The web is riddled with spam, viruses and scammers and the total number of scam attempts per year is constantly increasing. This week Phoenix Web Development was targeted and after googling, it seems that businesses are becoming a more popular target. It’s always useful to see what tricks the ruffians of the web are trying out. Check out the email we received a few days ago below.
I’m a little old fashioned but just realized the importance of internet marketing and i would like us to work on my Organization website which one of my Vocational student already built a basic website ( I love) but now that we are working on creating branches ( First branch is AU) i think it needs to be upgraded . Please let me know if you can work this for me.
Emial : email@example.com
Website : www.ramonaroy.org
My first instinct is to jump on new business. I was slightly suspicious of the bad grammar, spelling errors, and the fact the organisation was using an Australian business but dismissed it due to having dollar signs in my eyes. We have also built websites for perfectly competent business owners who were dyslexic or lacked English skills. I replied:
Thanks for contacting Phoenix, it’s nice to hear from you. Yes we’d be happy to help you upgrade your site. I just took a look at http://www.ramonaroy.org/ and it looks good but there is not much content and missing some modern features. Could you please let me know generally what are your intentions with the upgrade? Some possible examples of features are:
- Online donations
- Social media integration
Look forward to your reply.
I received back
I just want a better interface, yes Donation page, A place on the original web for Weekly Articles. I’m based in Florida but coming to Australia in two weeks for a 5 month project.
Emial : firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : www.ramonaroy.org
I then proceeded to prepare a 250 word detailed quote:
Thanks for your reply.
… <snip for brevity> …
Hope that information helps. If you have any questions feel free to contact me. We are based in Adelaide, South Australia. So if Adelaide is part of your itinerary, we may be able to meet in person.
After another couple emails, I sent through a contract and an intial invoice. Here’s what I got back.
Thank’s for sending through the contract , read thoroughly and everything is fine .It’s ok to provide host located in Australia and i’d go ahead to make payment but i’m going to need a favor from you , I’m yet to pay the printers recommended to me to print my flyers because it’s a family business and they don’t have credit card facility . Could you kindly put an extra charge of $700 on my credit card after your charges and help send to them so they could go on with printing too. I want to accomplish as much as I could remotely before coming over there to face my busy schedule . Thank you .
Ding Ding Ding. Scammer detected. Clients are supposed to pay you money, not the other way round. I went to see if there’s a real charity call RRO and did a search at https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/search-for-charities. Surprise, surprise, no charity with that name. I then googled some snippets of text from Roy’s website. Chunks of it had been lifted from National Association of the Deaf website.
Now that I knew I had a scammer, I did a WHOIS query to find out where the phishing website was hosted. This is an important step. If the website is being hosted at a legitimate hosting company, they can be informed and the site will be taken down. In this case the host was Weebly which has an email address – email@example.com for receiving phishing reports.
Here’s another scam email we received this week.
I’m Lungu Roy, i will need your service for a web design. Let me know if you are available for this request.
Once again, potential incoming business, so I replied:
Thanks very much for contacting us. We’re happy to help with your web design. Could you please let me know some details of the work you need and your budget? I will have a read, then likely ask some more questions, and then get a quote to you.
Here’s the reply:
Am very sorry for my late respond, i would love to know if you can handle website design for a new company, am setting up a restaurant and also if you do accept credit cards ?? kindly get back to me ASAP so i can send you the job details.
When a potential client asks you straightaway about credit cards, it sets off alarm bells. However I gave the sender the benefit of the doubt and replied:
We’d love to build the website for your restaurant. Yes we accept credit cards. When we send you an invoice via email, you’ll have the option to pay with credit card aswell. If you’re asking about setting up credit card payments on your website, then yes we can handle that too.
I look forward to hearing the job details.
The reply I received:
Thanks for your swift response, Here is the job details. I use to be a chef and now i am setting up a restaurant which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in VIC and the restaurant is based on any kind of foods, American meals and Chinesse foods 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 http://californiagrillrestaurant.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, 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. you will be updating the site for me.
4. i will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
5. My budget is $2000 to $4500
Kindly get back to me with:
(1) an estimate
(2) And will like to know if you are the owner ??
The question “will like to know if you are the owner” is another red flag for scammers. They ask to make sure they’re scamming the person who holds the purse strings. So I had a look around the internet for some of the phrases in the emails. I found references to the scam here, here and here. Hopefully any other web developers receiving these scam emails will see this article or another referencing the scam.
Finally, I wanted to have a laugh and sent this email to the first scammer.
Yes if it’s absolutely necessary we are able to do that. Could you please send your credit card details as an image?
To the second scammer I’ve sent a quote.
Yes I am the owner. We can provide you a site with all the features you’ve asked for. However it will cost more than your budget. We estimate a cost of $10000.
Yes I am the business owner.
I’m looking forward to stringing these guys along as long as I can. Stay safe out there. If you want a primer on phishing scams and how to avoid them, Common phishing scams and how to recognise and avoid them by Dave Albaugh is a good place to start.