Scam PSA: "Main Street Web Pros" Tried to Con Me Into Paying Them For Nonexistent Hosting Services
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.
MKS February 20, 2019 um 10:04 pm
Mail fraud is a serious crime. Take it to your post office and turn it in so that postal authorities can get after these folks. If they are actually dumb enough to have any presence in Florida or Delaware it could make a difference.
Nate Hoffelder March 4, 2019 um 9:39 am
That is the better option, yes.
One who also researched the scam. March 25, 2019 um 4:07 pm
I’m not certain this can fall under fraud. Yes it is misleading, but the body of the solicitation states in bold capitalized letters it is not a bill, invoice, or statement of account due. This is a solicitation for the order of goods or services.
Nate Hoffelder March 25, 2019 um 8:19 pm
Patti June 11, 2019 um 3:06 pm
I agree. I think that’s how they have legally gotten away with sending these letters since 2017. Otherwise I believe the USPS would have already taken action to have them shut down. Their letter clearly states that it’s a solicitation and not a bill. So it’s the recipient’s responsibility to carefully read things like this to avoid being tricked into sending money for nothing.
Older Lady April 25, 2019 um 5:50 pm
We just got the letter and bill from them. As I actually host, through Hostgator, a number of websites I knew there was something wrong with this picture when I saw that someone wanted to charge us for hosting.. I decided the best thing I could do was to check to see if there was a scam alert on this.
I worry about the unsophisticated elderly people have been scammed by people like this – it is disgusting how many scam artists are out there, and with the technology we now have it is just getting worse and worse. I will be taking this to the post office tomorrow. If we can stop them all the better.
Nate Hoffelder April 25, 2019 um 6:30 pm
I’m glad I could help!
James A April 26, 2019 um 2:38 pm
I got the same mail… Thank you for your post. hope everybody see this post… need to contact FBI
Laurie Bayer May 18, 2019 um 3:50 pm
I received this letter as well. I just wrote to my state’s Atty Gen., and will include the letter, et al.
NightSleeper June 22, 2019 um 12:03 pm
I had a customer receive the same letter yesterday about the site I host for them. I still think they should report as fraud. Maybe the more people that report this the better the chances something can be done. It is very deceptive as it looks like an actual bill.
Lucretia M. May 8, 2020 um 10:52 am
I received the same letter today. Thank you for exposing this as a scam!
Nate Hoffelder May 8, 2020 um 12:30 pm
You’re very welcome!
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