Web Design Scam

March 29, 2018

I do a bit of contract work here and there, but not too often as I work a full-time job. Usually, I find my clients via word of mouth, like a friend knows someone who needs work done on a site or a new site created. Only once did I have someone reach out to me because they found my business card at a coffee shop (they had a design firm and asked for my rates in case they were overloaded with work).  I want to talk about a scam someone tried to pull on me.

Because of this, I was already suspicious when I received a text message from a man who calls himself "John Williams".

John: Hello how are you doing today? My name is John Williams i'm making an inquiry to know if you can handle website design for a small scale business and also if you do accept all major credit cards if yes kindly get back to me asap. Thanks....

The initial mention of the credit cards seemed weird, as well as not mentioning how he found me.  I decided to go along with it and see what he had to say about the "project".  I replied quickly stating I did in fact take credit cards (I do use Square invoices for a regular client who pays with a credit card), and would like to schedule time to chat about the project.  It took him a while to reply:

John: Good I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in Alaska and the company is based on importing and exporting of building equipment so i need a best of the best layout design for it. Can you handle that for me?

Okay, so this is starting to seem a bit weird.  You don't just turn a small business into a large one by building a website, but maybe English isn't his native language and the translation is just coming over strange.  I give him the benefit of a doubt and continue with our conversation.

I tell him that I can definitely handle building the site for him, and would like to schedule a time the next day (it's already evening at this point) so that we can talk about the project and I can explain the process that we would go through.  He completely dodges the phone call scheduling again.

John: so i need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible http://conamco.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 that will provide the text content and the logos for the site.

Ahh, there it is.  The second person.  I don't know why, but this is something scammers seem to do, always giving you off to a second person.  I am guessing that this is a way to know which people are falling for it, and those people will contact the second person, who will then try to get you to pay them money or give them personal information about yourself.

Day Two

The next day, I decided to re-initiate contact with "John".  I sent him an estimate that I thought would be low enough to keep him interested, just to see where this would go.  I told him the estimate would be $800, but I would need a $200 deposit.

He immediately texted back and sent a list of requirements, which all seemed like legit web development requirements.  The last bullet point was this:

John: My budget is $4000 to $8000

Considering I quoted way less than that (after all, it would be a very simple HTML website, nothing fancy), he tells me he has this large budget.

After this, I started googling: Web Design Scams.  The first two or three hits have the same exact message he sent me the day before, mentioning the small scale business becoming large scale.  At this point, I knew 100% it was a scam, and wanted to see what I could get him to do for me.

ME: I thought I would be speaking with your project consultant first?  I will need the content and initial payment before I begin work.

John: Okay you can text the project consultant on this *** *** ****

John: Okay get back to me with the total cost

Me: Sounds good! May I ask how you found my web development company?

John: Have you talk with the consultant?

Me: In the last 30 seconds? No.  I am curious how you found my business though.

John: Okay someone direct me to you. Mr mike

I do not know a Mike, or not one that I have worked with in many years.  I decide to start messing with him.

Me: Oh that's great to hear. How is Mike doing? I know he was pretty upset after losing his children to Ebola last year.

At this point he starts dodging and wanting me to get back to him with the cost (which we've already discussed.  I told him I could do it for $4000-$8000, and to say hello to "Mike" for me.  Again, he asks for the cost, so I repeat it.  Then this:

Me: I need to have proof that your business is real. Can you do that for me?

John: Okay how ?

Me: Can you send me a picture of your business card? I just want to make sure you have the capital for this size of project.

John: Okay but I don't have it with me right now.

I then tell him to send it to me when he has it, so that we can start the project.  I didn't want to delay getting his website built!

After a while of waiting, I decided to try to get him to send me something, anything.  I never contacted his "consultant".  I figure the time I can keep him busy, the less time he has to try to scam other people.

Me: Your consultant has not responded.  Are you really John Williams, I'm having doubts.  Could you send me a picture of a letter head or something with your name on it and the company name? I just want to make sure I can trust you, John.

Me: Are you there?

At this point, he's not responding. I'm afraid I may have lost him.  I miss talking with John, he seemed like a good guy.  I decide to contact the "consultant", and see what he has to say.  No word.

Six Hours Later

Hours later, John writes back.  He clearly is in a different time zone (probably in Africa somewhere).   I thought I had lost him, and missed our conversations.  John asks if I have spoken with the "consultant".  I tell him that he has not responded yet, and then I immediately get a message from this so-called "consultant".

Consultant: Yes have he explained every thing to you ?

Me: Yes he has.  I am just waiting on proof of the business and we can get started on my end.  I have two developers ready to go!

Consultant: So what are going to do about the web site ?

Still ignoring the proof of business inquiry.  I'm hoping to get a silly hand-written business card from the scammers.  I've also asked for a letter head, just to see what they come up with.

Me: I need the content and logo from you and we can build it.  What is your name?

The Scam

This is where it gets interesting.  If you've stuck around this long, I'm sure you're wondering what the scam actually is.  John tells me he will send me the letter head, and the "Consultant" says that he has not yet been payed by John so he will not give out the content and logo.  You can see where this is going.  His name is Scott Evans, another generic English name.

