A scam is afoot: Scam messages looking for “web designers” and how to spot them

Scam messages have been around almost as long as the internet has. Prominent schemes that we ourselves may have fallen for in the past. There is always a premise meant to induce believability. And as time has gone by, the room for doubt shrinks and the scammers improve. Take this message below. It seems innocuous and innocent enough. Someone simply looking for a web designer. Of course, this is a sale coming right at us. Why would someone not appreciate this direct form of customer engagement? Well, let us look at the text:

“From: +1 318 *** 5877

Hello, my name is [Blank], I got your number from Better Business Bureau® as a good Web Designer in North Vancouver, BC. I will like to know if you are available for website design if yes get kindly back to me as soon as possible with your email so I can send you the job details.”

Now, this message may be disarming at first. The Better Buisness Bureau is mentioned. They even went out of their way to compliment us on being a “good web designer”. The location is right, as Twelfth Dream has worked with many companies in the Vancouver area. You can read some of our case studies. It would not be out of the realm of possibility to assume legitimacy. Maybe a customer of ours recommended us to this person. But, you know the saying. If it is too good to be true, it probably is. Organic customers are the most sought after. This is due to two things. One, they prove the brand’s marketing works. Two, customers feel well when they have made a good find. As would anybody.


Irregularities that prove it is a scam

All our business would have to do now is provide an amazing experience. But as the title suggests, a scam is afoot. Let us explore further. There are several dead giveaways when it comes to scams. An outrageous premise. A scenario that is “too good to be true”. Misused information. It can all be good giveaways when it comes to scammers. Luckily, a vast majority of scams fall under this category. Of course, there others that are not so easy to spot. Other times, you may be a victim of a security flaw. One in a system you do not control. For us, it was a simple as searching the message we got on the internet. Several posts conveyed similar experiences. However, sometimes these attacks happen at the source.

Take the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack that happened recently. A ransomware attack occurs when an encryption malware is installed on the victim’s system. This malware then encrypts all the data on the system and asks for a ransom to be paid. The payment is usually in cryptocurrency and blockchain. A new advancement in its field that is hard to track. The Colonial ransomware attack was devastating. Personal information was stolen and systems were halted. The mass panic led to a gas shortage for several weeks in the United States. The customers were not at fault here, but rather the business with their security flaws. Let us now equip you with knowledge on these dead giveaways.

Mention of the Better Business Bureau to prove legitimacy

This immediately stood out. Imagine any ordinary customer. Why would they feel the need to provide legitimacy? Are they not simply a consumer looking for a service? Could they not just ask about pricing or a guide to the website & eCommerce? The other striking factor is that, this is not a big transaction. Think of the Nigerian Prince scam from the email chain days. Large sums of money would be promised by a Nigerian prince in trouble. All they would ask to release these vast fortunes was a small processing fee. Or the “You have won a car” emails. All they would ask for was the shipping and handling. Of course, after they had received the sum they would vanish without a trace. A common thread among these scam messages were the grand promises. But another was the need for verification. They would drop details that would lend legitimacy.

However, this is a simple web design inquiry. Millions of dollars or hundreds of thousands are not involved here. Therefore, the mention of the Bureau sticks out like a sore thumb.

Grammatical errors, typical scam mistake

Another common thread among these scams is their origin being outside of countries with robust cyber laws. In Canada, if this were to be carried out by a citizen, reporting them to law enforcement would be a breeze. However, if you notice the area code, the number is not from Canada. 318 is the area code of Louisiana in the United States. Now, why would any scammer think they could fool us by using a number bearing the +1 North America international calling code? This could be due to shoddy research. And also the fact that they are not in North America.

There are many companies that offer virtual phone numbers. These are numbers rented out to clients who can make phone calls without ever needing a sim card. It is actually a useful tool for carrying out international business. However, like most useful tools, it can be exploited. These scam operations may not always be able to get the right number for the area they target. And their use of poor grammar is a great way to spot them. Things like “I will like to know” or the lack of punctuation can indicate the use of translation software. Of course, not everyone speaks English as their first language. However, proper punctuation or at least minimal punctuation is a normality in business messages. After all, first impressions are everything.

The use of ® in text

Now, we are getting into the weeds. One way to spot a copied message is by putting it in a search engine to see if others pop up. Scam artists usually try to cast a wide net. As even if a small percentage fall prey, the whole operation would be worth it. So far, we have discussed a few factors. It is important to remember that any one of these factors may not form a scam. But when enough of them appear together, that is a red flag.

Case and point, the use of the ® in the text. Think about the last time you used the “registered” symbol in a text you sent. Sounds unfamiliar, right? It gets worse. When you search for the Better Business Bureau, the first result (the nonprofit’s website) bears the name alongside the symbol. Clearly indicating that the message was copy and pasted. It was done so hastily and so lazily that they neglected to even try and sound casual. Even though, their lack of grammatical structure is very casual. This inconsistency is a great way to spot a scam. While one red flag is worrying, so many in one text makes the scam an easy one to spot.


As experts, we are not buying the scam

Let us say hypothetically a web designer were to fall for this scam.  It should be noted that while we do design work on websites, Twelfth Dream is mainly known for mobile app design. The reference to a “web designer” fell flat as customers do not approach us as such. This sort of scam is known industry-wide now, but there was a day when it was new. The entire scam hinges on stolen credit cards (easily found on the dark web) and chargebacks. The reference to “job details” would allude to the person being a project agent or contractor. They will send the “job details” and explain that they earn a commission based on finding you this “job”. They will even offer to pay the sum of the project upfront. Alongside the little set aside for the agent. You make the invoice and bill them as you would normally.

However, when the payment is complete, the actual owner of the card will be notified. The gap between the chargeback and the progress of the scam is where the money is made. Firstly, the agent gets their pay. Second, you might even get through completing the project. Third, as you are enjoying your well-earned advance, you are then held liable for the charges. As you have officially billed for the service and are a legitimate business. Thus, a scam was completed and an honest business owner fell victim.

Lessons Learned

Hopefully now you are a little more aware of these horrid scams. They have been named Advanced Fee scams, overpayment scams, chargeback scams, and many other names. Of course, if you have been the target of such a scam, contacting local authorities is recommended. However, they seem to be mostly interested in those who have suffered financial damages. Every day scammers get more and more creative. That is why it is imperative to look for potential red flags when we encounter unsolicited messages like these. Look for the signs listed, and it never hurts to do further research. If you need any help contact us. Team As A Service (TAAS) is at you service. Remember, if it is too good to be true, it probably is.

Frequently Asked questions

How can you tell when a job offer is a scam? If something seems off, it probably is. Getting a message or an email out of nowhere is sign. Especially one that does not seem to be written directly to you, but rather has your name plastered on top. Then again, if they have not done the research, it would be easy to catch them.

What are some other types of online scams? Cyber crime scams, email scams, online shopping scams, personal information scams, are a few other types of online scams.

Do I have any recourse if I have been advance payment scammed? You can visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center at https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/scams-fraudes/victim-victime-eng.htm or give them a call at 1-888-495-8501. While these authorities cannot reverse every fraud, they are a good resource to weigh your future options.

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