Last week, I received a short but polite text message from “Janet Thomas.” She said that she was hearing impaired but would like to discuss a new website for her business. This didn’t seem too unusual, but I was a bit skeptical. I asked her to email me full details about the project and budget, and we could continue the conversation from there. Janet followed through and emailed a very thorough list of what she needed. She answered all my questions in good detail, telling me that her Tennessee business is “based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Gacillia Nut and Cocoa.” She already had hired someone to do her logo and content, both of which were ready to go.
Based on her answers, her legitimacy started to increase slightly. However, there were still a few red flags. First, her email address was very suspect. It wasn’t a business email address; instead, it was email@example.com. (An email address with a name followed by a number and using Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or similar providers are often associated with spam.) Second, her phone number had a Nevada area code even though her business was supposedly in Tennessee and lastly, her grammar and punctuation were less than perfect. Nevertheless, I thanked her for her reply and asked some more targeted questions, including requesting a site map which is something I assumed her content writer could easily provide. Lastly, I asked her which of our past or present clients had referred her to us, so I could thank them (95% of our work comes through referrals, so I always ask this question). Up to this point, the red flags were at half-staff. But her response? Well, that’s when the red flags were fully raised.
Although she did an impressive job answering my questions, her “site map” did not match some of her earlier requests. Then the final hoist of the red flags occurred when she said she found us on “a local Google.” Um, yeah.
I had already searched online for her name, Gmail address and business (which returned no results), but I decided to use our “local Google” to do a little more sleuthing. I Googled something obscure from her message, and it turns out the good ol’ Gacillia Nut (or lack thereof) is what revealed Janet’s true colors. That’s when I found a handful of results with similar stories to mine.
For the people who didn’t realize it was a scam (or chose to proceed to see how far it’d go before reporting it to the authorities), the stories all had similar endings. Janet (or Paul, Brad, Tara or some other generic name) immediately agreed to the estimate and offered to pay right away….however, she had one minor favor to ask. She needed to pay you significantly more than you requested and asked that you would, in turn, use the extra money to pay her other “contractor.” When questioned about this, she often has a story about being out of the country or in the hospital (oh, poor Janet!). From what I read, most people halted at this point (thank goodness), recognizing it as a money laundering scam and stopping “Janet” from pocketing the money.
What surprised me most about this scam was how targeted and precise the request original request was, as well as Janet’s dedication to answering all the specific questions I asked. I just hope the next person that “Janet Thomas” contacts has read this post first, and it saves them time from entertaining a similar work request or any possible implications from being tied inadvertently to a scam.
Meanwhile, if a Gacillia Nut really does exist, best of luck to it because it’s reputation is shot, and it’s SEO has gone down the drain!
When Gather A’Round BBQ approached us for a new site, we were thrilled. Not only did they have a solid brand established (with a great logo and marketing materials), but they also had professional photography that featured their product and personality. Having all those elements already established laid the groundwork for a website that is a continuation of their brand which incorporates their mouth-watering imagery.
Their previous site was a small HTML site that they couldn’t updated easily. The new site is incorporated with WordPress with an easy-to-update calendar plugin and Instagram feed. It’s also responsive, so it’s optimized for screens of any size.
We spend most of our days working on website design and development, but it is not uncommon for us to also provide logo design and branding consultation. Each of these brands could have their own post about the process and path that led to the final design, but for the sake of time, here is an update on a few we created recently.
Pinwheel School Portraits is a “whimsical and fresh style in school portrait photography” owned by a longtime client, the talented Jennifer Driscoll.
Financial Captain is a website (that we are currently designing and developing) created specifically to help airline pilots navigate financial retirement.
The “snob” in Food Snob stands for Simple Nutritious Organic Baking. It’s a company started by two sisters whose baking mixes focus on simple, wholesome, healthy ingredients.
Walker CPA is exactly what it sounds like. Because even CPAs deserve a good-looking brand.
I will admit it is nice when a client trusts us so completely that they will provide online access to anything and everything we might need for their projects. At the same time, I’m always surprised how easily people share their private information without a moment’s pause. It makes me cringe and wonder if they are always so free giving of this information.
I am sure that if I asked for their Social Security number, I would receive gasps of disbelief, and yet…
- I’ve had a total stranger (not yet a client) give out administrative access to their WordPress account.
- I’ve had numerous people provide full admin access to their hosting account.
- I’ve even have clients send me (unsolicited) the username and password to their PayPal account, which includes their banking information.
As much as we all wish there weren’t people out there who would take advantage of these types of situations, there are. As Stephen King puts it: “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.”
