How A Russian Syndicate Scammed Us For $25K

Justin Cooke Updated on February 29, 2020

Vladislav Smolensev Russian Scammer

“Buddy… we’ve been scammed.”

Words you do NOT want to hear from your business partner ten minutes before your weekly team meeting.

It’s hard to describe how getting scammed feels, but if you’re reading this and it’s happened to you, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s one part feeling like you were punched in the gut, another part rage at the person that scammed you, with a dash of embarrassment at putting yourself in the position in the first place.

I immediately had questions:

How did this happen?

How bad is the damage?

How much did they actually take from us?

It was mid-February and all of these thoughts were running through my mind as we painfully dug through the details. I knew it was bad, but neither of us would understand the extent of the damage for several more days.

Let’s Back Up A Bit

To properly tell this story, I need to explain a little about how our business operates.

We run a marketplace for website buyers and sellers. In addition to the challenges that come with running a double-sided marketplace, we also operate in a niche industry that is ripe for fraud. Website sellers looking to pawn their value-less website onto others with fake earnings, trumped-up traffic, or fake/illegal products—these are the reasons we have chosen to vet our sellers and investigate their listings carefully.

On the other side, we have website buyers. While we’ve gone to great lengths to better understand and serve this side of the market, we spend much less time verifying their legitimacy. As long as they’re paying the money and it spends…

We’ve successfully completed more than 1,000 transactions. When starting out, most of those sales were in the 3-4 figure range, but we’ve recently been listing and selling websites into the 5-6 figures.

Even though we’d successfully taken credit cards and Paypal transactions for the 3-4 figure sites, we knew we’d have to open up other payment methods. We set the bar at $20K. With sites under $20K we’d still accept credit cards and Paypal, but sites over $20K would require a bank wire.

We knew there were risks taking credit cards and Paypal. Buyers could reverse the charges and, if we’d already paid out the seller, leave us holding the bag. But we figured the ease of use with our customers by allowing credit cards and Paypal was worth it. With more than 1,000 transactions and only one chargeback via Paypal from a disgruntled buyer (we won the dispute), we didn’t consider this a major risk.

What could go wrong?

Uncovering The Scam

After the sale was complete, and through the transfer process for listing #40118, there was a bit of disruption between the buyer and seller. This was a very small eCommerce site valued at just over $2K. The seller, a good personal friend of ours named Brendan, had mentioned that the new buyer seemed a bit dodgy and was “not responding like a sane person.”

It wasn’t totally unusual, though, for a buyer and seller to have a few hiccups during migration. In reviewing the tickets our team was on it and, for the most part, everything seemed to be moving along.

BT FB MessageIn late December, Brendan reached out to me again with some concerns. He said the buyer was using various email addresses and claimed to be in Canada, but there were some clear signs (to him) that this person was in Russia. He was concerned about a Paypal chargeback and being on the hook for that. Seeing as this almost never happened with us and it was such a small site, I told Brendan that there really wasn’t anything to worry about. We’d be on the hook should there be a problem as we’d already paid him, so he shouldn’t worry. Once we’ve paid out the seller the deal’s done on our side – we won’t be getting that money back.

January 19th we had another purchase, but nothing was particularly strange about the transaction at the time. This one was nearly $8.4K for listing #40142. We did notice that this was an out-of-the-blue purchase from someone we’d never communicated with before, but that wasn’t completely unheard of for sites under $20K.

February 1st we had a third purchase—this time for nearly $15K with listing #40138. Again, nothing out of the ordinary, although I do remember some odd communication with 1-5 word replies, incomplete sentences, etc.

Four days later, on February 5th, we received a chargeback for the first purchase. While it was a small purchase, Joe jumped into action by contacting the buyer to see what was wrong, while also collecting documentation to help us win the chargeback. Worst case scenario (we figured), the buyer had cold feet and we could take the site back and then refund the money. We’d hold the site for a few months ourselves and then put it back up for sale again to recollect our losses.

In Joe’s research, he’d acquired plenty of proof to show the site had been transferred and received on the buyer’s end, but he also noticed some peculiarities. In addition to the strangeness Brendan had described, he realized that the communication was eerily familiar between the buyers for listings #40118, #40142, and #40138. It seemed very likely that all three buyers (using different names, email addresses, etc.) were likely the same person.

