Inspire, Inform, and Captivate Consumers: Web Design & Graphic Design Scams 2022

In general, these scams are pretty artless, and they seem to be targeting people who are very small and new to the industry. For someone young and new to the game, a few thousand dollars could make or break a quarter, and so this is particularly sleaze-ball.

The title of this post is lifted directly from the text of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job description for Graphic Designers, and it is also taken from a project description sent to us by a scammer. What follows are excerpts from some of the scripts these scammers are currently using and our attempt to use the power of digital marketing to at least frustrate the scam artists and send them back to the drawing board.

The scammer delivered the come-on message via the Business Messages feature offered by Google My Business. Right away, the broken English was a bit of a tip-off:

Hello and hope you doing well?. I would like to know if you are available for logo design. kindly revert to my email for more details. Tobbsperry@gmail.com Thanks

My instincts are already telling me this is a scam, but I go ahead and email the prospect to get more information. Again, the reply is pretty mangled English, but the request itself is standard enough:

Thanks for the prompt response. I want you to know that this is the first time I will be doing a Logo design so I can only give you details then you can decide on Colors and designs. I need you to make 3 designs writing "GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME AND ALL THE TIME HE WILL BE GOOD" in the logo and 3 designs writing "THOSE WHO TRUST IN THE LORD SHALL FIND NEW STRENGTH". making 6 Logo designs. I need you to include religious images like cross or dove bird to make the Logos look more different. I need to know how long this will take you and also get back to me with your total estimate so i will know if my budget can make the Logo design thanks.

I reply with what would be our standard quote for such services, and this response is where things start to get genuinely fishy:

Thanks, I'm very much satisfied with the total estimate, quite affordable . Here's an exclusive just to show some seriousness and dedication. I am willing the 50% deposit as an upfront payment so that you can start making my design in order to avoid any delay. I have my credit card available for the payment.

An ‘exclusive,’ huh? I had just told them that our standard practice for graphic design services is to bill 50% in advance and the remainder due upon final acceptance before Copyright is assigned to the client. I had offered to put together an agreement for the Client’s review. The response is basically, “Hurry up and take my money (via credit card)!”

There’s no way this isn’t a scam, but I go ahead and request details that I would need to include on our standard contract: the name of the person or entity signing the contract as well as a legal address. Are you ready for this?

Christ Fellowship Movement Fellowships Santa Rosa CA

I’ll give you one guess as to whether or not this is an actual place.

Here’s how the rest of the scam works: They would sign the contract, pay the 50% up-front on a credit card not in the name of “Christ Fellowship Movement Fellowships,” and we would get to work designing their six (?) logos. Work would wrap pretty quickly, and the client would accept whatever we produced immediately. However, there would be a problem with the second 50%.

The client would have no problem paying, but they’d be in a tight spot. They’re in the hospital or something similar, and they really need these logos for a project and could I please email them to the project manager? Also, the project manager needs to be paid, but they don’t accept credit cards. The client would forward me an extra $5,000 to pay the project manager four grand and cover my inconvenience, and could I please make sure the project manager received payment?

The scam would conclude a couple of weeks later when payment in full for the project and the extra $5,000 would disappear from our business account. We’d be out the $4,000 paid to the “project manager” and the time spent producing a bunch of fake graphics for a scam factory.

Other Graphic Design & Web Design Scams

I read about this one on a blog post originally from 2015 that has over 300 comments as of this writing! The scam is for a company called “Diamodus”, and multiple commenters on that original article have thoughtfully chimed in to provide the latest script these swindlers are using to try to bait designers and developers.

Opening up the Google Business Messages feature basically created a honeypot for these scams. We got a total of six come-ons in a week after enabling the Chat feature of our My Business profile. Here are some more gems.

Fake Catalog Requests

These two are practically mirror images, so I’ll post them side by side for you, Dear Reader:

Hello this is McCollum I texted you on google regarding a graphic design for my startup. Here is my company details and also I want to be done  P roject overview: I want a complete graphic design work that will communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers. Also provide comprehensive layout and production design for applications such as advertisements, brochures, magazines, and reports. Diamodus.com This Website Is currently under construction pending registration. Diamodus is a modern and stylish brand name meaning, generated from the word Diamond-to make it more unique and attractive to consumers. I want you to add to my mission, value, vision, on the catalog open to ideas / suggestions.  What Makes Diamodus.com to the customer is NOT just the name. Classic yet modern with a feeling of luxury. Our Furniture Are Guarantee Of beauty, comfort, And Convenience' That's What It Should Mean To Our Customers. Tag Line" Adding comfort to your home" BROCHURE; I would like the Brochure to be 44 Pages in total (Including Front And Back Cover) Because I Have Lot Information, Approved And Crosscheck Text And Images. The Size Of Brochure Should Be (8.5 x 11). WHO MY BUSINESS SERVES: My customers and others who are willing to patronize DIAMODUS I am thinking "Corporate Friendly" as an overall look for the logo. Too much so-called classiness will give the impression that Diamodus.com and products are not easily attainable and perhaps too expensive.   COMPANY NAME (DIAMODUS); This is a startup business solely based on sales of furniture such as Ottomans, Desk lamps, Sectional, Buffets & Sideboards, Counter & Bar Stools, Kitchen Cabinet, Sofa, Office Chair, Accent tables, King bench bed, etc. The purpose of my business is to bring modern furniture that will provide beauty and comfort for every consumers homes. MISSION; To serve consumers and the industrial market segment with a leading-edge product that will satisfy their needs in functionality, comfort, and style.  CORE VALUES; Our customers are our values. We put them first in everything we do.  TARGETS; Our main customer will be from the age of 17-59 and I will like to target their income demographics. ( I would say a younger demographic with an eye for style, and available dollars to purchase nice stuff) I want my company to be perceived as Professional, I want them to know that we offer the best prices.  COLORS; I would like Teal and Brown (let me know what you think about that).  In the Next Decade, I would like my company to be known worldwide, for now, it's the USA-only.  Main Competitors are Alexandro Furniture & Mattress and Direct Home Furniture.   Important elements that I would like to stress are Beauty, Glamour, Friendly, Modern & High Quality.  For logo inspirations, you can look at brands like America Signature Furniture, Crate & Barrel, West Elm or Williams Sonoma.  I believed I've forward you inclusive details, Let me know your thoughts once you review it. I will be looking forward to a price quote so we can proceed.  I hope you can get back to me with an estimate

