Small Business Scam Alert!

I recently received a text message from a (703) phone number asking if I do web design and accept credit cards. I replied by text that I do both and asked the person to use my contact form to describe his project.

I received a very long response (again by text) about wanting an informational web site, referring me to a site that the person/business thought was reasonable, and asking for a quote for a 5 page web site, including hosting and maintenance, with a domain name they wanted to use.

This message also included some additional info – the site had to be in English, they would send the graphics and content that had already been produced by a graphic artist, the site needed to be up and running before the end of next month and they asked me to confirm that I was the owner.

Five hours later I received another text asking why I hadn’t responded yet, so I sent a text response with pricing info, a timeline, and a request for a deposit. I also indicated that the balance would not be due until the site was ready to go live (which is my standard practice).

Two days later I received a text asking why I hadn’t responded, so I replied that I did respond and asked for an email address so I could resend the information. The last text gave me an email address and I resent the information to that address.

THIRTY MINUTES LATER I received a response asking me for a “favor” – the graphic artist didn’t accept credit cards, so could I charge the client’s card for $3000 and send $2000 to the graphic artist, who would then send me all of the graphics and content.

And, by the way, the FROM was one name and at the end of the message were 2 initials that didn’t match the name.

This is a classic scam. You get a lot of money, you send most of it to someone else, then a week or two later you’re contacted by your bank/merchant company that the charge was fraudulent and all the funds are being clawed back from your account.

My reply to this was simple – that wouldn’t work for me, but if the graphic artist contacted me, I would help them set up a Square account so they could take the payment from the client.

Surprise, no communication since.

I must admit to everyone who has made it this far in the post that I was absolutely suspicious of this from the beginning, but didn’t see the harm in moving forward even though I didn’t expect it to pan out. Of course, once the “favor” was requested, it was obvious this wasn’t real.

As small businesses, we can’t afford to ignore potential new customers. But we also can’t afford to take unnecessary risks. I hope this helps at least one person reading this to recognize this type of scam if it shows up in your texts and/or email.

Copyright 2021 ABQweb™, a division of L&S Marketing, Inc. Feel free to link to this post, but you can’t use all or part of this content without permission.

Can Privacy Still Exist?

At the risk of dating myself, I miss the good old days when your information belonged to you and you could control with whom you shared it.

Today, it seems that every company with a web site wants us to create an account so they can gather as much information as they can about us and share it with whomever they want, all in the name of “helping” us:

  • Tell us what kind of food you like and we’ll “help” you find restaurants.
  • Tell us where you are and we’ll “help” you find great deals close to you.
  • Tell us how much you earn and we’ll “help” you find the right bank, credit card, investment fund, etc.
  • And, of course, log into your account with us before you do anything so that we can track EVERYTHING you do and find new ways to “help” you that you didn’t even know you needed!

I get it – the more you know about me, the more you can “help” me. But I think it has gotten out of control and it’s only getting worse.

The recent revelations about how Facebook collects and shares data from its users is a real wake-up call for many of us, but Facebook is definitely not the only one who does this. Of course, Facebook gives you the ability to turn off information sharing in many cases, but that requires you to both find and change all of the appropriate settings in your account.

Here’s another example that affects millions of people all over the world. Windows 10 currently has 19 DIFFERENT SECTIONS IN ITS PRIVACY SETTINGS and many of these sections have multiple items. Initially, Microsoft pointed out how this would give users more control over what data they share with Microsoft and other companies with programs and apps on their computers. It takes 10-15 minutes just to go through all of these settings and turn off the ones that are turned on by default. “No big deal,” you might be thinking. “I can turn those off easily enough.” But…certain larger Windows 10 updates seem to reset or reactivate some of these settings, so you can’t just do this once and forget it.

We know that just about every account we create has privacy settings (and/or privacy notices), but WHAT ARE THE DEFAULT SETTINGS created for us when we open those accounts and when the companies providing us with services update and upgrade their services?

I suggest that any setting related to sharing information should DEFAULT TO OFF! No, you cannot share my information by default. Period. You want to share it? CONVINCE ME TO LET YOU. Perhaps I’ll see ads if I don’t share my information. Perhaps you’ll charge me a fee instead of providing a service for free. Or perhaps I won’t have access to certain features unless I agree to share certain related information. These are all reasonable scenarios, BUT IT MUST BE MY DECISION, NOT YOURS!

Everyone wants the internet to be “free,” but there is no such thing as a free lunch. Never has been, never will be. But, what I do with my personal information is up to me, not to you.

