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Latest Scam: Website Design Scam

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Sigh! Another day. Another attempt to scam money from people. I post these articles to help other avoid the pitfalls of unscrupulous business practices.

This particular scam can affect unsuspecting web designers and web developers. At first glance, it looks like a quick, easy and potentially lucrative job. The “potential client” reaches out initially by email or SMS. The backstory can change a little (“I am hearing impaired. Do you mind corresponding via email or text”, etc), but ultimately, you will be sent an email that looks like the following:

I need you to check out this site but I need something more perfect than this if it’s possible
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. I have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.
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 FREDNATUREFARMS.NET
4. You will be updating the site for me.
5. I will be providing the images, logos and content for the site.
6. My budget is $4000 to $7000
Kindly get back to me with:
(1) Total estimated cost
(2) Do you own the company
(3) Payment option 
Best Regards,

A few details can change from pitch to pitch, but will ultimately include, “I have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site”. That is the whole point of the scam. If you continue to interact with these scammers, you will ultimately build a site that will get over paid with a stolen credit card. The over payment, they will explain, was meant to go to the private consultant. You will get asked to transfer the money to that consultant on their behalf. That is how they get paid! You, as the honest web designer, get stuck with the credit card reversal, days or weeks later, from the stolen credit card. This scam is called the Third Party Payout Scam, the Payment Reversal Scam, the Advanced Fee Scam or the Overpayment Scam.

This may seem like a long-drawn-out process to get paid, but I have seen similar emails, pass through my inbox, for years. Clearly, it must work, often enough, for the scammers. When I first saw this email come in, my first red flag was the specified budget. I often get requests for quotes, but I rarely get given a budget upfront in a letter of introduction. When I searched the email contents on, my suspicions were confirmed. It was a scam.

My advice to you, web designer friends, is the old axiom, “if it seems a little too good to be true, it probably is”. A quick google search of the email contents will save you a lot of time, frustration and financial pain.