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 janetthomas071@nullgmail.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!

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21 responses to “The Gacillia Nut Scam”

  1. I got this yesterday from: tarajohnson122@nullgmail.com

    Thanks for your swift response Ken and Here is the job details

    l have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in OR and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Gacillia Nut and Cocoa so i need a best of the best layout design for it. Can you handle that for me?. so i need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible http://www.agroamerica.com the site would only be informational, so i need you to give me an estimate based on the site i gave you to check out, the estimate should include hosting and i want the same page as the site i gave you to check out and i have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.

    Note:
    1. I want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
    2. I want only English language
    3. I don’t have a domain yet but i want the domain name as Waybestfarmingproduce.com
    4. you will be updating the site for me.
    5. i will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
    6. i want the site up and running before ending of next month.
    7. My budget is $3000 to $6000

    Kindly get back to me with:
    (1) an estimate
    (2) your cell phone number
    (3) And will like to know if you are the owner ??

    Thank you

    Tara

  2. Rhaya says:

    Hi Ken. That is almost identical to the email we received. It’s most certainly the same scam!

  3. Aaron says:

    So she is laundering the money. Where is the money coming from?

  4. Rhaya says:

    Most likely it is coming from stolen credit cards, since that is how she requested to pay.

  5. martin says:

    Received the same thing, and after responding to the email this is the response:

    Thanks for your response, i am okay with the estimate and i wanna proceed so i will be depositing $2000 using my card so work can commence ASAP, i understand the content for this site would be needed so as for the job to commence so regarding the content i will need a Little favor from you and the reason i need this favor from you is because the consultant does not have the facility to charge credit cards and i also am presently in the hospital for surgery so i will be glad if you can help me out with this favor, The favor is that i would give you my card info’s to charge for $5300. so $2000 would be a deposit payment for my website design and the remaining $3000 you would help me send it to the project consultant that has the text content and the logo for my website so once he has the $3000 he would send the text content and logo needed for my website to you also the funds would be sent to him via cash deposit into his account, sending of funds would be after funds clears into your account and also $100 tip for the stress. So i will be looking forward to read back from you.

    ///

    Ummm, No thanks.

  6. Thanks for this report. It is identical to what I have received only my invitation was from Mardam in North Carolina. No phone number or business email.

  7. Rob says:

    I was unaware of the scam when it knocked on my Inbox. I processed a payment for the deposit on a Friday, but wouldn’t start work until the person signed and returned my contract. I got a call on Monday from a bank somewhere in Mississippi saying the charge was unauthorized. When I gave the bank the scammer’s contact information, he said the insurance company wouldn’t go after him. My local police station said I should report the problem to the FBI as it dealt with an Internet transaction, not a local transaction. The FBI ignored my request. This kind of response from “the authorities” seems to condone this scam to me. I had the crook’s phone number, email address and mailing address, and he was not prosecuted.

  8. Rhaya says:

    Hi Rob. That’s disappointing to hear! Perhaps the scammers know that the FBI aren’t all that interested in them, which is why this scam continues to persist.

  9. Ty Morton says:

    I had the same situation happen to me, only it was office furniture, instead of gacilla nuts. Also, it was presented as a CO company, and had a Denver address. Apparently, they’ve learned a few things along the way.

    I got a little further down the road than you did. I accepted the deposit, and started doing the work. Later, they came back with the need to pay their content developer, who didn’t accept credit cards. It’s not that unusual for me to invoice a client for an outside vendor, but this situation was a little odd.

    For me, the first red flag came when the client said she didn’t want to pay me through PayPal, my usual means of invoicing, citing some unpleasant past experience. Instead, she suggested Flint Mobile. The rates were pretty good, and the first ten transactions are free, so I went with them.

    The real reason, it turns out, is Flint’s lax security protocols. After the fact, I asked if the billing address used for the transaction matched the one I had been given, and their rep explained that they don’t require anything other than the CC number, date, and CCV.

    The second red flag came when I asked for an address to which to mail the content developer’s check. “Oh, he doesn’t take checks, either.” she said. He apparently only accepted Western Union payments.

    Yeah.

    I called the FTC, and they assured me that it was a common scam, and that yes, they use companies like Flint and Square, because they are low-security. I asked what I should do with the money, and the agent said that I had performed the work in good faith, so it would fall to the credit card issuer’s risk loss. They advised me to notify Flint, and cease all contact with the scammer.

    In the meantime, the scammer paid the content developer’s fee, which I returned.

    The larger issue for me is that companies like Flint are making themselves attractive to these scam artists, when something as simple as requiring a billing zip code would thwart a large number of these efforts.

  10. Rhaya says:

    Ty – I agree completely. It seems like companies like Flint have to be aware of their appeal to scam artists, but likely don’t consider it their problem. Shame on them.

  11. JACINTO says:

    I just got contacted by text messaging yesterday by “Jackson Steven” from Texas!
    when I asked him how did he found out about my business it took a while for him to respond and responded saying Manta. He asked me for an email account to send me some information and a link of how he wanted his website to look like but best.
    ——————————————————————————————
    Hello,

    Here is the job details

    I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in TX and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Gacillia Nut and Cocoa so i need a best of the best layout design for it. Can you handle that for me ?. so i need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible CarGill.com. the site would only be informational, so i need you to give me an estimate based on the site i gave you to check out, the estimate should include hosting and i want the same page as the site i gave you to check out and i have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.

