A client whose website I built, and continue to look after, was recently bombarded by telephone calls from Smart Media Solutions Limited offering various web-related services and falsely claiming that if these weren’t taken up, the client’s Google listing would be adversely affected. Then my client received an unwanted e-mail saying ‘Thank you for your order!’ when no order had actually been placed, with a pro forma invoice attached requesting payment of £360. The wording of the e-mail was deliberately misleading, but the company who sent it probably thought that sending a ‘pro forma’ invoice would keep them out of legal trouble, whereas sending an ordinary invoice might land them in hot water with the relevant authorities.
The e-mail attachment said on it ‘This is a pro forma invoice’, but it was clearly designed to be mistaken for a real invoice, with an invoice number and a customer reference number on it. Luckily my client is smart, not the kind of person to pay without thinking any old document that arrives in her inbox looking a bit like an invoice, and she asked me if it was a scam. Straight away it looked to me like a fiddle, but I did some research on the Internet before coming to the conclusion that yes, it was an attempt to obtain payment for web-related services that weren’t really required, and definitely hadn’t been ‘ordered’. My client was stressed about the whole affair, so I offered to write to Smart Media Solutions Limited on her business’s behalf.
Fast forward a few weeks, and another client of mine called to say that they’d been telephoned by Smart Media Solutions Limited and spun the same yarn about signing up, or losing their Google ranking. I advised my client to ignore any more telephone calls and the e-mail that had already arrived, again with the misleading wording and the ‘pro forma invoice’ attached. Once more I wrote a ‘cease and desist’ message to Smart Media Solutions Limited, though I doubt that they’ll ever stop this sharp business practice unless they get in serious trouble over it. So if you have a website, be careful about paying anything that looks like an invoice out of the blue, as your business might unfortunately be just another name on Smart Media Solutions Limited’s list of potential ‘customers’.