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09-25-2017 : New Scam Targets Web Developers
It starts with a simple email inquiring if I am available for web development services. Being in business means that you get emails/phone calls like this from time to time. You always immediately respond because that's just good business. But, also, if you've ever done anything on the internet, you always start off optimistic, but you always keep a close eye out for anything that might be odd.
So let's get the most important information out there, right on top:
The scammer's contact information, as I saw it.
Name: James Morgan
Disclaimer: Ever so sorry for anyone out there with the same name who is not an internet scammer. Don't mean to slander your name.
"James Morgan" had a pretty detailed plan for what he needed. He appears to have a legitimate business importing/exporting agricultural products. Of course the first thing I did after his initial pitch was to Google his name, phone number, and email address. No red flags. The phone is in Tulsa, OK. Not really much else to go on. But nothing bad either. I figured the lack of information could just be from the fact that his business is new.
He gave me basic information about what he needed done.
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 $10,000
I responded with a PDF detailing a proposal. All normal business so far.
The first red flag came with the fact that my proposal was absurdly high for the project. I bid high because I wanted to see how serious he was.
The red flag is that he accepted the proposal with no questions. That was too easy. Still... Only one small flag so far.
He could only pay by credit card. Ok. I can see that. Slightly odd. But if that's the way he wants to work, I'll entertain it. But another little flag came up.
I told him I could accept payment through PayPal. His response is that he doesn't trust PayPal. He wants to use a more secure service to trust with his CC information. So he suggests a merchant account.
Now, this raised a new little red flag.
But I still couldn't figure out how a scam would work that would involve me setting up a secure merchant account, and accepting a payment from him. So I entertained it. In my mind, I may need the merchant account anyway. It doesn't cost anything to set up. So I did it. The warning meter went up a little, though.
So now the pieces are in motion on the board. Or, from "James's" point of view, he just set the hook. Because I'm ready to invoice him.
Now, this is the part where his story breaks. He called me to set up final arrangements. I was driving and couldn't talk. So I told him I would call back in a few minutes. When I called back, I got an automated voicemail message saying that number was a "burner phone". Ok, that sent up a REALLY big flag.
At this point, I have my merchant account set up. I've sent him a typical company invoice to detail costs. And I set up a "buy now" button so that he could pay into my merchant account directly. I had not actually sent that out yet. I wanted to do some more checking. What with the burner phone and the gmail account... So I waited for him to contact me with final arrangements. And here is where it exploded.
That is the most obvious scam I'd ever seen. I immediately responded back that there was no way this was a legitimate transaction. "I do not wish to pursue this any further."
Now I could see clearly what the game was
He has a credit card, probably more than one, certainly stolen. He wants to charge $7,500 to that card, and have me move $5000 of it from MY account to HIS account. In the end, I would be left holding the ball for that money. And Mr. Scammer would have $5000 of someone else's money.
So now he's in the hospital and desperately needs my help.
Alright, well, that's that... For the next hour or so, he called and emailed, and texted, begging me to continue the deal. To which I responded, "Yeah, that's not going to happen. I think I will report this whole thing instead."
Look, I'm sure that these scams must work from time to time. This is why these people continue to try stuff like this. But, really, I cannot imagine that ANY legitimate business owner would consider moving $5000 through their own bank account for someone else. I mean, there is just no way anyone could think that was a good idea. I hope...
So I'm a little miffed about the amount of time I wasted entertaining this jerkoff, assuming that it would be a profitable venture. It just goes to show that no matter how careful you are, you can still step in some dogshit once in a while.
At least I can feel good about knowing that I wasted his time too, and got off the hook before doing something stupid. And I'm writing this article now so others can see how these things unfold, and perhaps someone will see the warning signs even earlier than I did.
Also - again... I do not wish to besmirch the name of all who are called "James Morgan". But I hope this particular one dies in a fire.