The email scam costing creative agencies and freelancers millions

IGNITE - 15 March 2019

I chatted to a creative agency scammer, so you don’t have to.

This particular scam is an oldie, but I feel has become more prolific recently, with a heap of articles being posted online about people actually falling for it, so the more we ta</h
Unfortunately, the most vulnerable to falling victim to this would predominantly be freelancers or small agencies just starting out. However, it could also chew up the time of from larger agencies if they happen to make their way up the chain from a new or inexperienced BDM/account manager.

Those that have been around a while will know this scam and see the telltale red flags from a mile away.

The point of this post is to make as many people in the industry aware of these emails, so that hopefully they become ineffective, and as a result, we can all receive less spam.

There have been reports of this scam making its way to other industries outside of the creative space. So basically, just make sure whoever it is that receives the email enquiries from your company website is across this.

The Scam

You’ll receive an enquiry about a new project, and at some point in the dialogue they will ask if they can pay with their credit card.

They’ll first negotiate a price with you in exchange for your services (e.g. $5k). They’ll then ask if you can bill them a greater amount (e.g. $11k), so that you can then pass that additional amount you received ($6k) via EFT on to a third party on their behalf, usually a graphic designer or some kind of complimentary service that is also being enlisted as part of the same project.

Sometimes they’ll be feeling generous and offer for you to keep a little tip for yourself for the trouble. How nice!

Of course, the credit card they’re paying with is stolen, and the funds for the third party graphic designer is going back to the scammer themselves. Once the card is declared stolen, and the payment of $11k you took is forcibly taken from your account, and you are responsible for the full amount, without the hope of recovering the money you wired to the ‘graphic designer’!

Sometimes a daily occurrence. This has to stop.

Our Chat. 10 minutes well spent if this helps somebody.

Things to look out for

Never experienced something like this before? Great! Be sure to keep an eye out and look for these telltale signs that you may be dealing with a fraudster.

  • Anybody that asks if you accept credit cards as an initial question
  • The phrase “I have a small scale business, which I want to turn into a large scale business”
  • New enquiries from Gmail or Outlook address with a name followed by numbers, i.e. kate.j.james1980@gmail.com
  • Being asked to pay a third party by EFT/wire transfer or Western Union
  • Poor grammar and spelling mistakes in communications
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