Two Scams That Target Small Business Owners

money laundering scams

Small Business Owners — Take Note

If you are contacted by way of a text message from somebody unknown who suddenly wants to hire you for your services, you might be getting scammed.

What are the signs to watch for? The scammer will only pay by credit card. They will never speak with you on a voice call. They won’t tell you their business address and will be vague about the business sector they service. They may provide a detailed work order and ask you for an estimate. They will also try to get you set up to accept their credit card payment.

They select small businesses because they know small business owners are usually eager for work and rarely run client background checks.

They’ll really really want to send a payment ASAP and they’re going to overpay you. Usually they’ll just say whoops and ask for the difference back, however there are a variety of excuses they may use to try and explain the overage. Of course they do want their money back, so this is part two of their game…

At this point there are two important things to note. Knowing this will help you to immediately filter out a potential scam:

1) The scammer will ask you to send back the difference by way of money order (or something similar that acts as cash).

2) Their vendor will not accept a credit card.

So far this is the text of my conversation with the would-be scammer …

FROM: Scammer
Greetings to you, I am William please advise if you still offer graphics design service and i hope you accept credit card as method of payment.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

(Even though I suspected a scam straightaway)
Please call to discuss project requirements

FROM: Scammer
I have new established company and i need a designer

(followed by a lengthy and detailed work order and also indicating they would pay me N dollars plus another N dollars that would be used to pay a 3rd-party ‘designer’ who is also on the project.)

At that point I didn’t reply to the scammer, but this morning at 4:42 AM I received another text message…


Scam targets small business owners

(a few hours later they replied with “Okay”)


Once I’ve sent them a money order they’ll do a chargeback of the original transaction to get their seed money back (or claim it was a stolen credit card.) This will leave me out of money and out of luck twice over.

Money Laundering

There is a close alternative to this scam, but instead of losing all of your money plus some, you act as their money laundering agent.

In this scenario everything is essentially the same EXCEPT … when the scammer overpays they will ask you to use the overage to pay their 3rd party designer (or some such other worker that they’ve also hired on to the project). At the end of the game they’ll do a chargeback or claim the credit card was stolen. For additional information, see How does money laundering work? –