. I Don’t have a logo yet but would need one to be made by you
      4. Full text content and all images for the e-brochure will be submitted to you by the project consultant. You just have to handle the layout.
      5. The e-brochure should be 24 in pages (Including from and back cover. I have lot of information already approved. The text and images have also been crosschecked)
      6. The size of the e-brochure should be 8.5 X 11.5
      7. I want you to add our core values, mission and vision (This information will be provided by the consultant)
      8. My budget is not more than $7000
      9. I want this delivered in 5-6 weeks to the latest.

      My Goals and about the project:

      LEENCROWN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT INC. is pet project and same time a business avenue for me. I will be 10 years a vegan in April and I hope to laugh the business (and unveil the logo with e-brochure then)
      To my customers, LEENCROWN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT INC. should be able to provide over 500 plant-derived minerals that can improve the value of foods, liquids, nutritional formulations and cosmiceuticals. That way also improving value of life.Whoever purchase our products would have a guarantee of good living and relish.

      Our uniqueness will be privilege of our 5 locations around Texas and online store. 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:

      1. I want you to know that this is the first time I will be doing a Logo design so I can only give you little details then you can decide on designs but I want the color to consist of Green, Red and Brown (let me know what you think about that) with an image of a some mixed fruits. I want a very mature and presentable design and my budget for this project is not more than $7000.
      2. For logo inspirations you can look at logo from this samples site below:
      https://www.sprouts.com/
      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 ?
      Best Regards
      Linda Crawford

      With this amount of detail, it’s easy to see why someone might fall for the “project”

  2. I received a text from Joe Moore (470) 264-4764 “Hello, this is Joe Moore, I would like to know if you are available for an informational website design for my new company and do you accept credit card as mode of payment.”

    I was immediately suspicious due to the question about accepting credit cards.

    1. Same text message received to my email.
      They had me set up an account with Honeybook and send invoice for $4500.
      They emailed and said they were in emergency room and needed a “favor”.
      That’s when all the alarm bells went off.
      I did not respond and eventually “Joe Moore” went away with no financial harm to my agency.

    2. I just received the exact same message from the exact number. Unfortunately I replied before searching the phone number.

  3. Joyce Larry
    5:06 AM (7 hours ago)
    to me

    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 manager and do you
    accept credit card as payment.
    ———————————————————————–

    vume katre
    9:15 AM (3 hours ago)
    to me

    Thanks for the message,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
    3weeks 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..

    THESE MOTHER FUCKERS ARE AS BASTERED AS CORONA VIRUS ..

  4. Help please! I have also received an email in which he said to me to send the address and name of your representative in USA and he said that he cannot do a bank transfer bus can send your representative a courier having cheque. I found one contact in USA and send his address with name. Then he mailed me that he will be sending him greater amount of money and after clearing your money, send the remaining amount to 3rd person. I found this fishy and reached here after browsing. I emailed him that the deal is cancelled but I didn’t receive any reply. I worry, I have sent him my friend’s contact number and address. What should I do?

    1. If all you’ve given him is your friend’s contact number and address, you should immediately contact your friend and let him/her know so they can be aware of suspicious activity. From there I don’t think there is anything much to do unless you want to report it like Alex Wright stated in this post.

  5. In the last 12 hours, “Row Shayne” contacted me. He was abrupt and pushy and his style was to text and say “hello” and then wait for a response. It was a North Carolina phone number – (919) 762-6944.
    My gut level impulse was to just block and delete as the whole thing was weird (who texts someone at 9:00 PM to make a business proposal) but yep, I was curious.
    The email he finally sent read:
    On Thu, Mar 5, 2020 at 9:36 PM Row Shayne wrote:
    The company is based on importing and exporting of Office Equipment such as Printer , Scanners,Laminating Machines,Dictation,Computer,Adequate Light,Desk,Multipurpose Machine,Software,Fire-Safe Bix,Network Router,Telephone,Paper Shredder and Personal Server 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 .https://avada.theme-fusion.com/classic-shop/… I have a content creator 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.

    .I want 12pages with 14 products

    . I want only English language

    . My budget is $10,000-$15,000

    . I want the site running up in 4-5 month

    . Are you the owner

    ___________________________

    In the morning, I replied with specific questions about the business, location, who his target audience was and if I was supposed to do SEO, analytics, social media and/or marketing. His answers were abrupt and I could tell he was getting testy with me.