    Note:
    1. I want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
    2. I want only English language
    3. I don’t have a domain yet but i want the domain name as bestproduce.farm
    4. you will be updating the site for me.
    5. i will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
    6. i want the site up and running before ending of next month.
    7. My budget is $4000 to $8000

    Kindly get back to me with an estimate

    Hope to read from you
    ——————————————————————————————-

    Good thing I only with a contract form, that I required businesses to sing before commencing any work, and I am sure he didn’t like some of my notes in it, such as ” if the project is cancel after 24 hours of commencing the project and payment received, 50% only will be refunded. Also NO REFUND ALLOWED after the project is uploaded to the internet.

    It is sad to see people trying to scam other for money and waste our time, if they could only used that energy for something more productive.

  12. Sam says:

    I’m glad I looked this up. I just got the initial text from “hearing impaired Kimberly.” Seemed a little suspicious so I asked for her business name and she gave it without hesitation, “am the owner of Thomas Gacillia Nut and Cocoa company.” A quick search brought me this article. What baffles me is that the scammers keep using the same name.

  13. Dave says:

    We had the 100% same story. You blog actually saved us while searching the “Gacillia Nut’s Picture” we found your blog. We had developed a sample website, logo etc and were ready to send him an email but we found this article and we were shocked what hack is this.

    Seems like these people targeting small business and tried to make them fool based on the stolen credit card.

    Be careful and be safe everyone!!!!!!

    Once again thanks for posting such a helpful and life saving blog.

  14. R.roach says:

    We got on of these today same story. He is using a different name and e-mail. We thought it was suspicious and we’re looking up the nuts to what they are and ran into this.

    Soo sick of these scammers

  15. Caroline Mascarenhas says:

    Ow, thanks for sharing this with us. I’m from Brazil and I received this e-mail from some guy named Joe Kelly. In the beginning I suspect, because this type of e-mail is unusual such as his e-mail address joekelly1417@nullhotmail.com and I don’t remember put my job information in some american web site and in english (I just put in behance, but in portuguese) but in the free good will, I answered this email to see how far this could be. I checked all about his e-mail and all was working fine until I search in the google for know what Gacillia Nut means, so I found your post and many other posts, saying that this e-mail is a scam.
    I could no more be grateful for knowing that and I feel so angry with them for doing this kind of stuff and so sad for those that fell in the scam. I almost fell in the scam too.
    So, guys, beware with this, please! Be safety and be carefull.
    Once again, thank you so much for sharing this with us, my soul is very peacefully right now

  16. Rhaya says:

    Update: We received another email today. This time, it was from Betty James at bettyjames2200@nullgmail.com. Clearly this scam still persists.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Oh wow – I got a similar inquiry a couple days ago from a “Thomas Nicolas”. There were a number of red flags initially (he texted me, email didn’t match, etc., and then when he immediately responded to my quote and accepted it – with a “lil favor” attached, then 1000 decibel alarm bells went off!

    I feel bad if there truly is a Gacillia Nut company – as searching for it resulted in a number of posts about this scam.

  18. Tran Gia says:

    I have dialog with a man named: Martins Jefferson with the same content, i suspect and search in google, fortunately i find this post! Thanks your post
    Here is his scam…

    “Hello Tran,

    Thanks for your swift response

    Here is the job details

    I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Gacillia Nut and Cocoa so i need a best of the best layout design for it. Can you handle that for me ?.So i need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible http://www.agroamerica.com.… the site would only be informational, so i need you to give me an estimate based on the site i gave you to check out, the estimate should include hosting and i want the same page as the site i gave you to check out and i have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.

    Note:

    1. I want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
    2. I want only English language
    3. I don’t have a domain yet but i want the domain name as yourtopfarmproduce.com
    4. you will be updating the site for me.
    5. i will be proving the IMAGES, logos and content for the site.
    6. i want the site up and running before ending of NEXT month.

    My budget is $10,000 to $30,000

    Kindly get back to me with:

    (1) an estimate
    (2) your cell phone number
    (3) And will like to know if you are the owner?

    Regards,

    Martins Jefferson”

  19. David says:

    I received one yesterday.
    My scam radar went off right away.
    The double first name did it.
    Shawn Tim ? Hummmmm!
    A few typos too!
    I don’t work without a contract and deposit
    And only Only! Use Paypal.
    I stopped my response right away.
    They pray on hard working
    Eager to earn a living designers.
    Beware!

  20. Beth says:

    They are back at it again…
    THANK YOU for posting this as it hopefully saved over a dozen other web designers from falling into this trap.

    Her name is Harley Colby…
    harleycolby15@nullgmail.com

    Hello,

    Here is the job details

    I have small scale business which I want to turn into large scale business now it located in FL and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Gacillia Nut and Cocoa so I need a best of the best layout design for it. Can you handle that for me ?. so I need you to check out this site but I need something more perfect than this if its possible CarGill.com the site would only be informational, so I need you to give me an estimate based on the site I gave you to check out, the estimate should include hosting and I want the same page as the site I gave you to check out and I have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site. I found you through internet search.

    Note:
    1. I want the same number of pages with the example site I gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
    2. I want only English language
    3. I don’t have a domain yet but I want the domain name as bestproduces.farm 4. you will be updating the site for me.
    5. I will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
    6. I want the site up and running in a month time.
    7. My budget is $10,000 to $15,000

    I will like to know if you are the owner ?

    Kindly get back to me with an estimate

    Hope to read from you

    Regards

  21. Ray Pittman says:

    Another “Me Too”! My mama taught me, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. Through my contact form, “Winston Jimmy” (spidey senses tingling) and the contract amount was too easily given up, except I was only good for $4000 – $6000.

    Did a search for “small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business” and BAM! I find a huge list of websites about this scam.

    I take nothing at face value.

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