Woof. Okay. I just responded and let this person know that they are using a super well-worn scamming script that is posted all over the internet, and so they should invest some of their stolen money in getting new, better copy.

The other scammer I actually took down the road a ways just to see what other copypasta they’d come out with. This is the kicker, though:

"SIGNITIVE" is the Big name. ABOUT: This powerful-sounding business name sounds like it is a dictionary word - and it is; although only in obscure dictionaries that collect words used in historical philosophical works. You don't need a dictionary to 'read' the potential meanings of the name though. The name Signitive follows the form and structure of the words significant, signify, sign, or signature. So it could refer to things that are important, to signs and directions, or to the written word. It's a great example of bold, contemporary adjective-style business names that is both unique and timeless. All our products are shipped from Germany unlike IKEA, West Elm. Their products comes from China. MISSION: Promoting German culture and building a national brand, Undoubtedly, Germany continues to be counted among the world's biggest furniture nations. The main reasons for its good reputation are the high standard of quality, the use of selected materials and the attractive modern design, but also the reliability and the competence of German furniture manufacturers. VISION: To become a world-class multinational company that provide our customers with  high-quality home life by establishing a long-term foundation. The needs of customers are the foundation of our survival and development,  our pursuit is to always meet up with our customers' needs and expectations. PURPOSE OF BUSINESS: The purpose of my business is to bring modern furniture that will provide beauty and comfort for everyone. COMPETITORS: Alexandro Furniture & Mattress https://www.alexandrofurniture.com/ Direct Home Furniture https://www.directhomefurniturenj.com/ TARGETS: I have a wide target Age range 25-56, I would like to target their income demographics. We are focused on indoor furniture and Decor. We should be launching as soon as branding and other materials are completed so I' ll be needing brand Visuals (i.e. Logo & brand identity) My website is under fabrication which would be registered soon. Read the below details for the LOGO. COLORS:  My competitors love red. Teal and Brown should be fine. Tagline: "modern home design elements" For logo inspirations, you can look at brands like America Signature Furniture https://www.americansignaturefurniture.com/ Crate&Barrel https://www.crateandbarrel.com/ West Elm https://www.westelm.com/ Williams Sonoma https://www.williams-sonoma.com/  CATALOG DETAILS: The catalog should be 32 pages including front and back cover. Texts are approved and crosschecked  The size of the catalog should Be 8.5 x 11. I would be needing just the digital version. You will oversee the catalog update. Final files should be submitted in pdf.  The full-text content and all images for the catalog will be submitted to you by the Project Consultant. Layout and design would be done by you.  See below are few samples WEST ELM CATALOG LINK: https://www.westelm.com/pages/we-catalog/2020-03.html IKEA CATALOG LINK: https://www.ikea.com/ext/us/ikeacatalog/ Talk soon, looking forward to getting a response so we can proceed.

Again, holy crap. Okay, let’s do some basic research…

The “big name”, Signitive, is a domain that’s for sale by a squatter. Oh hey, that same squatter is selling the name and associated domain for Diamodus. The least broken-English passage in the ‘Diamodus’ email is a description of the brand name lifted straight from the squatter’s website. If I take any portion of the suspiciously coherent text from either of these emails and run it through Google, I get back precisely from where the scammers plagiarized it.

I let the last person know that I’d need to see the text copy and images to know what we were proposing to layout to deliver an estimate. This is a reasonable request, but even though all the text is “approved and crosschecked,” they could not provide it. When prompted for that content, they initially responded with four photos of furniture lifted from two other companies’ websites. When pressed again they replied that the project manager was still working on the text. They stopped responding when I called bullshit by letting them know that their first email had said that the text content was ready to go.

In general, these scams are pretty artless, and they seem to be targeting people who are very small and new to the industry and trying to take advantage of hungry people. For someone young and new to the game, a few thousand dollars could make or break a quarter, and so this is particularly sleaze-ball.