Website Design Scam - Joseph Thomas 3302998080
Around 6AM this morning, I received an email through my website's contact form. The essence of the message was from Joseph Thomas with the phone number of 3302998080 and his email was email@example.com
He wrote the following:
Message: Hello I'm Joseph. Do you offer website design? I have a Car wash business and I need an information website to promote my business?
Obviously, it's marked as spam now, but it came in like a normal email from my firstname.lastname@example.org as all emails do through my contact form. Also notable was that I received the same email from him 2 hours later directly to my email with the exact same message. After doing my morning routine of checking all of my clients' websites and profiles to be sure everything is going well, I gave Joseph Thomas a call on his 3302998080 number. At this point, I just assumed I had a customer that was very anxious and excited and forgave the few odd grammar mistakes (Car and improper punctuation). We all probably sometimes have clients that maybe aren't the best at typing.
As soon as I heard a woman on the phone, I realized something didn't feel right. We talked and I apologized for bugging her. She said that a lot of people had been calling her asking for Joseph Thomas at that same 3302998080 number. I told her how I got the contact information and apologized again about disrupting her day. She was very friendly and kind even though I'm not sure I would be after getting calls from web developers all day for the last few weeks.
So, at this point, it's an interesting detour for my day. I decide to sit on this a bit before I can research if it's a scam or maybe someone this Joseph Thomas character gave out the wrong number to a bunch of website designers using bad copy and paste into our contact forms. About 10 minutes after the phone call, I got a text from that 3302998080 number. What?! I just talked to her and she wasn't at all interested in a website and certainly wasn't Joseph. Here's the transcript of our texting:
Sure enough, I get a call from that number and it is Joseph Thomas talking with an accent on what sounds like a busy street. He tells me he's a very busy man and that he will text me information right after we get off the phone. He seems like he's in a hurry so I don't probe for more details. He texts me and says:
I am now fully screaming “Scam!” in my head and decide to check it out rather than ignore it. I give those Team Car Wash guys a call. Guess what they said? No, there's no Joseph Thomas here, but we've had calls just like this asking about him. I give them the 330-299-8080 number and tell them it seems like a scam. The phone number belongs to a lady that he is apparently spoofing when he calls us.
I redial Joseph at that number I've already typed too many times and he actually answers! I'm still not entirely sure how he did that unless he has access to her phone through malware or whatnot. Shortly after the call, he texts me to say he's going to pay me $5000-$8000 for the website. But the kicker here is that he also plans to send me the payment right away, but he just needs one favor. He's going to overpay me so that I pay his project manager. Ah! In the end, it turns out to be an overpayment scam or sorts.
The moral of the story is to be sure to check out your potential clients if you feel something is wrong. I'm impressed with the level of detail and time they put into this scam, honestly. From being able to call me, text me, and receive my call, I'm not sure I would have found it to be a scam except for the Lady on the phone and the blatantly needing me to pay someone else at the end. Web development is a tough job to get reasonable clients, let alone when we have scammers taking up our time. Please watch out, my fellow website designers and developers. Reach out to one another if you think you are about to get scammed.