Over the nine years that I have run this blog I have seen many scams. There are the sites that pretend to have pirated ebook but really just want your credit card numbers, sites that pretend to offer digital textbooks for a low fee and really just sent you to free ebook sites, and the various fake, pirated, and counterfeit textbooks found on Createspace.
I have even seen a half-dozen different scams where companies send me emails and try to sell me worthless domain and SEO services.
But it wasn't until today that what I had always thought was an online scam actually arrived in the form of a paper letter.
On 19 February 2019, I got a paper letter from a Florida-based web design firm called “Main Street Web Pros”. I have never done business with this firm before nor have I heard their name, but after looking online I found that MSWP does have a rather sparsely filled out website.
Their online presence provides a veneer of legitimacy, but it is really just a cover for the scam letters they send in the mail.
This firm sends out letters that closely resemble a bill and is designed to make the recipient think MSWP hosts their website, and that the recipient owed them $180 for this service.
You can find the letter at the end of this post.
The scammers find their targets by looking up website domains, and checking to see which ones have contact details listed publicly. (These details have to be provided when a domain is registered or renewed, unless you opt to pay extra to keep them private.)
This company has tried to convince at least two other people I know of that we owe MSWP money for their services.
I got one of these today to my now closed design firm. It's a total disgrace that any company thinks it's okay to do this. I've seen similar scams from domain registrars, but this is the first hosting one I've seen.
— George T. Probst ? (@GeorgeProbst) February 18, 2019
From what I can tell, this same scam has been going on since at least July 2017. I found a post talking about this exact same scam, from this exact same company. They even had an identical letter (but with a mailing address in Delaware, not Florida).
If you get one of these letters, do not respond.
Do not send them money.
Instead, take the letter to your local post office and tell the clerks that you have received mail fraud. This is a crime, and the USPS takes it seriously.