    Row Shayne
    12:57 PM (9 hours ago)
    to me
    I’m located in Utah and individual is my target audience and is the purpose of this web site to expand the business area
    1. No i don’t have a budget for the SEO
    2. Yes am expecting the services to be include as part of the package price for the design of the website
    3 Yes i want you to purchase the web hosting and domain name for me and you will be maintaining the site for me for long term and you will be updating the site for me 3times in a month for some months and kindly get back to me with the total estimate and we can proceed
    _____________
    That was his constant refrain whether it was a text or an email: “kindly get back to me with the total estimate and we can proceed”

    I discussed this with another internet savvy friend and we both agreed it was too fishy to be real. And then she sent me the link to your website that confirmed we were right. I’m glad I was suspicious and this didn’t go any further.

    1. I just got the same email (as Roberta Marley here on this site-3/6/20) from “Row Shayne” last night 2/18/20. I told him to call me 3/19/20 (919-762-6944), but he texted me first, and I told him again to call my office/home. He finally did and yes he was very pushy on phone. He found my information off Indeed.com. I now just “hid” my resume on there. Because I’ve gotten about 5 scam emails from people finding me on there. Yep, too good to be true, it’s usually a scam!

      1. Thank you for posting this. Last week, I got the same kind of text from “Joe Moore” – 702-819-9341. He said he could not accept paypal or square and asked me to set up Honeybook and invoice him that way. He said he found my contact info on yelp.

    2. Ooh! I just got a request for exactly the same specs from a J. WilliamClark just a few minutes ago. Really glad I checked. 15 grand for a 12 page website… I must craft it out of gold and diamonds!

    3. Hi Roberta,
      This same person, Row, has done exactly the same thing to me to a T, except we didn’t get as far as the SEO in Utah because I put the ‘kabosh’ on him early enough. Including blocking his number so he could no longer send me his stupid ‘Hello’ messages. This is my third attempted SCAM in about 5 months. The Gacilia Nut Job was my first but I googled his ‘schtick’ and found it right away online. Apparently this one has been going on for a very long time.

  6. I have been approached about 5 times over the last 10 years or so.

    Below is the latest one.

    ————————————————————————————————————-

    From: Alvaro Morata

    I got in touch with the Project consultant but I’m having a little issue with him concerning our contract agreements
    I’d signed the agreement to make cash or bank deposit to him for his payment but due to my present condition I was diagnosed with lung cancer and will undergo a surgery soon so I’m limited and I won’t be able to do that.
    Kindly send an invoice for the sum of $5,250 in which $200 will be your upfront payment for the job, and $5,000 you will help me forward to the project consultant so he can release the raw files for the brochure, you can keep the $50 as tip. Once I make the payment and you have funds in your possession then you can help me forward to him , I will balance upon job completion. Thanks.

    ————————————————————————————————————-

    Who starts a business with lung cancer??

  7. “Joe Moore” reached out to me today. This was his pitch:

    >Ok fine, I have a small clothing business for both male and female, now am trying to expand the business and I want you to build an informational website for it for advertisement and to increase my sales rate. The site would only be informational, so I need you to get back to me with an estimate for the web design, the estimate should include hosting and I want the site to have not more than 15 pages since it is informational. I have a private project graphic designer, he has the text content, images and the logos for the site.
    Note:
    1. I want only English language
    2. I don’t have a domain yet but I want the domain name as http://www.Whitegoldklothing.com
    3. You will be updating the site for me.
    4. I will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
    5. I want the site up and running before ending of next month.
    6. My budget is $2000 to $4000 Kindly get back to me with an estimate.
    Hope to read from you,
    Thanks.

    At some time, it looks like the phone number he used was registered to: 702-687-9477 (Akbar Hiza)

    1. I got the same text with same thing word by word, I figured it was a scam so I said I needed to talk to him over the phone, said he was speech impaired but was able to answer fine when I called from a different number. I went along with the text and said ok then let’s meet in person I know sign language then said he was out of the country so couldn’t meet me until after a month. smh. this is the number he contacted me from: 702-819-9341

    1. Hi Darya,
      Was this by any chance a logo design project for a church? I got messaged by the same person I think

  8. I Just got a similar email:
    The company is based on importing and exporting of Office Equipment such as Printer , Scanners,Laminating Machines,Dictation,Computer,Adequate Light,Desk,Multipurpose Machine,Software,Fire-Safe Bix,Network Router,Telephone,Paper Shredder and Personal Server 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 .https://avada.theme-fusion.com/classic-shop/… I have a content creator 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.

    .I want 12pages with 14 products
    . I want only English language
    . My budget is $10,000-$15,000
    . I want the site running up in 4-5 months
    . Give me your personal cellphone number
    . Are you the owner

    I told him my propoas is $25000 with 1/2 upfront via paypal transfer. I’m waiting to see what he says, LOL.

