Have you ever been so excited thinking that your digital marketing is working because someone emailed you wanting your products or services? It’s always exciting when you have the opportunity to gain a new customer and hopefully a long term returning customer. I am here to tell you to BEWARE! The fraudsters are working overtime and they are targeting small business owners. This is my story.

About two years ago I had received an email from a man claiming to be the pastor of a church. He wanted the church website updated and a new look. Happy at the opportunity and thinking this could be a “word of mouth” referral opportunity, I jumped at the chance and started corresponding with the pastor. A few trigger comments with some text in his emails and RED FLAGS were flying! I started to get leery of working with this person. So, I called the church! They had never heard of this pastor nor were they looking to redo their website. I was a victim of a fraud scam.

Thank goodness I did not play into this man’s game to far. I did my due diligence after I started feeling uncomfortable regarding the transaction. I started doing some research regarding this type of fraud and couldn’t believe what I found. These criminals are getting good. They are now pretending to be customers needing your products or services and are targeting small business owners in industries where the products or services are high priced.

About a year and a half ago, one of my clients who owns a flooring company received an email wanting a certain type of EXPENSIVE flooring. He was asked if he accepted credit card, was given a credit card, and the transaction went through. Without waiting for any time period before sending out the flooring, the product was shipped and on it’s way to the designated address. Needless to say, the person got the product and my client got a CHARGE BACK from the credit card company because the transaction was fraudulent. Double loss.

A few days ago I just received another email from a fraudster. Now at first you just can’t really tell that it isn’t someone truly interested in your service or product but these guys have a specific pattern of interaction and I am going to let the world know. Hopefully, it will save you from the same fate as my client as I break down this email interaction with “Craig”

First Email Recieved:

Now, the first thing you will notice is that they had to ASK if I do website design for a new company. I am a website developer, OF COURSE I DO! Next, you will notice that they specifically ask if I accept credit cards. THIS IS THE BIGGEST RED FLAG! Most people that really need/want your service are not going to ask for payment options in the initial contact email. They are going to be asking questions about your products or services. In my case, they ask about the platform, coding language, and what services are included with my designs. I usually NEVER have them ask about credit cards right away. But, I never want to miss an opportunity so I did respond with a yes to his questions and asked what type of business he has.

Second Email:

Here is where I pretty much decide that I am not interested in working with these people because I am pretty certain this is fraud. First of all, the poor writing skills. Always a sign that something is up. BUT, the U.S. is a melting pot so broken English is not uncommon. Reading on, this is an export business, every fraud email I have ever gotten (it’s been A LOT) has been a church or export business. Also, they have a private consultant…this is the person they usually say is going to pay for the site in advance and that you need to contact them. Before I could answer, I received another email.

Email 3:

Bingo! This is what I was waiting for. They want my personal cell phone number and asked if I am the owner. My response to this is:

Now, I have learned that if you don’t know the person you are dealing with you pretty much need to run as much background as you can. Especially with large transactions occurring. I deal mainly with other business owners and I can EASILY check with the secretary of state for legitimacy. Following is the last correspondence with this person and after my response I haven’t heard from them again.

Last Email Correspondence:

In conclusion, registering a business in the United States is very easy and there is absolutely NO reason a company shouldn’t or wouldn’t provide you proof of their business legitimacy. My recommendation is to always ask for this and followup with the Secretary of States Office to validate legitimacy. If you are dealing with consumers, a driver’s license & social security number is not out of line to ask for on high dollar purchases. A good practice is to wait five days before sending out ANY product worth thousands of dollars or call their credit card company and have them call their customer to verify the purchase. The idea is to protect your business!

Hopefully the above correspondence has given you a reference to recognize the difference between a legit customer and one that is trying to commit fraud.

Be Alert! | Be Informed! | Be Aware!