WordPress Freelancer Adam Soucie on the Dangers of Accepting Credit Cards

If you’re running or opening a new WordPress business, you should read Adam Soucie’s warning on the dangers of accepting credit cards. Soucie, a WordPress Developer based in Orlando, Florida describes what happened after working with a client that claimed to be hearing disabled.

Soucie went through the usual process of sending over a contract, bringing in a designer, discussing scope, and sending over an invoice. The client then claimed to be in the hospital and requested help to pay for one of the contractors involved in the project because he didn’t accept credit cards. According to Soucie, this should have been the red flag:

But I ignored it because I’ve also been a trusting person who is sympathetic to people with disabilities.  Plus I figured I had proof of everything, so I’d be protected.  I was so wrong.

To make a long story short, the ‘client’ was paying with stolen credit cards and the other contractor was in on the scam.  I discovered the scam when they started getting pushy about the contractor receiving his payments.  When leaving to make the final payment, I got a call from the person whose credit card info was stolen.  I reached out to my ‘client’ and she had disappeared.

As the merchant, Soucie was liable for the transaction. After not receiving help from the FBI Cyber Crimes division and the credit card companies, QuickBooks, Soucie’s payment processor, went after him for the total amount of $10,000. He was able to get the amount slightly reduced after working with QuickBooks. What looked like an awesome project quickly turned into a nightmare.

I highly encourage you to read his article as it includes tips to protect yourself and why you shouldn’t be too trusting. What advice do you have for freelancers who accept credit card payments? What signs should freelancers look for to avoid fraudulent scams like this one?


30 responses to “WordPress Freelancer Adam Soucie on the Dangers of Accepting Credit Cards”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing! I wish more would have been done to bring attention to the scam itself since I believe it’s still going around. As recently as 5 days ago I had a very similar situation play out. I sniffed it right out and reported them to Craigslist. However as this article points out some people are far more trusting. Here is the email I received after having sent them a proposal. Dollar amounts have been X’d out:

    “Thanks for taking your time to get me an estimate so grateful.i am ok with your estimate and ready to proceed so i will be depositing $XXXX using my credit card so what the merchant service you do make use of to charge credit cards ? also i will be needing a lil favor from you regarding getting the content and logos for my site. the favor i need is i will be giving you my card infos to charge for $XXXX, you will hold $XXXX as deposit for my service and the remaining $XXXX you will help me make a cash deposit of it into the account of the project consultant so you can get the content and logos for my site. I need this favor from you cos the consultant does not have the facility to charge credit cards and am presently recuperating from the diagnosis of lung Cancer and am still in the hospital, So i will be grateful if you can handle that for me and not to worry about the charges just bill me for the charges.”

    It’s so unfortunate that things like this happen. Thankfully articles like this will help freelancers be more cautious in the future.

  2. Scams like this suck, but I’m not sure that it really is an example of why we should not accept credit cards. Credit cards can be a great way of securing money quickly from legitimate clients. I, personally, prefer the credit cards to checks because of how quickly I get payments. I think this is more of an example of why we, as business owners, should not do anything shady. Processing a payment for a third party is not much different from money laundering. Why would anyone think that was a smart business decision?

  3. Credit cards are not the issue here. This was entirely a social engineering scam. Credit cards were simply the payment delivery method.

    Instead of beware of credit cards, beware of being duped by a social engineering scam.

  4. Any time that somebody asks you to charge a card and then pass cash from that along to somebody else, then you are being scammed. Period.

    Anybody can accept credit cards. It takes virtually no time at all with Square, and even Paypal can process credit transactions to anybody with an email address.

    Never be a middle-man for somebody else’s payments. There is never a legitimate reason to do that.

  5. I want to add a few details as to why this didn’t seem as out of the norm to me as it should. I’m used to paying out portions of a project to other contractors, usually design partners. I do it to make sure my contractor partners get the payments they need so that it doesn’t hold up the project. There are other details of the story that I left out, specifically regarding how I would caught this a LOT faster had it not been for how QuickBooks Payments does things, but I’m not out to vilify them. I still use them, and I still take cards as payment.

    Still, none of that is really the point. The biggest thing I’d like people to focus on is how little power merchants have regarding chargebacks, especially when a third-party processor is involved. Now that chip readers are becoming the standard, more and more liability is being shifted from the massive card companys to the small merchants, in part because of what happened with Home Depot and Target recently.

    I’ve learned a very hard lesson in a very hard way. I’ve shared my worst-case scenario in the hopes that it helps others. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be about in the WordPress community?

    • Adam, really sorry to hear that this happened, and thank you for sharing. It’s easy to read this story (with all the details and hindsight) and think, “this was an obvious scam and I never would have fallen for it.” But really, it sounds like you were targeted by a professional manipulator and, considering they pulled it off, they must have been pretty good.

  6. Sorry for the bad experience Adam and thank you for sharing the story with us. As you have already known now that if you are thinking about accepting credit card payment, then you should really research on how credit card payment works. The bottom line is the credit card payment is designed to protect the cardholders, not the merchants, period. The chargeback you mentioned is designed so that the merchant must do their best to provide the cardholder with best and honest customer service, that is why merchants are willing to do refund or replacement to avoid chargebacks, because whenever a customer disputes a transaction, the credit card companies usually favor the customer, and most of the time, the merchant will lose and get chargebacks. If a company got too many chargebacks, they would not be able to accept credit card payment.

    Therefore, as the merchant, you must provide good customer service so they are satisfied and will not dispute the transaction.

  7. Also, when you charge someone else’s credit card with an amount exceeding the actual amount then giving back some portion with cash, it is actually the same as using credit card’s cash advance service, but no interest, that is why credit card company will punish anyone who does this, because usually the interest for cash advance is pretty high.