We needed more, though, and spent the next two hours seeing if we could find something… anything that would tie these purchases together. It wouldn’t necessarily have to hold up in court, but we wanted to at least be reasonably sure we were onto something and not heading into some black hole with our witch hunt.

All of the research at this point was external. We were looking at email addresses, user names, phone numbers, social accounts, etc.

We found some connections:

  1. All three buyers had some ties to Russia
  2. All three had connections to the name “Vladislav”
  3. All three had used credit cards from women in Canada

In any event, it was clear we were scammed… now we had to figure out what to do about it.

We’re In Damage Control

After our digging into the details the previous night and the subsequent morning, we met up for lunch to share our findings and figure out what we were going to do about it. There were a few questions we had to answer first.

How deep does this rabbit hole go?

Had this been happening for months? Years? We assumed the credit cards were stolen, but how many other deals had gone through under similar circumstances?

We immediately had our team dig through all of our deals in recent months. The three deals we’d already uncovered were clear, as were the connections. We told our team to look through all credit card/Paypal purchase that had any of the following:

  • Canadian credit card used
  • Any connections to Russia
  • Short, 1-5 word replies or incomplete sentences

It turns out there was a fourth purchase attempted the previous day, which we immediately refunded and reversed.

How do we keep this from happening again?

The best and safest option would be to simply remove the ability to purchase sites via credit card or Paypal and require wire transfers for every purchase. This would end the stolen credit card purchases and keep us sleeping easy at night.

Our worry, though, was that this might make the process significantly harder for our customers (the 99% that were legitimate had done nothing wrong, and are looking to do business.) Why should we punish them?

So we looked at other routes we could take. These included:

1. Using an escrow service.

This is the route some brokers take, using a 3rd party to facilitate the transaction between the buyer and seller. This wouldn’t have protected us on one of the deals, but would have on the other two. The thing is… it’s not “escrow” that would have protected us—it’s simply their option to only take wire transfers for the larger deals. We have the same option without having to inject a 3rd party that doesn’t understand our industry.

2. Increasing credit card security levels.

Our merchant account lets us loosen or tighten the security levels required to determine whether the card can go through. These levels were already set pretty high, but we could increase them even further. In reviewing this option, we saw that most of these transactions still would have happened, and we’d probably have more declines and issues with our “real” customers.

3. Chargeback and credit card insurance.

There are companies out there that offer services and will actually allow you to insure against this type of thing. We looked into it, but realized this was primarily built for eCommerce companies shipping physical goods in the $50 – $500 range. The premiums we’d have to pay would significantly cut into our (smaller) margins on every transaction, and not be worth it for us.

4. Requiring the buyer to hold up a picture ID along with the credit card.

This was my idea and, although it sounds a little crazy, hear me out! If our problem lies in scammers using stolen credit cards, having a picture of the person holding both the card and an ID makes it much, much less likely the scammer will get away with it. Unfortunately, though, this still makes the process a bit more difficult (and awkward) than just sending a wire.

We realized that any short-term hack or fix wouldn’t solve the underlying problem. Also, because we knew we’d be talking about this publicly, we needed to put something in place that would work beyond this particular scammer’s methodology.

Ultimately, we decided to go with our original instinct, and shut down all credit card and Paypal purchases publicly.

We are still able to take deposits, though. When a depositor decides to purchase a site, we end up refunding the deposit back to the credit card or Paypal account and requiring the total purchase price to be wired to us. That way, one hundred percent of the deposits coming in actually end up being refunded to the original depositor, leaving no chance for fraud.

What are the next steps to dealing with the scammers?

Eric Misterovich Revision LegalAs this was happening across international borders, we figured our options were pretty limited. With only $25K at stake, there’s probably not enough to recover.

Still—the thought of paying a blood-sucking lawyer $25K with a guarantee that the scammers would get nothing was a pleasant thought, even if it was fantasy.

We knew we should at least explore our options, so Joe was tasked with reaching out to our connections to find a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution (UDRP) attorney. We ended up with Eric Misterovich at, who was really helpful in walking us through the process. It was a $2,500 retainer that we considered well spent.

