Beware of the email scam asking for for a ‘favor’
Queensland SEO would like to bring to your attention a recent email scam threatening Australian businesses and small business owners online via email.
On the 30th of March, we received an email from a Yahoo email address requesting a quotation for a website. The email was responded to by our sales team and a quotation provided but when we requested to ring the lead to discuss the project in detail, the client declined and informed us of their apparent "hearing impairment".
While our suspicions were raised due to the client revealing they were located in Australia but using a foreign email address, we provided the requested quotation to the potential customer. The emailer then responds requesting to transfer more than the agreed quotation amount and asks for "a little favor" due to their disability and lack of credit card payment services. A frown was raised when we continued reading their email and it was confirmed they wanted us to be a forwarding party by sending the additional funds to a third party bank account who is referred to as a "project consultant".
Once the alarm was raised, a simple Google search of just one sentence copied from the email revealed all we needed to know to confirm we were dealing with a scammer or credit card fraudster.
Only just yesterday after recent discussions with one of our awesome AdWords clients we were shocked to discover that they too had also received the exact same email except targeting their own business services, in that case domestic carpet cleaning. So it appears the scammers are actively targeting businesses across Queensland, Australia and the world judging from our own experience, reports from our clients and other websites reporting a similar scam and coincidentally a very similar email message requesting a quotation and credit card payment.
The ‘Favor’ or ‘Job Details’ Email Scam
Please see the recent email transcript below between the trolling email scammer and Queensland SEO (with names of staff removed for privacy).
Subject: WEB DESIGN
Date: Mon, 30 Mar 2015 18:09:31 -0700
From: Joanne Thomas
To: Queensland SEO
My name is Joanne,i will like to know if you are available for Web Design for a new company and do you accept credit card for payment....I will be expecting your response back asap so that i can give you the Job details.
Subject: Re: Fwd: WEB DESIGN
Date: Tuesday, March 31, 2015, 2:23 AM
From: Queensland SEO
Good morning Joanne,
Thanks for your email.
Yes, we do provide web design services although we primarily specialise in fixing other web designs issues such as SEO, conversion enhancements and other website issues.
We do accept credit card payments but we usually prefer to send a PayPal request for our international clients as well as credit card payments for security purposes and to prevent fraud and fraudulent chargebacks.
If you are located in Australia, please feel free to give me a call and I'm happy to discuss and address any questions you may have...
Have a lovely day,
Subject: Web Design Job details
Date: Thursday, April 2, 2015, 9:43 AM
From: Joanne Thomas
To: Queensland SEO
Am hearing impaired that is why am using via e-mail to contact you now......I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in WA and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Wheat, fruits such as Apples,Aronia Berries etc and Grains & Oil-seeds so i need a best of the best layout design for it. Can you handle that for me ?. so i need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible .http://www.agroamerica.com....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 hosting and i want the same page as the site i gave you to check out and i have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.
1. I want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
2. I want only English language
3. I don't have a domain yet but i want the domain name as topfarmproduce.com
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. i will be providing the images, logos and content for the site.
6. i want the site up and running before ending of next month.
7. My budget is $3000 to $8000
Can you give me the estimate for the job and can you give me your full name,mobile number and address too....Thanks i awaits your response back asap.
Subject: Re: Web Design Job details
Date: Monday, April 6, 2015, 8:14 AM
From: Queensland SEO
Did not provide personal details or confirm credit card payments at this stage. Quote was provided to Joanne Thomas as requested for the website design.
Date: Wednesday, April 8, 2015, 9:53 AM
From: Joanne Thomas
To: Queensland SEO
Thanks for your response, I am okay with the estimate everything sound good and am ready to make payment now with my credit card, I understand the content for this site would be needed so work can start asap but i will need a Little favor from you and the favor is that I will send you my credit card to charge for the sum of $4000,You will deduct $1000 as deposit for the design of the website and you will help me send the remaining $3,000 to the project consultant that has the text content and the logo for my website so once he receive the $3,000,he would send the text content and logo needed for my website to you so work can start asap,i don't have cash now with me and they also don't have credit card facility they only accept upfront cash payment for their service,so that you can help me to bill my credit card for your service with the Project Consultant and help me send their fund to them via online banking into their bank account,am asking for this
favor due to my disability and am at the hospital will undergo surgery in 1 week time that why am asking for the favor....Thanks and You will be charging my card for remaining balance upon completion of work.
Scamming Australian businesses
The email scammers are sending email requests to legitimate Australian (and international businesses) requesting a quotation on services. The emailer will refuse a phone call when suggested for further verification and then specifically requests contact by email due to having a hearing impairment and referred to in the email as a disability.
The scammers are targeting any business that has a website and email address. The email address of the target or victim business is possibly purchased through illegal mailing lists or even 'scraped' or 'data mined' from Yellow Pages or other directory sites but we cannot confirm that as a fact at this stage.
Types of businesses that may be targeted:
- Web Design agencies
- SEO companies
- Cleaning companies
- Plumbing businesses
- Potentially any service based businesses with a website that performs credit card transactions
Why ‘the favor’ emails are a scam
These 'favor' email scams are requesting contact via email only.
The scammers perform research on the target business and mass deliver the same or a very similar style of email but with slight variations, depending on the type of business that is being targeted. They will provide a budget upfront to entice the business owner as bait and request for services that the target business most likely provides.
The email scammer will also request 'credit card only' transactions. A red flag for credit card chargebacks, especially if PayPal frightens them.
Once a quotation is provided, the scammers will then approve the quotation however request a special favor due to a disability and upcoming surgery in hospital. The scammer attempts to appeal to the emotions of the business owner or sales person.
The favor requested is usually that the scammer would like to pay by credit card more than the original quoted amount ($4000 in our case).
$1000 of this is to be kept by us as a deposit for our 'web design' services in accordance with our original quotation and the remaining amount ($3000) is requested by the scammer to be transferred to a 3rd party who in our case is referred to as a 'project consultant'. The project consultant will then release the website's content and images so that we may proceed with the quoted project as requested by the scammer.
The simply reason why this is a scam is that the potential client is using stolen credit cards. These stolen credit cards may actually see funds be deposited into your business account however when the business owner transfers the additional amount ($3000) to the project consultant as requested, the amount is deducted from your business bank account and transferred to the 3rd party account provided as with any bank transfer (which would leave us with the remaining $1000 in our bank account).
Within less than 30 days, you would then see a credit card chargeback on the original payment ($4000) meaning that that money will be returned to the rightful parties or individuals business account as it will most likely be flagged as being stolen or a fraudulent transaction.
Unfortunately as a result, the business owner would then be left with a negative balance of the amount transferred to the so called project consultant (in this case, $3000 would be lost as the $4000 would have been automatically deducted from our business account due to fraud).
So as you can see, this simple but sneaky tactic could potentially see Australian businesses losing thousands each year so we encourage you to spread the message. If in doubt, copy a sentence or two from the email and check on Google and if it's a scam, you'll most likely see other similar versions of the same email all containing poor spelling and grammar and asking for credit card and personal details.