is this a scam
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Is This a Scam? Part 5: Marketing Services Requested

A message came through the contact form on our marketing firm’s website. A recognizable (but not too recognizable) brand was requesting marketing services. Or was it? Could be a scam.

This message asked for a “PPC (Pay Per Click) Service Proposal”.  Managing a client’s advertising campaigns is something we offer.  

“We are the marketing team of the XYZ brand and are urgently looking for a marketing company with enough experience to run the project for 6 months.”  

Red flag number one: that familiar, demanding sense of urgency. Red flag number two: a Skype number. And the email address (JaneDoe@xyzbrand-ua.com) was also suspicious:  while the company is headquartered in Australia, “ua” doesn’t stand for Australia, and the real company has a .com domain. So, the email is fake.  

If you are a busy marketing agency, there’s a chance these facts will get brushed over. So, you reply. (I replied because it’s been a while since my last “Is it a scam?” article.) 

The Scam Reply

Hey, wishing you the best today and beyond. 
 
I’m Jane Doe, Director of Growth Marketing at Bed Threads. I’m contacting you about a 12-month marketing partnership offer for our products on social media. 
 
We are a company specializing in making “product”. We are currently headquartered in Australia and have retail stores in Australia, the UK, the US and New Zealand. 
 
(Many more facts about the products from the real website.)

Detailed information about the scam project: 

1 – Detailed budget for 12 months (and a scary Dropbox link, including a themed password. Red flag.) 
 
2 – Costs paid to the marketing company: There will be two ways to pay for you:  
 
Method 1: from 10,000 – 15,000 euros / 1 month depending on capacity and work efficiency. 
 
Method 2: Pay according to a percentage of completed orders: 10-15% 
 
3 – Our website: (RealWebsite.com

More “Marketing Speak” details 

4 – The campaign will start on June 16 and last for 12 months. 
 
5 – Marketing focus market: America, budget will focus mainly on two countries: Canada and United States. 
 
6 – The goal of this campaign is to increase the number of leads per day by 50-100 people and the AOV (Oh, we’re going to use slightly esoteric marketing lingo, are we?) conversion rate above 10%. The campaign will start on June 16, 2024 and last over 6 months. (Wait. Didn’t you say 12 months before? I guess over 6 months could be 12 months.) 

Some of our scam requirements:

1 – After reviewing the budget, please discuss with your marketing director and the company’s marketing specialist, then make a plan to optimize the budget for us. (Oh joy. I get to create a whole plan for you?) 
 
2 – Since this is a completely new market for us, we need you to review the budget and adjust it to suit consumer behavior and the appropriate age range for our products. (Oh, I’ll adjust it for you.) 
 
3 – XYZ brand has had significant new customer acquisition over the last few years, driven by paid media. Looking for a solution for re-engaging customers, minimizing churn, and lifting CLTV. (Cool. More marketing jargon.) 
 
After receiving your plan, we will evaluate and consider it. If it seems appropriate, I will schedule a meeting with your team within 2-3 days after you have a plan. (Sure you will.) 

Sincerely, Jane Doe, Director of Growth (Complete with picture stolen off her LinkedIn profile.

Meanwhile, on LinkedIn… 

Poor real Jane Doe is being besieged by people asking questions about the project. According to her LinkedIn post, she’s received almost 200 emails and messages through LinkedIn and Instagram. Ouch. Her LinkedIn post has more than 40 comments. Each one is a variation on “I got it too.” 

What’s happening here? 

Could be lots of things. That Dropbox link could infect you with something. You could suddenly find yourself shilling for some overpriced and shlocky knockoff brand. There could be a “deposit” scam where they ask for a deposit or direct you to put a credit card into a scam site. Or, a host of other issues. 

How to protect yourself from scams

  1. Start off being suspicious of any random outreach and request for services. The best customers are almost always references. 
  1. Don’t be fooled by look-alike domains. A country code domain extension will be at the END of the URL, not tucked in the middle. Don’t click on the link provided. Ever. 
  1. And speaking of not clicking links, that Dropbox link? No. Just say no. 
  1. The scammers may be using a real person’s name and photo with the fake email address.   
  1. Be suspicious of any customers looking to do business almost entirely via email. Real customers want to look you in the eye. 

Big-budget projects don’t fall out of the sky. Protect yourself, and don’t waste your own time.

This article is part of our “Is This a Scam?” series, articles meant to help you identify scams to protect yourself and your business.

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