Eric explained our options, including trying to get the domains back from GoDaddy, having the sites shut down, having the sellers return the money, and even fighting the chargebacks. While we would have happily fought the chargebacks if they were from the actual buyers, going after other victims (those who had their credit cards stolen) or our customers (the sellers who had already been paid out) wasn’t an option. It did open us up to the possibility, though, that SELLERS could have been involved in the scam. Just another reason to switch over to wire transfers only.

We also had to ask ourselves what the scammers really wanted here. Were they looking for website assets they could maintain and grow? Probably not. Instead, our guess was that they wanted to sell these sites as quickly as possible to cash in on them quickly.

Sure enough, we saw the sites for sale on Flippa (and Digital Point) a few days later. Since these companies don’t look at how recently a new site was bought/sold, and only require them to prove they have control, of course the sites were easily listed. We immediately reached out to Flippa and, to their credit, they reacted swiftly by removing the auction and banning the user.

Note: I really think there would be value in having a blacklist in our industry. Most brokers and marketplaces have them internally, but I’d really like to see something we could use industry-wide.

And, finally… The nuclear option.

If, for whatever reason, we’re not able to recover the domains, we’re going to blast these sites to kingdom come. We thought, at the very least, it might make a great case study on the effects of purposeful, negative SEO campaigns and might make for some great content or a case study, heh.

Keep in mind, all of this was going down in February, which, as you can see from our monthly report, was our WORST month in business to date. Not only did we have a horrible month, we’d also been scammed out of $25K which, by this point, had all been charged back by the actual credit card holders—the other victims here.

The Empire Flippers Strike Back

Empire Flippers Strike Back

We felt like we’d acted rationally by assessing the damage, stopping the bleeding, and discussing our options, but now we wanted to do something about it.

And, if I’m being honest… illegal acts and thoughts of violence, while never seriously considered, were hanging just outside our conversations.

To start, we wanted to see if we could pinpoint exactly who the scammers were. Sure, we had a pretty good idea they were linked and were reasonably certain about their MO, but could we find out their names and who they are, specifically?

Time for some deep-diving, password hacking, and advanced Google-Fu.

Who the hell are these guys?

The good news is that these scammers weren’t very smart. There were some emails shared during that first two transactions: and

Using the assumed account name, “smolensev”, we were able to find out quite a bit about our scammers.

Introducing Our Scammers: Vladislav Smolentsev & Alexandr Smolentsev

Vladislav Smolensev Russian Scammer

The main scammer’s on the left. His name is Vladislav Smolensev and it turns out he likes to brag about his escapades on Instagram.

He really digs, selfies:

Vlad Unsure Of Himself

Not looking too sure about yourself there, Vlad.

Lots and lots of selfies:

Vladislav Smolensev Selfie In Elevator

Vladislav Smolensev Selfie 1

Vlad Selfie Motorbike

Look, Ma, no hands!

That’s not all, though. Because we helped with the website migration, we also had one of his passwords. As it turns out, he likes to use this password for his email address and other accounts as well.

We ended up with access to multiple private email accounts, one of his registrar accounts (NameCheap), his eBay account, SitePoint account and more.

We found out there was another scammer – his brother, Alexandr Smolentsev.

Vladislav Smolensev was trying to get his brother a Payoneer account and had to use his real ID:

Alexandr Smolensev ID

Oops…shouldn’t have left that in your email, Alexandr!

It turns out that Vladislav Smolentsev considers himself quite the traveler. (And wishes he knew Dan Bilzerian)

He enjoyed Songkran in Chiang Mai:

Vlad Chiang Mai

And likes to fart around with his buddy on a kayak near Koh Samui:

Vlad Selfie Video Kayaking

Need to improve your kayaking skillz there, brother.

He’s also recently decided to apply for a US tourist Visa:

Vlad Smolensev US Visa Application

I hope US immigration Google’s you, Vlad.

We even got a physical address and phone number:

Vladislav & Alexandr Smolensev

Pushkinskaya st. 283

Izhevsk, Udmurt Republic 426000


If anyone else has any information on these scammers, please feel free to dig in further or shoot us an email. Here’s some additional information we’re happy to share:

Username: smolentsev, smolensev, or smolentcev

Password: St516bg9

Known Emails:

IP address used from Gmail:

Is their last name Smolensev, Smolentcev, or Smolentsev?

