Hello to another web design project scam

Just not too long ago, I got tricked into a chargeback scam. Even though I had eventually gotten all my money back (plus more!) I considered it a very useful lesson learned. Little would I expect I could put what I have learned into good use again so soon. Like, now!

I’ll cut to the chase. It started by me receiving this inquiry sent through my contact form:

Your website link: NA
Your budget: “I can commit minimum SGD 600 per month for 12 months”
Your organisation:
Your name: Martins Jefferson
Your email address: [email protected]
Your contact number:
Best time to call:
Your Skype ID:
About your business:

Hello Good day,

How are you doing? Please advice if you do web design? and do you accept credit cards.

Thank you and expecting to read back from you so i can forward more details.

Regards,

Martins Jefferson

Right away, I could raise a few red flags:
1) Suspicious looking name;
2) Even more suspicious looking email address!

Biggest giveaway is the way this person asked the question:

“Please advice if you do web design?”
Really? Couldn’t you tell already from my website?

Then the next question, “do you accept credit cards”.
Straightaway my scam radar got activated!

I wanted to give him the benefit of doubt, so I responded to him:

Hello Martins, thank you for getting in touch.

> How are you doing? Please advice if you do web design? and do you accept credit cards.

I’m well. I do web design. And I accept credit cards.

I would like to hear more about what you need and how can I help. Do tell?

His reply came in about 3 hours later:

Hello Dean,

Thanks for your swift response

Here is the job details

I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Gacillia Nut and Cocoa 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.

Note:

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 yourtopfarmproduce.com
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. i will be proving the IMAGES, logos and content for the site.
6. i want the site up and running before ending of NEXT month.

My budget is $10,000 to $30,000

Kindly get back to me with:

(1) an estimate
(2) your cell phone number
(3) And will like to know if you are the owner?

Regards,

Martins Jefferson

What’s wrong with this email? The budget! I have received RFQs with higher budget before. But in this case, the quoted budget doesn’t quite commensurate with the work required. Either he is so inexperienced, or he is simply a very generous person!

I decided to give him one more chance before I can safely conclude if he was for real or not:

Hello Martins, thank you for the details.

I had a look through www.agroamerica.com, it’s really not difficult for me to create something as nice (if not better). You can see my past work from my project showcase page: https://deanloh.com/work/

> 3. I don’t have a domain yet but i want the domain name as yourtopfarmproduce.com

yourtopfarmproduce.com is already taken. But you may consider the following (better) alternatives:
yourtopproduce.farm
yourfarmproduce.top

Or you may find check out all the other available domain name extension other than .com at http://store.domainsifu.com/domain-registration

Now allow me to answer your other questions:

> (1) an estimate

I have only one price scheme, which is SGD600 per month (for minimum 12 months). You may read about how it works from this page: https://deanloh.com/how-it-works/

> (2) your cell phone number

+65 xxxxxxxx [sorry guys had to omit this]
May I have yours too?

> (3) And will like to know if you are the owner?

I’m operating under my company name Kaia Pte Ltd, and I’m the sole owner.

In terms of timeline, I have couple of projects in progress, but if you refer to the “How it works” page again, you can see I aim to get the beta site up and running within first month, this gives you more time to come up with more content if you will, while I am able to work on multiple websites concurrently. As long as you continue to pay me $600 per month, I will continue to improve/maintain your website. And yes, I will host the site for you too. Your site will be secure with SSL and top notch server (our hosting partner is WP Engine).

Feel free to give me a call if it’s easier for you. I start my day at 8am each work day till 4pm.

Lo and behold, then came his reply:

Hello Dean,

Thanks for your response and my number is +1 657 222 4807 and will go with yourtopproduce.farm,I am okay with the total cost,everything sounds good and I’m 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 the sum of $16,000.00 plus CC company charges, You will deduct $6,000 for the deposit design of the website and you will send the remaining $10,000 to the project consultant that has been handling all my consultancy and she has the text content and the logo for my website so once she receive the $6,000 she would send the text content,videos and logo needed for my website to you.

I would have love to make the payment directly to her,but she dont have the credit card facility to accommodate.Kindly get back to me so we can proceed with payment as soon as you ready to make a start.

Best Regards,

Martins Jefferson

Once again he made a brutal mistake: Where in my previous email did I say anything about $6,000?! I mentioned “$600 per month”, do some calculations and he will get $7,200 after multiplying it by 12. In my mind I was thinking “Horseh liao! Let the game begins!”