That being said, I think the primary reason so many people give this information up is because they become intimidated by the requests they might get from website developers, so they just give free rein to any and all of their website information. But this is unwise and not necessary.
So how do you protect yourself from making this same mistake? Follow these tips:
- Create an FTP user for third-party developers only. Your hosting provider should be able to give you simple instructions on how to do this.
- Create a WordPress user for third-party developers only. WordPress gives instructions on how to do this.
By creating these types of developer accounts, it gives you control to change or delete the accounts at any time, especially if you think your security is at risk. It also allows you to track (and sometimes undo) changes, since there are people with good intentions (but little web experience) who can accidentally make a mistake in a control panel that is not easy to undo with a shared account.
You can also protect yourself by following some simple rules regarding your passwords:
- Use strong passwords. Include symbols, numbers, uppercase letters, etc.
- Don’t use the same password for everything. For example, don’t use the same password for your bank account that you use for Pinterest.
All in all, your online accounts are something you should protect with the same diligence as you would your home, car and other personal property. Make sure if you do provide an all-access pass to someone, you have established trust…and a contract.
By now, you have probably heard of the Heartbleed bug that puts users’ passwords on dozens of popular websites at risk because of a security vulnerability in OpenSSL software.
The depth and breadth of this bug is quite massive, so we wanted to give our clients some advice on what to do and any services of ours that may have been affected.
First and foremost, whether you are a client or not, it’s strongly advised you change your passwords on the sites that have been affected. You can find a clear and extensive list in this table at Mashable.com.
Next, for clients who host with Jackson Sky (on our servers at Media Temple), rest assured that the services we use at Media Temple (GRID and dv 4.0 Server) were not vulnerable or affected.
Lastly, it seems that the security of WordPress is largely based on your hosting provider, so you will need to check with them about whether they were affected. (Again, our servers with Media Temple were not.) If they were, you will want to change your admin passwords immediately. You will also want to update your WordPress to the most recent version, which has the strongest level of security.
We don’t think this is the last we will hear of Heartbleed, so please stay tuned for any additional updates and information.
Crossroads Insurance launched their business in early 2014. The owner, Paul Dumas, approached us because he needed the full gamut of items that a new business requires – Logo and Brand Guideline, Business Cards and Letterhead, and of course a new website. The resulting brand is one that is clean and professional. The website is responsive and integrated with WordPress for easy updates.
It’s not uncommon for us to design business cards for our clients, but we love when we get to do something a little different than the usual. These cards for SEEN include a custom die-cut for the line that appears under their logo. The rest of the card is kept simple and uncluttered. (And kudos to Woodfield Printing, a local company, for another job well done on the finished product.)
When Stephen Reba approached us in need of a logo and website for his private practice, he hoped to create a brand that is clean and professional – with a mark that abstractly conveyed the type of law he specialized in. As a criminal defense attorney, Steve not only works to keep his clients out of prison, but also works on many post-conviction cases as well. Because of this, the logo is an abstract depiction of an opening door, representing the freedom he strives to achieve for his clients.
Once the logo was complete, the site came together quickly with a clean, informational layout. A custom WordPress theme was built to allow Steve to update content at will. Additionally, the site is responsive, so that it works effortlessly on different monitor sizes, tablets and phones.
The Kelton House and Gardens is a beautiful old Victorian House and grounds in Columbus, Ohio. Many events are held at the Kelton House, but their overall site (which includes information about Civil War Sesquicentennial Programs, educational programs about the Underground Railroad and more) was not appealing to brides like they wanted it to. For this reason, they approached us to create a separate site, KeltonHouseEvents.com, which would be targeted to audiences (specifically brides-to-be) looking for a classical, elegant setting for their event. The site was developed with a custom WordPress theme, allowing the client to update content as they wish. It is also responsive, so that interested parties can easily browse the site from their desktop computer, tablet or phone.
Considering the motto of Great Fermentations is “Craft Something Great,” it just seemed wrong that they were using a third-party generic template for their site. So they decided it was time to practice what they preach and contacted us to build them a custom-designed site that would cater completely to their needs. The site is integrated with WordPress and is chock full of plugins that have been finessed to work specifically for their site. Additionally, we provided all of the HTML and CSS framework to the E-Commerce company (that had already started on the store portion of the site before we were hired), so that the entire experience was seamless and visually cohesive. (The old site had three disjointed designs — one for the main site, one for the blog and one for the store.)
In addition to fulfilling its purpose as an informational, sales and educational site, it also has elements of fun that is a reflection of the brand as a whole. (Can you find the hidden feature? Here’s a hint: it’s in the footer.)