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.
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