  9. I have got the something similar:

    “I’d love to set up a website for my newly created company. Please let me know your interest then can send more details. Thank you”

    “Thanks for getting back to me.

    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: http://orderchaothai.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 end of April and I don’t want a shopping cart in my reservation page (no e-commerce and only informational) also I don’t have a domain name yet and I will prefer: BAQINUEWRESTAURANT.NET.

    Note:

    1. I want only English language
    2. You will be updating the site for me.
    3. I will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
    4. I want the site up and running before ending of next two month.
    5. My budget is between $3000 to $8000
    6. No shopping ability
    7. The site should be mobile friendly
    8. I don’t want sitemap
    9. I have 30 product/menus to be on it.
    10.CONTACT US – with a form to fill out so that they can get in contact with me.

    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 benchmark sample site.

    Kindly get back to me with:

    (1) an price estimate/quote
    (2) your cell phone number
    (3) And will like to know if you are the owner ?

    Regards,”

    1. They troll the web looking for web design agencies and contractors and then they email them or call them. Most businesses put an email address and phone number online for prospective clients.

      1. Now Stacy here is sending these kinds of scams to video production companies. Go figure. See below:

        I’ll like to know if I got the right contact to 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: AMERICAN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT INC.
        2. My website is under construction which would 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 $6000
        6. I want this delivered in 2-4 weeks to the latest.
        7. Videos will be animated

        My Goals and about the project:

        You will produce 3 videos, each featuring a different templates 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 logo which also be delivered to you by the project consultant.

        AMERICAN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT INC. is pet project and same time a business avenue for me. I will be 10 years a vegan in June and I hope to expand the business (and my brand then)

        To my customers, AMERICAN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT INC. should be able to provide over 500 plant-derived minerals that can improve the value of foods, liquids, nutritional formulations and cosmiceuticals. That way also improving value of life. Whoever purchase our products would have a guarantee of good living and relish.

        Our uniqueness will be privilege of our 5 locations around Indiana and online store. 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.

        Regards,

      2. Looks like Stacy Seaman was researching how to get in on the action. Received an email a few days ago asking about video editing services and after sending her a generic estimate (was a little suspicious from the beginning because she included her budget in first email) and immediately noticed some red flags after going back and forth a few times. She even incorporated the current pandemic. This was her last email:

        From: stacyseaman234@hotmail.com
        Sounds good !
        After reviewing the price quote, I think we should continue with the next step since we already have a deadline to meet. This email also confirms my readiness to approve your route and also 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 your US based individual/company or your partner since that is my only available payment method right now.

        1. Full name on check:
        2. US Mailing address with Apt/Rm # if needed (No PO Box):
        3. Your direct cell phone number :
        4. 80% deposit amount due(I can pay in full also):

        As informed earlier, the consultant has the necessary content (all) for the design and will be in touch as soon as there is a payment/contract agreement.

        I could have called but I am unfortunately in Asia right now and won’t be available for calls until i get back to the states God knows when (everything is restricted due to the pandemic). Email should do justice and would always try to reply email fast.

        Please let me know if there is any paperwork to sign and you can send it so that I can sign it electronically.

        Again stay safe in this uncertain time.

        1. Stacy Seaman has contacted us as well, a video production company. What a terrible scam to be pulling during this time.

          Legal company name: AMERICAN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT INC.
          Contact person/manager : Stacy Seaman
          address: 421 Westheimer Rd #A31, Houston, TX 77027
          phone number for invoice only : (502) 383-1153
          EIN# 83-1086546

          Sorry for the late response.

          I’ll like to know if I got the right contact to 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: AMERICAN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT INC.
          2. My website is under constructions which would 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 $6000
          6. I want this delivered in 2-4 weeks to the latest.
          7. Videos will be animated

          My Goals and about the project:

          You will produce 3 videos, each featuring a different model 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 logo which also be delivered to you by the project consultant.

          AMERICAN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT INC. is pet project and same time a business avenue for me. I will be 10 years a vegan in June and I hope to expand the business (and my brand then)

          To my customers, AMERICAN ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT INC. should be able to provide over 500 plant-derived minerals that can improve the value of foods, liquids, nutritional formulations and cosmiceuticals. That way also improving value of life. Whoever purchase our products would have a guarantee of good living and relish.

          Our uniqueness will be privilege of our 5 locations around Indiana and online store. 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.

          Regards,

        2. Stacy reached out to me as well. Same exact emails. Any suggestion of what I should do? Just ignore future emails from her? I have not received any money and have not given her any information other than our mailing address.

