I recently posted a "Part 2" of this Website Quote Request Phishing Scam Alert to the Internet Safety blog. The scam continues and has evolved. This time it's a new business, new sender, and a new tactic. Read the blog post here for more details.
I received a call today from another service provider who has been contacted by this scammer. Be aware that this scam is still ongoing. Feel free to share your similar experience or story in the comments section below (as well as if the scammer uses a different name, email address, or changes some of the information).
If you are contacted by this scammer you may also want to alert the FBI Cyber Crime Division and/or your local Law Enforcement agency. Report cyber crimes to the FBI using this link.
You may also find Interpol's guide to Staying Safe on the Internet useful.
Immediately upon receiving the request it did not seem legit for a number of reasons but in an effort to find out what Mr. Perez' agenda was I played along to see how far he would go.
It started with a simple information request submitted from our website's contact form.
iPlasmaCMS Contact Form Message
Generated on May 17, 2017
Subject: Business Development
Business/Organization Name: Clothing Company
Email Address: [email protected]
Phone Number: 405-695-5854
Preferred Contact Method: Email
I will like to know if you would be available for Informational Website Design.Thanks
Realizing immediately that this was most likely a scam or a competitor price scouting, I took the initiative and responded to the request directly:
Good Afternoon Mr. Perez,
We can certainly help you with an informational website. Do you have more information on what exactly you are looking for, or any type of samples?
What is the best day and time that I can give you a call to discuss your project?
And Mr. Perez was quick to reply within 11 minutes, excited that he might have had a bite on his line:
Thanks for getting back to me and i will like you to know that am out of the sate for business trip and I have a small clothing business for both male and female, now am trying to expand the business.I want you to build an informational website for it for advertisement. I need you to checkout this site but I need something more perfect than this if possible, http://viviankateshop.com. 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 8 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 rwears.co 3.You will be updating the site for me. 4. I will be providing 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 $5,000 to $8,000 Kindly get back to me with an estimate.
Hope to read from you,
Based on the poor grammar and the fact that he did not answer my question about when he would be available to discuss the project it was obvious to me that he was up to something that wasn't right, especially considering the "notes" at the end of this message. It also followed a very similar format to a scam I had seen attempted last year about an agricultural website quote request. However I was intrigued by how this scam worked and so I wanted to find out more. I then composed a reply that would make him think he had me hooked so that I could try to rope him in a little more and determine how this scheme actually works. Here was my reply:
Thanks for providing additional information.
It looks like that domain is already reserved by someone else, it is parked on GoDaddy. Do you own the domain name rwears.co?
We can develop the site to be similar to viviankateshop.com with a photo gallery, blog, contact form, and responsive website design (so it will work on smart phones, tablets, and desktops/laptops) for $4,400.00 setup and $450.00/year (first year is $4,850.00).
For us to do the content updates I would need to know how often you would like your website updated? We will install our content management system so that you would be able to easily make updates yourself - otherwise the annual fee will increase depending on how often you foresee the need to have items updated.
In order to complete the project by the end of next month we would need to start the project by the end of next week.
Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns and/or when you will be available for a phone call to discuss the project further.
11 Minutes later he replies again:
Tim,i will be very glad if you can check a different domain name for me that will sound nice and i would be very glad if you can make it work on all this things you listed below also i want it updated monthly and i hope you do accept credit card as payment so that i can make upfront payment for you to get started.
At this point I started piecing together his angle when he mentioned needing to pay with a credit card. As quick as he was to jump on wanting to make an upfront payment, while he had declined a phone conversation, the scam was becoming more transparent and I realized it was not a competitor seeking prices. Yet I still wanted to know how exactly he intended to make money off of this scam. Thus I replied again to "qualify" him (not expecting a response after this):
I can certainly help you find a good domain name. What is the name of your clothing line company?
Also we generally take a 50% deposit of the setup cost up front, so we would be looking at $2,200.00 for the deposit. I will need the following information to create the service agreement and work order that we will need signed and returned along with the deposit:
Name and Title of Primary Point of Contact / Executive Authority of Account:
Additional Points of Contact (and their titles) involved in the project:
Name of your Business:
Entity Type: (i.e. Sole Proprietorship, LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp)
Business Address: (Street, City, State, Zip, Country)
Mr. Perez responds again, exactly 11 minutes later:
Tim,i will like you to know that the Graphic Designer has all this details but due to my business trip i haven't had chance getting all this information and i want you to handle something for me?
I respond one last time, calling his bluff:
When will you be back from your business trip? Maybe it is better to discuss the project then?
We cannot start the project without the requested information and a signed agreement.
Mr. Perez finally reveals his scam, again exactly 11 minutes later:
Tim,i will like you to know that due to my business trip that why i want everything done cause i don't actually know when i will be back in state and I will like you to know that due to my business trip i haven't paid the private graphic designer that has the text content and the logo also details of my company, the Graphic Designer does not have credit card facility. Regarding this fact, I will be giving you my credit card for the total of $6,300. Once the funds clears to your account $2,200 will be deducted as an upfront payment for the website design, $100 for yourself as tip and the remaining $4,000 will be sent to the private graphic designer that has the text content and the logo for my website,Via Cash Deposit and Be rest assured you will be charging everything on my credit card including the credit card charges fee,Ok
This scam turned out to be quite simple. They prey on unsuspecting website development companies, which if one were desperate for business or just starting out might not realize they are being scammed. Once they get the provider to agree, they use the third party "private graphic designer" to transfer funds to on either a stolen card or an account that can be charged back, so the victim of the scam will pay out the amount to the "private graphic designer" and the entirety of the initial payment would then be charged back, leaving the victim short $4,000 or however much the amount becomes.
Do not let yourself be victimized by this scam. Now you know!
Has this happened to you? Please feel free to share your own experience or any additional insight you may have about this scammer.