Scammers are scum of the earth. And scammers that target newly minted entrepreneurs hungry for new business really make me even more angry.
This scam has been around for years, but it’s getting harder and harder to catch, so hopefully this timely public service announcement and reminder for our creative community on how to avoid this common WordPress credit card scam attack comes in handy. If you are a freelancer or run a WordPress agency or any other kind of creative service company, it’s likely you’ve been targeted by this credit card scam (likely many times in many flavors).
Once a week we get hit with the same email scam but it’s gotten a little more sophisticated lately in the bait portion of the bait and switch scheme. I figured it’d be helpful to share the secret sauce in saving yourself the time and trouble of sniffing it out each time.
To recap, the bad guys are posing as clients and asking you for quotes for your services. They accept your quote, then use a credit card and pay extra because another one of their vendors doesn’t take credit cards. They ask you to send the extra by check or cash to that vendor. Once that’s done they vanish. But you’ve been paid and it doesn’t matter right? Wrong. Turns out it was a stolen credit card. At some point the charge-back will hit and you’re carrying the whole enchilada in liability.
We’ve never fallen for it, but we know folks that have. And the scammers wouldn’t keep trying it if they weren’t making money.
Their ideal target are startups in their first year of business. People just figuring things out and hungry for a big new contract. It’s sick what these guys are doing.
I wanted to bring it up again, because today they got even fancier in their baiting tactics.
Check this out:
From: Bill Mcarthy
I am Bill Mcarthy and am one of the pastors at Real Life Church and i am also an investor of Agricultural products. I would like know if you can handle website design for a new company and also if you can provide me with a perfect estimation for the job if given?? I would really appreciate it if you can provide me with a great job service..kindly get back to me ASAP so i can send you the job details. Looking forward to read back from you
Even though there are a couple red flags (for me), like the fact that it was a Gmail account and the grammar was off (especially for a pastor), I did a quick check to see that it was in fact a real business. This made me think it was worth a tap. Here’s the next part of the conversation.
On Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 6:39 AM, Scott Mann
Thanks for reaching out to us. Let me know the rest of the details of your project to see if we’re a good fit to help you.
Thanks for your swift response regarding my inquiry and below is the Job Details…
I have a small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in NC 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 website but i need something more perfect than this if its possible. Here is the website http://www.agroamerica.com…. the website would only be informational, so i need you to give me an estimate based on the website 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 website.
1. I want the same number of pages with the example website 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 bestfarmproduce.com
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. i will be providing you with 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 $8000
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) AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, I WILL LIKE TO KNOW IF YOU ACCEPT CREDIT CARD AS A MEANS OF PAYMENT???
Please Get Back To Me As Soon As You Can
And THERE was the showstopping red flag and the secret sauce to sniffing out these scams (at least in their current incarnation). I didn’t do all caps in his email, he was kind enough to draw attention to it for me. Let’s be clear, anyone that asks if you take credit cards before a sale is complete is a scammer.
The experienced among us see all the red flags fast (grammar, too easy of a sale, aggressive buying tone, credit card ask, the pastor isn’t listed on the website, etc). But, my gosh, look at all the work they did to bait this scam! There’s enough detail here to make anyone inexperienced in business to think this was totally and completely legit.
For my part, I passed along the info to the church to let them know someone was fraudulently acting as a representative of their organization and recommended they contact the FBI if they are so inclined.
Please share this to make sure our friends in the industry don’t get suckered in. Have an awesome day.
Here’s a good reread from not too far back: WP Tavern – WordPress Service Provider Credit Card Scam from a Deaf Vendor.