It’s hard to say. The brother’s name is listed as Alekandr Smolentsev on the ID, but Smolentcev on the Payoneer card. It’s Vladislav Smolensev on his Instagram and other social media accounts, but uses Smolentcev on his FB account.

In any event, we’re 100% positive we’ve got the right guys, it may just be that their last name doesn’t translate well or that they’re scammers and are happy to swap out names, interchangeably.

It anyone would like to dig into this further, we’d appreciate it and you can feel free to leave more details in the comments – we’d be interested to see what you come up with!

The Legal Road Ends

Throughout March and while all of this research was going on, our attorney was going through everything, step-by-step, and coming up empty. GoDaddy wasn’t very helpful and didn’t want to get involved, the scammers themselves never responded to our attorney’s inquiries, and we were down to our last couple options.

Option 1: Litigation

Our attorney mentioned we could fight this in a US court and, with a court order, might be able to get the domains back. It wouldn’t be a quick or cheap process. We were looking at (at least) $15K in legal fees and only the possibility of getting the sites back. Our attorney didn’t advise this approach, realizing it probably wouldn’t be worth it.

Option 2: Shut The Sites Down

We could submit a DMCA takedown request via GoDaddy and Media Temple. Starting with a broad request to see if that works, and then lay out the details if we get any pushback from the companies.

This seemed the more reasonable of the two options, so Joe gave the go-ahead to our attorney to start the process.

Justin & Joe Get A Happy Ending

Empire Flippers Happy Ending

This is where it gets weird.

Okay, not THAT kind of weird… but there were a remarkable set of circumstances that played out that I have to share.

Before I do, I should point out that we’re big believers in transparency when it comes to business. That’s one of the reasons we write our monthly business reports, talk openly about our lawsuit in the Philippines, and write posts like this one.

In fact, a good friend of ours who questions the transparent approach and knows the story asked us (over beers), “Okay, you guys are into transparency and all, but are you REALLY going to talk about this situation publicly?”

Our answer? Of course! These are exactly the type of situations where being open and honest has real value. There are enough blog posts with advice given from those who’ve never tried/implemented their suggestions, provide vagaries, and platitudes, etc. If we can share an actual business issue (even if it’s painful) that can solve another’s problem, we consider that a win.

We’ve gone through our reasoning on why transparency is valuable in podcast episodes and blog posts, but what happens next is, I think, an acute example of the random, hard-to-quantify cases where this is valuable in our business.

After briefly foreshadowing these circumstances in our March monthly report, Nate Kay from reached out to us asking more details about the specific sites for listing #40142 and #40138.

Remember how we contacted Flippa and they removed the listing for these sites right away? It turns out that Nate was one of the early bidders on that auction!

While Flippa shut the listing down, it was up long enough to get a few bids and the seller was still able to reach out to the previous bidders and see if they’d be willing to purchase the sites anyway.

Nate ended up buying both sites for only $5,000—amazing value, considering they were fraudulently purchased from us for nearly $23K!

I have to give a ton of credit to Nate, not only for reaching out initially, but also for immediately offering to transfer the sites back to us. Not wanting to leave yet another victim and him out $5K, Joe offered to pay him back his payments out of the proceeds of the sale at Empire Flippers in a few months.

We immediately contacted the attorney to reverse the DMCA takedown requests.

If it all works out, that would leave us initially down $25K, but able to recover $20K of that due to our transparency, reach, and Nate’s graciousness.

I considered using the title, “How Transparency Saved Us $20K” for this article, but we’re still not exactly sure how it will play out. Hell, after keeping the sites for a few months, we may even cover Nate’s losses and MAKE money if the sites continue to increase in earnings. I’ll make sure to come back here with an update when we do end up selling the sites.

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Wrapping It Up

If you’re looking for a tl;dr, this is it. We were scammed by Vladislav Smolensev and Aleksandr Smolensev out of Russia using stolen credit cards from women in Canada. When the real credit card owners charged back, we were left holding the bag. After uncovering the damage, stopping the bleeding, and reviewing our options, we went to work uncovering exactly how this went down.

Luckily, one of our readers ended up purchasing the sites from the scammers (not knowing they were stolen) and gave them back to us to sell and recoup our losses.

I’m not sure exactly the lessons learned here. This is all still pretty raw, even though we’re excited to have recovered the sites in April.

