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Avoiding A $3,000 Business Scam

A few months ago I wrote about a scammer that tried to trick me out of $5,000. Since writing that article, I’ve gotten their attention.

They’re back!

Two weeks ago I got a response to an ad:
 
Hello, I will like to know if you can create a website for either big or small business? I will send some more information about the website on your reply! Your reply must be direct to my E-mail: [CENSORED]@gmail.com for business. Not a Quack!
 
Regards, Dwayne Carter.
 
Applying what I learned from last time, it was pretty clear that he was trying to scam me. But, I decided to play along to outline the entire scam and demonstrate how to handle an uncertain situation.
 
I replied:
 
Dwayne,
Yes. I work with both large and small businesses. Although I mostly work with small businesses (under 10 employees). I would be happy to discuss what you have in mind.
 
Thanks for reaching out,
Skyler Bird
 
The following day he responded:
 
Hello ,
I have small scale business which I want to turn into a large-scale business now it located in MO 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? I need you to check out this site but I need something more perfect than this if its possible [CENSORED COMPETITOR] 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 best Hosting/Domain and the pages might vary from the site I gave you to check out and I have a private project consultant/expertise, he has the text content and the logos for the site. My Budget is $1,500 to $3,800
 
I want you to find out this domain name for me [CENSORED]You will be buying a better/preferable domain for me if my suggested domain is already taken, so it should be part of your estimate. I will send you more breakdown about numbers of pages and some more useful information in my next mail if that will help your estimation perfectly. I am not the CEO of the company but I am hired to be in charge of it been a family Attorney for a client.
Regards,
Dwayne Carter
 
This actually is fairly clever. He’s done a decent amount of research about my market. He knows the appropriate terms, a common scenario for contacting me, and has made an average offer. All of this can be reassuring, but he does this to quickly build trust. Notice how eager he is to give me $3,000 before discussing anything.
To remain professional, I offered to do the work for $1,900. He promptly responded:
 
Hi,
Thank you for writing back, I hope I can rely on your experience as I am hoping to get the best kind of creative website to boost the company reputation.
 
Please, I want you to go through my breakdown for you to know what I need on the website!
 
Constructions:
 
1. I am very comfortable with WordPress as preferred platform.
2. I am looking for a web page about 30 – 40 pages
3. My expertise will be providing all the content texts and logos.
4. I don’t want copyright issues.
5. Plugins should all be purchased at Pro levels
6. There will not be any purchase platform on the website, It will only be an informative website about our Farm Products & Animals.
7.  I want the site up and running within 1 – 5 weeks if that will be enough time for you to complete the website.
 
Hosting and Domain:
 
1. Go-daddy or Your choice giving me the best package.
2. I will love to go for just a year hosting and if I like it then I can decide to purchase more contracts.
3. Greenerfarming.net or org.
Database / Server Space:
 
1. No PDF
2. Just two videos will be on the site
3. I will have to wait and see how fast it develop
 
Lastly, everything that will be on the website front page will also be provided by my Write Up Professional that has all the text contents & logo/pictures for the website because I will not like to include what’s not mine from another website to avoid being charge for copyrights.
 
Once we agreed on the price and ready to commence the website, I will have my Write Up Professional to send you all the website logos and text contents.
 
I will like you to go ahead and give me your final estimation based on my budget $1,500 to $3.800
 
NB:  I will like to know if you can charge a credit card as a means of payment and also will like to know your merchant. No PayPal or Square Merchant Scam ( Another Merchant Is Allowed )
 
Please give me your final estimate and let me know what you are asking for as upfront.
 
Regards,
Dwayne Carter

 

 Could you imagine getting this guy on the phone? I did exactly what he wanted, yet he sent a novel to win me over.
From here, I treated him like a normal client. Admittedly, normal clients don’t have to reassure me that they’re not scamming me. But, I sent him my contract followed by an invoice after he signed. I couldn’t believe it, he went so far as to sign my contract.

 

But, there was a shocking turn of events. Dwayne suddenly wanted to renegotiate the amount and give me a few more things to do:

Thanks for your time , I am very sorry to caused any delay.

I am glad to let you know that I got the invoice but I am having a little problem with my Write Up Professional that is providing the text contents and logos, he doesn’t have the facilities to charge my Credit-Card at the moment and do not want to release the text contents/Logos until they get paid for their services. I am comfortable paying you $950 as your upfront payment now and even add $50 tip for this little help I want you to do for me because the Board Of Directors has warned me not to delay this project. Your balance will be paid immediately the website is ready for launch.

I want you to resend the invoice for $3,924, Upon confirming my payment; $900 will be your first advance payment while you will help me send $3,024 to my Write Up Professional via Cash Deposit so we can have the text contents/Logos immediately for you to proceed with the projects. Payment to my Write Up Professional will only be sent after the payment successfully clear into your account. I want the text contents and logos to be sent to you for professional revision before starting the construction of the website, this will make it possible for us to make any amendment if needed to avoid any more delay.

We can proceed immediately you resend the invoice and i make the payment.

I hope you will give our organization the best design,
Thanks for your time,
Dwayne Carter

 

This is the point the entire scam hinges upon. He sends me too much money, then I have to send some back to him or a partner. Weeks later his transaction fails, leaving me liable for the entire amount. It’s essentially like I gave him $3,000.

 

By now, you should be certain that this person is out to steal from you. The best course of action is to ignore them and let them forget about you — and not telling the world from your blog. But, what if you’re still unsure or want to handle it professionally? As I pointed out last time, you should never manage money for a client. If they can send money to you, they can send it to someone else. Here’s how I responded:

Dwayne,

With all due respect, I am a Web Designer, not a personal assistant. If you need the money sent to someone else, I suggest that someone in your corporation sends it. I am in no position to take on the liability of handling money that does not belong to me.

Skyler Bird

 

From here, he is still trying to convince me to do it (up until the point of writing this). In the wake of my poor decisions, I intend to string him out for as long as I can. Time he’s spending on me is time he isn’t using to actually steal from someone. I could use the laugh and I’m happy to keep Dwayne company. But, this is the full extent of this scam.

Here’s what you can apply from this

Grammar is still a dead giveaway — this is their biggest fault. Most of these people are from countries where English is a second or even third language. There’s a distinct difference between bad native grammar and that of someone learning. Just take a scroll through Twitter.

A rush is never good news — do any of your clients leap at the chance to give you thousands at your first meeting? If so, get in touch. I’m in. Really though, the majority of clients will want to qualify you in some way. Even if it is a legitimate client and they don’t want to build a relationship, they may not have a proper understanding of you what you do. It’s always a good idea to build a relationship with the client and understand their needs. You never know what you might find.

Be careful with Craigslist — last time I was unsure. This time he replied directly to my Myrtle Beach Craigslist ad. If you get a response to a classified ad, treat it with an extra layer of skepticism. This is where they look for their victims.

Be professional, but have your boundaries — I get it. All of us want to please our clients and one bad review can mean missing rent. But, even if they’re not scamming you, in business you can be pushed in any direction. Establish what you’re alright with, and act from there. When you’ve planned for the problem, you’re halfway through fixing it.

Never send money for someone — There may be some legitimate reasons to do this for a client, but given the liability involved I have to recommend avoiding it. If you don’t already have a working relationship with the client, refuse to do it.

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