We got hit with a fairly well-known scam, but I followed it through (for a while) to get some fodder for the blog so that hopefully this post will come up if people get a similar email and wonder if it’s a scam or not.
Emails like this are a scam 100% of the time. Let’s start with my first email from “Josh”:
Good Morning, My name is Josh Johnson, I’m hearing impaired, I wanna know if you can handle website design for a new company and also if you do you accept credit cards ?? kindly get back to me ASAP so i can send you the job details.
Word-for-word scam. I didn’t think he’d write back, but I went for it and he did! Over the course of a few days, here’s how the scam unfolded (my words in bold, Josh in italics).
Sure! What do you have going on?
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Thanks for your swift response
Here is the job details
i have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in GA and the company is based on importing and exporting of Office Equipment such as Printer , Scanners,Laminating Machines and Dictation Machinesso 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 thisif its possible .govliquidation.com.. . the site would only be informational, so i need you to give me an estimate. And i will need you to understand that i wont be able to pay with Paypal and Square ,my account was compromised with those two merchants and my money got stolen ..
I want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you tocheck 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
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.
7. My budget is $4000 to $8000
If this was a real request for a proposal, we’d have a lot more questions. In the interest of stringing him along, but still sounding interested, I kept it pretty simple:
That site you sent (govliquidation.com) has a LOT of pages on it. Will you be wanting that many pages on your site? Will you be writing them all?
Your budget and timeline are tight, but we might be able to make it happen.
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Yes,so can i have the total estimate now
Of course not (we need to know much more), but let’s go with it. I know his “budget”, so I’ll pick a number near the high end of it:
Cool. If you can do all of that, the total would be $6800.
— — -
Thanks for your response, i am okay with the estimate and i wanna proceed so i will be depositing $3000 using credit card so work can commence ASAP,i understand the content for this site would be needed as for the job to commence so regarding the content i will need a little favor from you.
Wow, that was the easiest sale ever! However, here comes the “favor” he’ll need. I wonder what it might be…
What kind of favor will you need?
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The reason i need this favor from you is because the consultant does not have the facility to charge credit cards and i also am presently in the hospital for surgery so i will be glad if you can help me out with this favor,The favor i need from you is.I would give you my card info’s to charge for $7000,so $3000 would be a deposit payment for my website design and the remaining $4000 you would help me send it to the project consultant that has the text content and the logo for my website so once he has the $4000 he would send the text content and logo needed for my website to you also the funds would be sent to him via cash deposit into his account, sending of funds would be after funds clears into your account ,So i will be looking forward to read back from you.
This is the core of the scam. The scammer typically has a stolen credit card. They’ll send me the $7000, then I’ll send off the $4000 to the “project consultant”. Not long after, the charge will be disputed and I’ll lose the $7000, but I’ll be out the $4000 that I sent.
So I played dumb. Why not just set up the consultant with a way to accept the payment directly from Josh?
No worries. I can help him set up a Stripe account so he can take the payment directly. What’s his email address?
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Good morning,he only accept cash so can i have the grand total cost together now.
Ahh, cash only. It won’t really be cash, but a form of payment that I can never get back. Josh initially said he was in Georgia (like us), so I’ll play like I need to meet the guy to give him the cash.
Does he live in Georgia? Where?
I need to know if he’ll be coming to me to get the cash, or if I need to drive somewhere to meet him.
The total to start will be $7000.
— — -
No,he lived in New York,you charge my credit card thru and wait till funds cleared into your bank account,you will send him the funds too him via CASH DEPOSIT.Are you ready for my card info
Also,can i have your cell phone number now
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That’s weird. Why can’t you just CASH DEPOSIT directly to him?
That scared Josh off, and he disappeared for a day. I had to get him back:
Josh — Just checking in again. Is there any way to deposit to him, or does it need to go through us?
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It`s greatly appreciated if you can handle everything for me. Much as i would have really loved to speak with you directly, i can`t for now as am in the hospital undergoing tests for my forthcoming surgeries that will be coming up in the next few days to correct my hearing problem and replace my knee cap just as i informed you in my previous text,so i want you too handle everything for me.
His hospital visit sounds serious. Needs to fix his hearing problem and a kneecap…
Yes,you get funds send too me via Cash Deposit or Wire Transfer so what is the name of your credit card processor or the name of you credit card merchant (Clover or FirstData),what is the name..
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Do you need my password?
What hospital are you in? In Atlanta somewhere?
We usually use Stripe, but Clover sounds good. I also offered to send him my password, just to see what he’d say. He ignored it.
Okay,am in intensive care and are you ready for my info too charge it for $7000 now and how many days will the funds will be available in your bank account if you charge my card thru now.
— — -
They’re letting you use a computer while you’re in intensive care?
He eventually responded and wanted to move the conversation to text message. I went there with him, and we traded text messages for a while. He ultimately gave me two different credit card numbers to try (after I told him the first was declined) and we eventually admitted we knew what was up.
As he mentioned early on, he wanted to use mayannaofficeequipment.com. So, we purchased that domain and it redirects back to this very post!
This scam often appears word-for-word as you saw in the initial email, but can vary from time to time. The hearing impaired angle is likely a two-fold approach; partly to gain some sympathy, but also so they can avoid talking on the phone.
If you ever feel like something seems suspicious (or too good to be true), it probably is. A quick Google search will typically reveal that it is within seconds.
Has anyone ever tried to pull a scam like this on you?