I often think that the internet must be a world of confusion for the average person. I was reminded of this today when we received an email from a woman named Lynn. She had written to one of our clients to ask what they thought of their web designer “Mark”, and fortunately we were sent a copy of her email.
There is no “Mark” working at Kits Media. We built the client’s site and have managed it for three years. In fact, we’ve spent the past three months re-building it, and are still working on the database development every day, so we were a bit surprised to hear someone named Mark was working on it too.
I told her we were the web designers, and I wondered where she got the name Mark. She kindly wrote back and told us she had been contacted by a web developer who offered to build a site for her. He had given her the name of our client’s site as an example of his own work.
It didn’t take us long to look up Mark’s company. We actually found three versions of it in a short time, each with a different domain name. (I would tell you the domain names, but there is a Trojan horse attached to the homepage of each one.) The samples in their portfolio looked real as well, until we took a closer look and discovered they are all bogus.
All three sites have the same phone number, and I imagine there are plenty more of their fakes sites out there, besides the three we found. A man with a heavy East Indian accent answered my call. In the background I could hear many other voices. I had obviously reached a call centre. After many questions and much prodding, I determined that the company itself is a telemarketing company. They finally admitted that they call people who do not seem to have a website and market to them, in part by providing a list of names of sites that “they” had built (our client’s was one of them) and also by directing unsuspecting people to view their portfolios on their fake sites.
Their portfolio contains examples of companies that are apparently in our geographic area, which added to their air of authenticity. We then noticed they’re running a script on the homepage that determines our IP (Internet connection) and delivered local examples. If we lived in Calgary and connected to their site, we would likely be sent files showing Calgary businesses. If we lived in Philadelphia, we would probably be shown examples of businesses in Philadelphia. So no matter where you live, their sites are going to look quite “real” to you.
Lynn was very smart to contact our client’s website and ask for a reference. Many people would accept this scam on faith – after all, the samples look good and are plausibly regional. Fortunately we were able to sort it out for her in a short amount of time.
What does Mark’s company really want? I imagine they would like a nice down payment, to begin with. They will likely offer very reasonable terms for the balance, which they will never collect because… before asking for the balance, they will likely sell you on some SEO (search engine optimization), take your credit card information, and explain how they will get you #1 on Google by charging your card $400 a month. I suppose if they spin out the delivery of your site long enough, they could collect two or three months’ worth of SEO payments in addition to the down-payment for the site. Plus they would have your credit card number and a direct route to cleaning it out.