John: Yes 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

Me: Ok what is it?  Can you send me that letterhead and I will help you with your favor

His favor, in short, is that he will give me a credit card to charge him $7200.  I will then deduct $3200 as a deposit for the design, and another $200 as a tip (because John is a really nice guy).  Then, I am to send the remaining $4000 to Scott Evans.  It is probably a stolen credit card, or one in which they will reverse the charge immediately, taking $4000 of your own money.

I asked him to send me a picture of the credit card and the letter head, and I will take care of it on my end.  I tell Scott that I am getting the $4000 that he is owed.

Scott: Ok he owed me $4000 balance for the logo and content...so he told you going to send it to me, then i'm going to send you the logo and content so you can start the work as soon as possible

Me: Yes that is correct. I'm just waiting for him to prove that he is who he says he is and I will transfer the funds.

Now John is telling me that he is on a business trip and doesn't have a card or letter head with his info on it for me to see that he is real.  But don't worry, Scott has assured me that he is a great guy, and they have met before.  I ask Scott for a picture of John, and John to provide something with his name on it.  Obviously John and Scott are the same person, or at least sitting next to each other, so I want to see what they will come up with.

John's Big Reveal

John gets back to me after some time with this photo:

I tell him it is a beautiful picture, but could he please send a quick selfie with him holding a piece of paper with his name on it? Just to make sure... He seems confused by this request.  Just then, Scott sends me a photo of his buddy John:

Well look at that, it really is John!  John insists that it really is him.  I tell him that I believe him, but my business partner insists that we have a picture of him holding something with his name on it.  After a quick reverse image search, I came across these photos: fake-scam.info.

He refuses to take the selfie.  Instead, he pushes the fact that the site should be running by the end of the month.  Sure, I can build a $4000 site in two days!  But really, if I could do that, I would be quite rich.

He agrees to finally take a selfie but without writing his name after I threaten to leave our business arrangement.  And to my surprise, the selfie arrives!

I hope that this post prevents someone else from falling into one of these stupid scams.  Unfortunately, they do work, which is why they keep doing them.  I told him immediately after this that I knew it was a scam and ceased further communications.

11 comments on “Web Design Scam”

  1. Great job! Do you outline all of your blog posts? I've read a few of them now and they are way higher quality than other blogs I've read.

  2. Thanks for the article! Was contacted by him this morning and immediately my gut said, scam!! Also asked questions he hasn’t answered.

    1. They are pretty persistent. I received another one very similar to the one in this post just the other day!

  3. lol. I got this text yesterday. I like messing around with them too. He has another name now, Greg Knox. I've gotten these text many times before so I recognize them very quickly. I thought I'd play along though...

    Greg: "Hello how are you doing today? My name is Greg Knox i'm making an inquiry to know if you can handle website design for a small scale business.

    Me: I'm not open today due to it being Memorial Day, but yes we do web design. Please call tomorrow between 9am and 11am.

    I get a new text at 11:37am (not even the time I requested).

    Greg: Hey
    Greg: Here is the job details

    I have a small scale business which I want to turn into a large scale business now it located in Alaska and the company is based in importing and exporting of building equipment 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://conamco.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 that will provide the test content and the logos for the site.

    (NOTE: never click on a link like that you get. And if he really did have a project consultant, then that consultant would have been the one contacting you! I've worked with consultants before...that's how it works my friend. No bouncing around from person to person. )

    Me: Do you have time for a phone call?

    Greg: I would have love to call but presently i'm in the hospital receiving treatment due to my hearing impaired so text for now. Sorry for the inconvenience.

    Me: Please get back to me when you can do a call. I prefer to meet or do phone calls for a design job.s All the best, Prayers for your recovery.

    Greg: Can you text me.
    Greg: I need website done ASAP
    Greg: just try to understand me

    Me: Well currently I don't trust website design company scammers. But good try!

    Greg never responded... lol

    My pro tips? 1. NEVER do a design for someone that won't call you or talk to you on the phone. 2. Never trust someone that is already trying to dodge questions or pass you from one person to the other.
    3. If they truly are hearing impaired, someone like a design consultant would have called you right off...

    Thanks for the blog post Chris!

  4. Thank you for posting this. He preyed on me for six months but as a future husband so he is also using all dating sites to scam people. Thank God I felt in my gut this was a scam, too many dodgy evasions of questions just like your issue but who knows how much money he’s getting from other women who are vulnerable. I have been hurt in relationships and financially used and he had all the right smooth words I needed to hear at the time to believe him. I’m a much stronger confident woman now and I wish I could find a way to stop him from doing this to other women. I fell prey to this asshole but I will post as much as I can about him so other women don’t fall for it as he is on all kinds of Internet dating sites doing this to God knows how many unsuspecting females that have been hurt and he says all the right things ! I reverse googled his picture and all the pictures you have posted are the pictures he sent me!

    1. Hi
      I’m pretty sure I’m in contact at the moment with this man are you able to give an example of the emails he sends

  5. Hi, he got me too, His name now is Martin Greene, sergant in GB. But sended out to Syrie and next week to Afghanistan.

  6. Hi Annon 1 & 2,

    I would really love to see examples of your messages from this man please. This same man from these pics has been sending my mum messages, she is vulnerable at the moment and he seems to say all the right things to combat what I'm saying. Please help.

    1. I'm sorry to hear that, but unfortunately, this was a long time ago and I no longer have the text messages to send screenshots of.

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