I’ll give it a shot, though:

1. Listen to your customers—especially when they’re trying to help you.

I’ve apologized privately to Brendan, but I should do it publicly, too. I essentially blew him off when he was talking about his communication issues with the buyer. He was a first-time seller and I’d dealt with “that” before. It’s common for first-time sellers to get a little jittery towards the end.

However, if I had dug into the issue right then and there, we might have saved ourselves a considerable amount of hassle and caught the other two deals before they were completed. Really stupid of me…

2. Be cautious taking credit cards or Paypal, especially if you’re selling high-ticket items.

This is doubly true when you’re dealing with low margins. This is a common topic of discussion in the eCommerce world and pops up often with those using stolen credit cards and trying to ship to an address not attached to that credit card. For more reading on this, check out:

10 Tips On Preventing Credit Card Fraud

When A Big Ecommerce Order Is Likely A Scam

Scams And Fraud In Dropshipping

3. Amazing things happen when you are transparent in your business.

This is more of a reinforcement of something we already know, but I truly believe there’s no way we would have recovered these sites if we hadn’t mentioned it publicly. How could we? The fact that we’ve been so public about our failures and successes has offered us an awfully wide audience in our niche which, in turn, is the only reason Nate knew about us and had read our blog. The fact that he so readily and willingly offered the sites back to us shows how much he trusts and respects us. Amazing…

So—what do you think about all of this? Anything you learned here that will help your business? Have you dealt with credit card scammers before? Let us know in the comments!

And if you liked this article, please share on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, or any other places you hang out on the internets.

As always, you can find all of our current websites for sale on the marketplace. Just don’t plan on paying for them with credit cards or Paypal.

We’re not falling for that again!

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  • Steve says:

    I know this thread is a few years old, but I was looking at a CPA marketing course, and one of the testimonials is from the same kid that you are talking about in this article, here is the link to the testimonials page: go to the link, then scroll down to the one titled: “19 Year Old Generates $4.5k In Less Than 24 Hours With A1Revenue!” (I wonder if he used stolen credit card money to join the course)

    There is a video of him giving a testimonial for the course, and underneath that a screenshot of a conversation between him and the owner of the course and his profile pic in that snapshot is one of the same pictures that is on his instagram page, which is this pic right here:

    And in the video there is a part where he is in his CPA course dashboard and for a split second it shows his bank account name and details.

    not sure of any of this matters to you guys anymore, but just figured I’d share the info.


  • SM says:

    I was scammed 50k back in 2011! I bought a website that had fake documents from 2co and everything seemed legit and perfect. I sent the money to escrow then released it. I still have the email he used he also was from russia.( made him self look like he was from norway) It was and its a ebook website that never had one sale. I never got my money back but if anyone knows anything about this let me know. find me on instagram …….dieselandstu……

  • David says:

    You have to watch out for those Russians. When using Flippa to sell sites I do NOT take credit cards or PayPal for that specific reason. I use only and I do not transfer domain names until I have funds. While it’s not 100%, it’s still better than hoping a buyer doesn’t use a stolen credit card.

    There are SO many sites being sold on Flippa right now that are BS that it’s just comical. Flippa doesn’t really care too much about it because it hurts their bottom line. Who sells a website supposedly making 20k per month for $10,000? That makes no sense. I’ve reached out to several sites that were sold on Flippa and each tell me they got scammed. Flippa doesn’t care. They make so much money so why would they care?

    Flippa is a joke these days. Deals need to be done in person so that buttons can be pushed in person.

    Someone needs to setup a new Flippa alternative with buyers in mind.

  • Stan says:

    That’s not a syndicate. Just one moron…

    The worst thing how he brags about business, intelligence and self development in social networks, but he is just a scam in real life. I think his “other business projects” are no better..

    You probably wouldn’t receive anything from trying to sue him in Russia. Judiciary and police system are very uncultivated there especially in terms of online business and operations.

    Glad you made some of your money back.

  • Jasom Dotnet says:

    Also Islamic State (ISIS) was scammed by Russians. It’s funny, isn’t? 🙂

    “Woman” claimed she cannot travel to Syria and fight because she has no money. When ISIS recruiter sent money to “her” bank account, fake social network account was closed and the guy disappeared.