    I used to be a waiter in a restaurant and once there was a customer asked me if I could charge $50 more on his credit card then gave him $45 back leaving the $5 as tip, my boss told me to refuse, because it was an illegal cash advance and the credit card company would fine the restaurant, not the customer.

  8. I’m so sorry to hear that someone got scammed off of this. Not only is it terrible that they’re scamming hard working individuals, but their doing it under the guise of being physically disabled. It’s horrific and truly disgusting.

    I got one of these earlier this year – the person texted me. After a bit of back and forth, I had a really bad feeling about the person and told him I wasn’t interested in the project. Then, after Googling, I found this: http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-11-03/fraud-in-relay-scam-crooks-pretend-to-be-deaf.

    Now, I usually get contacted by these people at least once a week by both text message and through my website’s contact form. It really sucks that people got scammed by it – I feel for them.

  9. It’s actually against Visa / Mastercard regulations to run credit cards for another business or entity, in this case, the contractor. It’s one of the many things you agree to when you first obtain a merchant account.

    Legally, it’s considered money laundering.

    Even if the contractor wasn’t in on the scam, if they don’t have a way of accepting credit cards, there’s a good reason for that. They either had a merchant account and had it closed for a valid reason, or they were not able to pass the credit check. Either way, they aren’t supposed to be running credit cards.

    When you decide to run a card for somone like this, you are helping them circumvent the system.

  10. I had the same scam tried on me a few weeks ago on a WordPress project. Was an agricultural site and I even wrote them a quick statement of work to try and secure the job. What a waste of time! I don’t take credit cards but instead use Freshbooks and their pay by Paypal option. It does require that my clients use their bank accounts but for $10,000 or less transactions it only costs 50 cents. Saves a compared to the 3% that credit card companies charge.

  11. I receive one of these emails every few weeks, they always read a lot like this one:

    Patricia Marr
    Sep 21

    Good day Am Patricia Marr and i am hearing impaired i need to know if you can handle website design for a new company and i also need to know if you accept credit cards as form of payment ?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?

    I would have paid more attention to the first one, but before I had a chance to reply I got a 2nd similiar one from a different party. I said whoa! This is a scam!

  12. This headline is a bit click British and isn’t a reason not to accept credit cards.

    This story has nothing to do with accepting credit cards.

    It’s about a service provider being asked to run a third party card — which is ridiculous. Why on earth would anyone think that’s a smart idea?!

    We’ve been accepting credit card payments for more than 7 years with zero issues. It has allowed clients to pay in payment plans for very large projects. It has allowed recurring billing to happen automatically like a gym membership. It has made it easier and faster for large companies to pay us. And it has provided great flexibility.

  13. Sorry to hear about the scam. I’d like to add my own experience here. I recently started using 2Checkout.com to accept payments from my clients. It was all working perfectly for me until a client scammed me. I originally got the project from Elance.com in Dec 2015. The client was too slow to respond and at several times I had decided to cancel the project but as most of the work was done from my end, I thought to keep it running as I didnt have anything to lose at the moment (escrow was already funded). But, when Elance announced its closure, I approached the client and told her if she needs the files and wants the site to be completed, please pay me through Elance immediately to which she didnot respond. Not having any choice, I cancelled the project. After a couple of weeks, the client got back to me asking me for the files and so I submitted an invoice through 2checkout that she immediately paid. Nothing to lose at that point, I uploaded the site on her server but as soon as the files were transferred to her, she issued a payback request. To my surprise, 2checkout immediately paid her the amount back, deducting it from my account and when I emailed them that the files are already with her, they simply asked me to send me proof of my work for which I sent them the files again. 2checkout came back saying that the files are too large and should not exceed 8mb, how in the world could i prove myself by shrinking a 20mb wordpress site to 8mb? In vain, I lost my earnings and now 2checkout keeps 25% of my income as a security deposit.

  14. I’d also like to add that for entrepreneurs whose business is in its infancy, dont get discouraged by these scams. There are several very nice clients who will pay you on time and will respect your work. I am fortunate to have clients who are really very cooperative, pay on time and respect my work. These are the clients whom I consider as the backbone of my business.

  15. I’m sorry that there are people that got caught in these types of scams but glad that light is being shed on them. I get text messages and emails with this exact scam every week. This week, I even had someone use Yelp messaging to try and run this scam on me.

    A couple of people in this thread have said that the issue is not with credit cards, and you should take credit cards.

    I’m going to respectfully disagree with part of that.

    Most businesses that I run into either pay via check or by PayPal. Very few of them ask to use a credit card to pay. I have exactly one client that I make this accommodation for, and only because it’s a relatively small amount on a monthly maintenance retainer.

    There are two reasons I am reluctant to accept credit cards from a potential client.

    One, if they don’t have the money in the bank to pay for the project, then there is a possibility that there is a serious cash-flow issue with their business. Not always, but it’s a possibility, and not a possibility that I want to get involved with if I can avoid it.

    Two, if the client does a chargeback for any reason, you, the merchant are going to be liable for that amount. This is also a bad scenario, to say the least.

    If they don’t pay by check, or have the money transferred from their bank via Stripe or PayPal, you should look very carefully at the rest of their business before you sign on the dotted line, especially if it is for smaller clients (not big business).

    When might it be okay to take credit cards as payment? If you are dealing with a larger company, one you have heard of, that has no cash-flow issues. Perhaps if you have a contact at the company that you know personally.

    If you do not have a prior relationship with the potential client, and they appear to be a smaller, less established entity, I would use your best judgement, and approach with caution.


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