Hi Martins, your instructions sound straightforward enough. Unfortunately I have a little problem here… In Singapore, the monetary authority is very strict on money laundering. I know this is not your intention. I don’t think you are out to scam me either. But if I receive a charge of such big sum, the authority is likely to contact me and I will have to furnish them with details of the transaction and payer’s information. So it will help if you can send me the following details of yours, so I can forward it to the authority in my country it get clearance, then we can move forward with the transaction.

Your full name:
Your passport no.:
Country of issue:

Alternatively, if you want to avoid all these troubles, you may also TT the payment to me. Since TT is done through banks, the banks would have done the legwork for us.

If you insist on paying by credit card, then I will have to hold the payment for 40 days before I can release 10k to your consultant. Then for the same reasons I need your consultants details as above too.

Otherwise there is nothing I can do. By the way I have booked the domain name for you. I can only hold it for 4 days so please tell me your decision.

I purposely emphasised in the last paragraph that I “have” booked the domain name for him, fact is I didn’t. I just wanted to keep him on the hook. Did he take the bite? You bet he did!

Dean,

Thanks for your response. I can’t do a wire transfer due to my present location on the rig and don’t worry because the consultant will send you an invoice before he receives the funds from you.  Holding the payment for 40days will affect us because she will need the funds urgently to release the logos and other things.

Let me know if you can release the funds to her on time to enable me forward the details you requested.

Martins

I was starting to feel playful.

I understand you are on the rig. Do you mean oil rig? How’s oil business these days? Do you need a website for your oil business too? We can use the same strategy if we can make this work!

Back to the payment. Looks like I have to get your full details so I can submit the request to our authority to inform them that you are a legit business and you genuinely want to do business with me.

Actually, there is a loophole but I hesitate to mention. That is if you want to speed things up a little? Let me know and I will show you how.

I intentionally highlight his oil business, just to see if he had forgotten he was suppose to be in, or venturing into agriculture business.

Yes Oil business and i will give you the details of the job after this present one. What loophole is that? Can you show me? what exact details do you need from me to proceed?

By this time I was getting bored. This guy seemed a little amateur for the game. But I eventually replied to him anyway, just to see where would that bring us. Big part of me was hoping he would just quit.

Hi Martins, sorry for the delayed reply. I had to make a few calls to confirm some information.

Since you have been upfront with me, I want to be honest with you too. Actually, I have been having trouble finding a way to move a sum of funds out of Singapore (as you already know our monetary authority here is very strict!)

Now that we have this unique situation, I can take this opportunity to execute it. I need to move SGD250,000 to China, not in one go, but $50,000 at a time. I couldn’t do this without a “legitimate” reason. But now that I know you, and you will send me your contact details that I can submit to authority for clearance. Once approved, I can transfer the 10k + 60k to your consultant. Then I will send him/her the instruction about where to redirect the 40k to. If we can make this work, I will repeat the process until I move the entire SGD1.5 million out!

Seriously, no person in right mind would not think that I was being funny. But guess what?

Dean,

That shouldn’t be a problem and i will help you out. I will talk to my Consultant and hopefully he will do that for you. What are the exact details you need from me for the clearance?

Martins Jefferson

His last reply was 10 hours ago. I kind of ran out of idea. Maybe I can use your help? What should I do next?

Update on 1 Apr 2017

After waited for me for a day, this guy got impatient and sent me a follow up email:

Dean,

I am still waiting for your response. Thanks

Martins

At first I thought of just ignoring him. But as I was waiting for my son to finish school, I thought I could kill some time by replying to him:

Sorry Martin, I meant to write you sooner. There has been some technical issue now.

This has to do with the money deal which I told you about. Someone from Indonesia contacted me via email, told me he is going to send me $1.5 million dollars, in return, all I have to do is transfer $250,000 to his contact in China, then I can keep the rest of the money. At first I thought this is a lousy job, that’s why I thought I could just let your consultant do it. But this morning I did the calculation, it dawned on me $1.5 million is actually a lot of money! If I get this deal, I dont need to make websites anymore! I can move to Thailand right away and open a car workshop. You are in car business right? Is it a good business to invest in?

Then came his final reply:

Please stop all this rubbish..

Martins

I guess this makes the end of it? This guy is such a bad sport!

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