Are you willing to pay Facebook $1/month to keep your information private? $5? $10? Or Microsoft? Or Google? Whatever your number, even if it’s zero, it doesn’t matter today because you don’t have a choice.

And what about the companies you already pay? Your ISP (internet service provider), for example? Should they be able to keep track of how you surf the web too? Again, we don’t really have a choice.

I don’t know if we can change anything, but we must at least be aware of what is going on and TRY to take some control of what information is being collected and shared about us.

Good luck!

Copyright 2018 ABQweb™, a division of L&S Marketing, Inc. Feel free to link to this post, but you can’t use all or part of this content without permission.

Email “Rules” from ABQweb™

One of the biggest problems we face is dealing with the daily deluge of email messages. Some of these messages are obviously from spammers, phishers and other “bad guys,” but many of them are from people we know (or at least they “look legitimate”). After many years in the computer industry, I’ve become a real skeptic and I’d like to share a few tips that I think can help you avoid some common problems. Here are my four basic email rules for messages that have links or attachments:

  1. If you don’t know who sent it, don’t follow links or open attachments – just hit DELETE. I know, this is pretty obvious, but you’d be amazed at how often I hear from someone who “forgot” about this rule.
  2. If it seems to be from someone you know, but the message is really generic – just hit DELETE. “Here is the file we discussed” sounds official, but have you ever really sent someone a message with only that text and nothing else? No greeting, no salutation, no “how’s the kids?” The only time I have EVER violated this is when I’m actually on the phone with someone and I send them a message while we are talking, then wait to make sure they receive it while we are still on the phone!
  3. If it seems to be from someone you know but you weren’t expecting it – VERIFY it before clicking any links or opening any attachments. Send a message back to them (but type their address in manually) or call them on the phone and make sure this is really something they sent to you. If something is really time sensitive, chances are you already knew about it before the message arrived (see Rule #4 below). If it isn’t time sensitive, the delay while you verify it won’t matter.
  4. If it seems to be from someone you know, it is personalized, and you were expecting it, GO FOR IT! To me, you’ve taken every reasonable precaution and it is probably exactly what it seems to be.

Of course, none of these rules will matter if you aren’t protected with an up-to-date browser and good anti-virus software. The “bad guys” are getting smarter all the time and will probably find a way to get around even these precautions.

But for now, at least, if you follow these rules, you will be much less likely to follow the wrong link or open the wrong attachment. If this works for you (or even if it doesn’t), please let me know.

Copyright 2009 ABQweb™, a division of L&S Marketing, Inc. Feel free to link to this post, but you can’t use all or part of this content without permission.

Who Owns Your Website?

In an August, 2007 issue of the Albuquerque Journal, there was an article about a dispute between a web designer and a business over who owns the design and content of the web site that the designer created for the business. The court ruled that the site belonged to the DESIGNER absent any written contract stating otherwise.

While I’m a big fan of the legal process, I think they got this one wrong. As a designer, writer, programmer and PR professional, I think it’s simple – YOU pay ME, so it belongs to you.

Of course, if you DON’T pay me, you aren’t entitled to anything. Refuse to pay your hosting bill, your web site (and email) will disappear. Refuse to pay your web design bill, all your pages will be removed and replaced with a “coming soon” banner. Pay your bill, it all comes back.

So, to all my customers who have asked if we need to have a contract now, I say “relax…if you pay for it, you own it.”

The Journal article also talked about who should register and renew your domain name and implied that you have to be careful about shady web designers and hosting companies who register your domains under their names. While I admit that there are people and companies like that, this is my standard practice for a number of reasons:

  1. For new domains, the annual domain registration fee is bundled with the hosting package and is provided at no extra charge.
  2. Many customers don’t want to be bothered renewing their own domain names each year, and if they forget, it becomes my problem.
  3. It is a lot easier to manage a large number of domains in a single account than to create a separate account for each hosting customer.
  4. By managing the process for my customers, there is only one username/password to remember.

If my customers already have the domain registered and want to continue managing it themselves, that’s perfectly fine. And, I have NEVER refused to turn over a domain to my customer or another web designer or host if the account is current.

To be prudent, you may want to have a discussion with your web design and web hosting company and see where they stand on this issue. If you work with us, you already know where you stand. If you don’t and you’re not happy with the answers you receive, feel free to give us a call (or at least give somebody a call who will protect YOUR rights to your domain name and your web content).

Copyright 2007 ABQweb™, a division of L&S Marketing, Inc. Feel free to link to this post, but you can’t use all or part of this content without permission.