AgroAmerica most likely has nothing to do with this scam, but since the scam artists are using it as their primary form of legitimacy, this is why we call it the AgroAmerica Example Scam. The primary target appears to be small to medium-sized web agencies and freelancers building/designing sites.
The scam starts either with an email or with a text message that looks like this:
From: James McGrew <email@example.com>
Date: Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 12:07 PM
Subject: Re: New contact submission from Alter Endeavors
To: Nicholas Alter<firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in KY 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. I hope you can handle that for me. Check out this site: http://www.agroamerica.com, I will be happy if you can give me something better than this if its possible. 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. I have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.
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 McGrewFarmproducts.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.
7. My budget is $4000 to $5000
Kindly get back to me with:
I. An Estimate
II. Cell-Phone Number
THE TEXT MESSAGE:
I’m hearing impaired. I would love to know if you can handle website design for a new company and also if you do you accept credit cards? Kindly contact me at: email@example.com, so I can send you the job details if you are interested.
Sent from iPhone
When we received the first one of these things, the “hearing impaired” thing was not a tipoff for us. Neither was the request if we accepted credit cards. It wasn’t until we got about 3 emails into it with the first scam attempt that we realized this was not legit. Once we started to get suspicious, we tried to get a bit more information out of them to see if we could uncover who was doing this, or at least be able to provide a lead to authorities when we submitted this to them. Typically we just ignore crap like this, but this particular approach proves a little more put together, a little more crafty than your typical scam.
We didn’t go through the process accepting their “payment”. They want you to send money immediately to their “marketing consultant” after they have paid you. This could either be a money laundering scheme or it could be that they force a charge back to your credit card AFTER you have paid the consultant, which would result in a direct loss to either you, your merchant services provider or both.
We have submitted reports to Google that Gmail accounts are being used for this scam operation. Per Google’s policy, they did not contact us immediately about our report. However, we do encourage anyone else who has experienced one of these emails or text messages to speak up, submit a report, contact your local authorities, etc.
More importantly, be sure you have very strict policies in place about how you process credit cards and pay monies out from your company. Be sure you have a signed contract along with a payment processing page where credit card information can be filled out and a signature provided. Yes, many of us have e-commerce solutions in place, but for sums of money larger than $500, we strongly recommend getting a signed agreement before processing any credit cards. Check with your merchant services provider about chargebacks. We use CynergyData Texas specifically for this reason. They help protect us against situations like this.
Also, it’s our policy that we have a face-to-face with every client before signing a contract, even if they are hearing impaired. IM and video-conferencing equipment make it very easy to have a face-to-face meeting with someone even if they live far away and/or are hearing impaired. Stay vigilant people! Let’s build a better internet, and let’s please do away with crappy scams.