  10. This is embarrassing but when I first got the restaurant website email scam the first time, I thought it was legit and even put together a two page proposal. WHAT A WASTE OF TIME! Then I got the second email asking to send funds and knew obviously then it was scam. I wonder if anyone actually falls for this?

    1. People do. It’s sad. They sometimes end up emailing and calling me to ask what they can do. People get scammed for thousands of dollars. English isn’t everyone’s first language, some new designers don’t have a lot of experience, others are desperate for any work they can get. In the end, it’s the scammers that deserve 100% of the blame.

  11. Thanks for sharing this useful information

    After first contact I decided to send an estimate to see if customer qualified for us and surprisingly I got this respose (not even my friends hire me easily):

    Crystal Grover writes:

    Sounds good !

    After reviewing the price quote, I think we should continue with the next step since we already have a deadline to meet. This email also confirms my readiness to approve your route and also 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. 80% 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 March (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 and you can send it so that I can sign it electronically.

    Best Regards,

    1. I got the exact same correspondence. Thought it smelled fishy from the start. More info in case others are googling this…
      Legal company name: BELBTHAI RESTAURANT
      Contact person: Crystal Grover
      address: 5085 Westheimer Rd #B56, Houston, TX 77056
      email correspondence : manager@topnotch.com
      phone number for invoice only : (502) 383-1153
      EIN# 83-1086546

      What a waste of time.

  12. Aaron.hurley147@gmail.com, (323) 456-3361 (google voice number that doesn’t pick up), is a total scammer. He texted and email me, and mentioned that I would have to work with a “project consultant” also asked me if I accept credit cards and “who is your merchant payment processor?” I’m guessing he was going to try a force authorization scam on me.

  13. Thank you for posting this. I got an email from “Cook Sports Wears,” which I googled and your page was the only result. I would have told them no anyway, as I don’t do any freelance work, but I was curious if it was a real company. Apparently they are getting lazy about this scam, as they didn’t even bother to describe the project; the whole email was “How are you today, Hope you are doing good?. Do you work on new website design?. “

  14. Still happening 😉, this was a no go from the start but i wanted to play long a bit so i replied to them as off i had no clue. I know the Goose hotel and it’s not located in Florida but in Utrecht, Netherlands, where i am from. So instantly knew this was fake and a scam.

    ——-

    On 3 Jan 2020, at 07:41, James Petal wrote:

    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)

    ——-

    I replied that i wanted to take to the job if i could receive a more detailed briefing and only if they would pay 50% upfront through paypal or bank transfer first, then i would start working on their project. They replied again.

    ——-

    I got your email.I think your message is clear and understandable.

    The problem now is that am not able to pay you using PayPal because am having issues with my PayPal account(My PayPal account Was debited twice when i made a transaction last week and the receiver dint receive the amount till date,its still on hold) and PayPal has not been able to resolve that for me yet,all they said is for me to stop using the PayPal account pending the time which they don’t know.Another option i could have use is a wire transfer from our bank to you but that will not work also because my bank advice me not to do that or use any merchandise pending the time i resolve all this issue at hand.

    However,am able to have my assistant send you a cheque for your job.Do you have anyone in USA(A relative,brother,sister,colleague,contact etc) who can receive a cheque on your behalf?

    If you have someone who can receive a cheque on your behalf kindly get back to me with his name and address with phone number included then i will mail a cheque payment to him for the amount and it will get there in 2 days,you can proceed on my web design.

    James Petal
    (CEO Goose Hotel)

    ——

    After this i have send them a friendly message that i declining their project and they should find somebody else closer by who would be able to collect their cheques.

    1. Hello,

      My friend too received a message and there was involvement of a payment from the James Petal through cheque.
      When my friend tried to send some money to the consultant the payment was tracked and stopped by the bank.
      Now the bank has suspended my friends account.

      Would there be any issue to my friend in this?

    2. I am Peter Mcconnell 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 gooseusahotel.com or gooseusahotel.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.

      Peter Mcconnell
      (CEO Goose Hotel)

      My friend too got such mail.
      What is the next step if someone gets involved in this.
      My friend mistaken it to be true an received a check. He did try to send some amount to the consultant as mentioned in the mail. Now the bank has suspended his bank account where he used to receive his salary.
      Will there be any kind of legal action from the bank on my friend?

    3. The same thing is happened with me. I have sent my friend’s address and contact number. Then he mailed me that he will be sending him greater amount of money and after clearing your money, send the remaining amount to 3rd person. I found this fishy and reached here after browsing. I emailed him that the deal is cancelled but I didn’t receive any reply. I worry, I have sent him my friend’s contact number and address. What should I do?

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