Scams, cyberattacks, hackers are all the rage on the Internet these days. No one’s really safe and it’s important to stay up to date with the news of new scams and how to keep you and your data safe. This applies to freelancers, creatives and more.
There has been a recent scam that’s especially targeting web designers, web developers and other creatives. We wanted to make you aware of this scam and the different forms it can take, so you’ll be ready if scammers contact you.
The Third-Party Scam
One of the most prevalent scams making the rounds these days is called the Third-Party Scam. It’s also been called the Overpayment Scam, the Payment Reversal Scam and the Advanced Fee Scam.
The scam typically starts out with an email, voice mail or a text message, etc. that looks like it’s from a prospective client. Who of us wouldn’t want to respond quickly if it means more business! However, the message contains some clues that the inquiry is actually a scam.
The clues you know this is a scam are:
1). It just feels wrong to you—listen to your gut on this!
2). The inquiry is from someone with a start up business, has a small business they’d like to take large scale, is an import/export business, has a restaurant they need a website for, etc.
3). The person may claim to be in the US, UK or located outside of the country. If located outside of the country, they’ll indicate they have a business partner located in the US.
4). The email message sounds legitimate—it may contain just the type and amount of information to make it sound credible.
5). The scammers ask if you accept credit card payments.
6). They’ll also ask if you’re the owner of the company.
7). Next, the inquiry will contain a budget range.
8). The sender generally uses poor English grammar and punctuation.
9). You may have recently received similar messages, which means this is a scam being used by others who are using the same information/template.
10). You ask direct questions about the project but receive no response or the scammer only shares vague details.
11). The scammer dictates (yes, we use this word correctly) the payment terms to you. Here, they will usually tell you they’ll overpay you. This is a huge clue…read on.
12). The scammer/inquiry person is happy to agree with you and wants to pay you ASAP, but wants to overpay you…why? This is where they’ll bring up that associate they mentioned earlier.
13). They’ll request that you accept the overpayment, and then use the overpayment amount to send to their consultant (the one who has the logos, etc.). Then that person will send you the logo and any other images, content for you to use on the project. Yah, right!
As you can see, the scammers provide just enough information to make this seem like a plausible inquiry for a real project. However, there are some red flags to watch out for.
Red Flags: Clues this is a Scam
By this time, it should be obvious you’re dealing with a scam. For instance, what prospective client will tell you their budget first thing? That’s a major giveaway.
Also notice when they bring up the consultant who has the logos, etc. This is a huge red flag that you’re dealing with a scam.
Next, what client would want to overpay you, just so you can turn around and send the overpayment to another consultant? Come on, who would trust you to do that in the real world? Not many, if you stop and think about it!
If the scammer provides you with an address and phone number, do a quick lookup online. You may find that the business address is actually a home for sale on Zillow or some other real estate website! No kidding—cybercriminals go to all lengths to try to make this look as legit as possible, even researching addresses to use for their “business.”
Also be sure to check out the business name—you may find the business doesn’t exist, or it could be a legitimate business that scammers are only using. We’re not kidding. These types of cyber criminals go to all lengths to get you to believe their inquiry is true.
Another way to check out the legitimacy of the inquiry is to type the scammer’s email address or phone number into Google and see what pops up in the search. You may find many instances of this person or persons using the same scam on others.
As you can see, these scams are very intricate and are created with hooks to make you believe these are real, legitimate inquiries into projects. But don’t be fooled. Always listen to your gut and watch for these signs the inquiry may truly be a scam.
What to Do – How to Handle the Scam
Now you may be wondering how to handle this if you believe it’s a scam. If no one’s sent you money and money’s not been stolen from you, the best thing is not to respond to these inquiries. Just delete the text and voice messages, emails, etc. It’s best to avoid replying. Just delete everything and go along with your day.
If you’d like to report the scam, you can contact these folks:
UK – https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ – Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime.
US – Secret Service: one of their jobs is to look into financial fraud, counterfeiting, etc. Now, they may not do anything unless money’s changed hands. Be prepared for this response; however, they will step in and help you if scammers have stolen money, etc.
US – FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): you can file a complaint with the FBI, and you may be referred to local, state, federal or even an international law enforcement or regulatory agency. They may want to investigate the scam.
US – Federal Trade Commission Complaint Assistant: another agency that may be able to help you in the event you’ve been scammed.
If you receive an inquiry that seems to raise a bunch of red flags, including those listed here, and/or if your gut tells you it just doesn’t feel right, then choose not to pursue the possible project. It’s not worth the time and effort and it’s certainly not worth being scammed. If you are scammed, then be sure to reach out to the authorities for help.
Liam is a website designer and digital marketer based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He spent a decade working within the charity sector before moving into the marketing space a number of years ago. Liam always strives to do something slightly different with every project and always designs to deliver results, not just pretty websites.