Being a web developer with over 15+ years of experience, I would know a scam email when I see one. We recently received a “unique” email from an unusual prospect.

You should know that these emails we received were sent from two different emails and on other days. Both emails were requesting our web development services. Usually, this would not faze us at all, as we do get inquiries on a day-to-day basis. So what is their tell?

They insisted on giving us a down payment without asking questions about our contract.

Do you know any prospect who willingly sends you any payment without even asking for your portfolio or trying to set a meeting with you? We didn’t think so.

After a quick Google search, we found that this is a popular scheme. Countless forum threads dating even back to 2017 have reported receiving similar emails.

As it turns out, this scam is called Third Party Payout Scam, Payment Reversal Scam, Advance Fee Scam, or Overpayment Scam. Let us break down how this scheme goes.

  1. The “prospect” sends you a check for a more considerable amount than you’ve agreed upon
  2. The “prospect” then asks you to pay the overpayment to his consultant
  3. The actual owner of the check disputes the transaction and gets it reversed
  4. You end up transferring money to the consultant from your pocket

How to Recognize That You’ve Received a Scam Email

  • The usual tell is the astounding lack of use of punctuation marks in the email. It’s as if they tried to brief you all in the same breath
  • The prospect requests a simple web design job. The ones we’ve gotten asked for were restaurant websites. Both emails we’ve received even provided links to their ideal design
  • The prospect discloses a generous bracket of the budget in the first email
  • The candidate said that a consultant would share all content and images
  • The opportunity then offers an upfront payment before closing anything with a contract or delivery dates (this might sound so ideal, especially when you’re in a pinch, but never in our whole experience, nor personally, would I give a payment without going through terms first and foremost.)
  • The prospect would then ask for payment via check because he has experienced issues paying via PayPal etc.

Now that we’ve given you the breakdown of this scheme, we did a little experiment. We wanted to find out how will this conversation end.

The Scheme – Emails we’ve received

From: James Aldean <>;


Thanks for your quick response,Here is the job details below…

I just open a new Indian Restaurant which i run now and i need a
website for my business to grow, So i need you to go through this
example link .but i need something more perfect than this if possible, I will like you to get back to me with
an estimate and the estimate should include hosting and i want you to
understand i want the same page as the example site i gave you to
check and I want only English language and i want you to know you will be updating the site for me. I want the site up and running before
ending of next month and i don’t want a shopping cart in my
reservation page also i don’t have a domain name yet and i will
prefer: KAITINDRESTAURANT.COM, My budget is $750/$1,500 for the web design, i have a private project consultant, she has the text content and the logos for the site with the image artwork,so please go ahead and check the example site and get back to me with an estimate also will like to know if you are the owner or the manager and do you
accept credit card or check as payment.

Sounds harmless right? But do you see what we mean about the high disregard of punctuation marks?

From: Martin Daniel <>


Thanks for your swift response.
I need you to design my website with the following requirement ;



2.And should include hosting price , no shopping cart is needed .

3.  Go through the
example link site:

Please i want it to be perfect than this SAMPLE LINK, if theres any
other functionality to be added kindly do that for me

4,Are you the manager ?

NOTE;Domain name,Text content,Logos and artwork is already available

Get back to me with the total estimate and days to spend on the
project for delivery ….


Budget $700-$1500

After receiving the email, we checked the websites he referred to and gave him our proposal based on his initial brief.

From: James Aldean <>


Thanks for the response back, I want you to know that i’m okay  with the
estimate cost and will be glad to give you the opportunity to do the
job for me. I hope I will get a perfect job from you and  I would have
preferred to pay you by pay pal or credit card machine but I was warn
by my bank not to use my card on pay pal or any other merchant again
because they double remit my account twice in the past and I don’t
want to go against my bank warning. I will gladly mail out the payment
to you by check. I am located in USA and it does not matter the
Country you are provided you assured me a good and quality job. I need your name and address or your representative name and address in USA to send the payment to so that i can  make an upfront payment and youcan proceed on my web design. I also understand you will need the text
content with the logo and other document files to start work on my web
design asap as you know the document files are with my project
consultant and she will have them send to you via email… Thank you.


Now, the following emails are where we started getting even more suspicious.

From: James Aldean <>


I am located in USA.I always prefer to deal with Check
Contact your relative or business representative in USA that
can help you receive the payment. I just need the name and address of
that person with cell phone number and I will send the check to
him/her. The check will cleared in the account within 24 hrs. Then he/she will transfer the
money to you and get started.Just send me the name and address of
your represntative in USA, I need the name to be on the check and the
address to courier the check to. Please get back to me as soon as
possible. I am just interested in given the job to you.Thank you

At this rate, this prospect is still technically a stranger to us, and while we do have an office address in the US, which was funny enough, on our website, we now are more skeptical about divulging that information.

From: Martin Daniel <>


thanks for getting back to us , we are dealing with check on payment
methods within USA , Do you have a representative or relative/friend
that can help you receive pay check within USA ?

Why are they looking for a representative/relative’s address and not the typical office address? And a check to be delivered to us within 24 hours? Without even having to discuss more specifics, of course, we would love to get paid right away. But this doesn’t sit right with us, given that we’re all currently working outside the US.

After receiving this, we tried scheduling a discovery call multiple times to clarify details and make everything formal. We also followed up on our contract too. However, they insisted on sending us the payment and settling the agreement later, saying that his consultant would get back to us with it. So naturally, our reply was to ask for his consultant’s email so we could also send the request to him. His reply?

From: James Aldean <>


Kindly get back to me with your relative details to mail out the cheque now

Again with the obsession with our relative, friend, or representative’s information!

From: Martin Daniel <>


Kindly contact a representative or relative/friend who lived in USA ,
TO HELP you receive the payment by check …
Full Name
ADDRESS ( To make the payment and start the project)
NOTE;The payment will deliver in 24hours .

At this time, we honestly couldn’t help but laugh. We’ve been duped! Seriously? A prospect insisting on paying you is not only unreal but also too good to be trustworthy. It cannot be that easy.

Our conversation continued with us following up for a meeting, and he insisted on having us send our address and other details so he could send us the payment ASAP.

From: James Aldean <>


Kindly get back to me with your relative full name and address with cell phone number to mail the check


Moral of the Story

How to Recognize that you’ve Received a Scam EmailIn a time when we are experiencing a declining number of jobs and opportunities, receiving what seems to be a “great opportunity,” which turned out to be nothing but a scam, is despicable and cruel. We cannot allow ourselves to stand by and watch as others from our community are being taken advantage of.

These perpetrators are rampant in online job platforms like Freelancer & Upwork, where most independent web developers are

So please, if you have standard protocols in place, follow them. Get a signed contract before any monetary transaction is to be made. We would probably be duped if we didn’t insist on securing a contract. Despite this, getting tricked into this new developing scheme is relatively easy.

Keep your eyes open, and always ask for more details and information from your prospects. Again, stick to your SOP! We hope that this will help someone to save their time and effort.

Did anyone else experience this? Feel free to share any examples of scam emails in the comment section below to help out other web development companies, digital marketing businesses, or any businesses.

BRIGHTSAND designs team is with you during this difficult time.