  • Hemant says:

    Hey Guys,

    I found you on FB, through the Sponsored search. I’m am an avid domainer. Have build ecommerce applications along with a multitude of other sites, and I gotta say this was a good read and eye opener. I was particularly drawn to this due to my research within the site marketplace, i.e. Flippa, however didn’t really look to see if this was possible as just recently I was asked to take a CC payment, for a performance, I DJ as well, the ” Client ” asked me to take a CC payment for the ENTIRE event, i.e. my services + for catering and facility, gave me a legitimately accurate address and asked for me to cut out a money order to pay the other services. I was already onto him from the beginning, kept my mouth shut and kept it moving to see where it would lead to. Unfortunately, the “Client ” was in the ” Hospital ” and couldn’t talk on the phone, only text and said he’ll have the banquet event planner contact me with the details. Unfortunately, he was also out of town on business and asked the money order to be mailed out of country. How convenient! Rather than just be a prick about it, I obviously didn’t accept the payment and politely said NO THANK YOU! Beware of these pricks, I’m sure this is all related to the recent data breach on CC #’s being stolen from corporations all over the world. Apparently Nigeria isn’t the only place. I’ll be sure to accept Escrow, or simply come to you guys. I have a LIST of domains, no sites on them, a few did, generated traffic, but moving forward if not sell, I’d like to hold onto them. Beauty is ofcourse in the eyes of the beholder. Thanks for a great read, and you have my email address now, so feel free to contact me, I might even be open to join your team….



  • Louise says:

    I realize that you are trying to protect yourselves from scammers. However, the fact that you only accept wire transfers is a HUGE red flag for most buyers.

    I mean, really. As the buyer, I am wondering if you (and the seller) are legitimate. My ONLY recourse is paying with a credit card, knowing that the credit card company will have my back. Without it, I’m out the money I’ve wired to you if something goes wrong – and I have NO recourse.

    I am actively seeking a site to buy, but I will never purchase from Empire Flippers because of this policy. I’d be a fool to.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Louise,

      I hear what you’re saying about preferring to pay by credit card as a protective measure.

      If I were in your shoes, I’d be a little leery about sending a wire to people I didn’t know either.

      While we may be missing out on some business because of that, we’ve consistently grown each quarter and ended up having our best month ever last month with over $500K in sales.

      What you’re saying makes sense, butt others don’t have as much of a problem with it so it’s not much of a problem for us in a business sense.

      • Kevin says:

        You built up some goodwill with many of us, I think, so we’re willing to try the new system (especially after such a sad scam story) first and hold off judgment. Today I learned that you keep asking for wire transfers for the full price even after you received 2 already, and I don’t think it’s cool to put us in the position of just wire you money and maybe there’s a product to purchase, maybe not. I need a way to know for sure that if I send you all money, there’s something to buy. So I wouldn’t agree with your assessment that “others don’t have as much of a problem with it so it’s not much of a problem for us.”

        • Justin Cooke says:

          Hey Kevin,

          The fact that three people are willing/wanting to send a wire to purchase the site is some indication, isn’t it?

          To be clear – I know the situation you’re referring to, but we had NOT received the wire from two other people while continuing to ask for another.

          Two people confirmed they would be sending a wire, but we had received nothing at that point. Our policy is first wire in gets the site, so we were simply informing you that it was still available, but two people had claimed to already send in the wires.

          Either way, whoever doesn’t end up with the site gets a wire straight back OR they have the option of leaving cash-in-hand with us for their next purchase – completely up to them.

          It IS a problem we’ve got though – but it’s only for sites under $10K. One way to solve it is to simply stop listing/selling sites under $10K. That would fix the problem and keep you happy, right? We never have problems with dupe wires over $10K, so that may fix the issue.

  • I think Nate is a top guy, and you and your partner should feel really lucky – that this guy was the buyer of your two business websites.
    If this had happened to myself, I would have brought Nate and his wife[or girl-friend] a very nice THANK-YOU present!

    It also sounds to me that these two crooks need to spend some time in prison!!

  • Someone says:

    His newest Twitter account : John Galt

  • Someone says:

    Looks like this guy is still using stolen credit cards

    Dear Travelscape LLC Customer,

    Your Travelscape LLC purchase 122484539565 has been cancelled due to one or more of the following reasons:

    • We were unable to authenticate the credit card.
    • We were unable to authenticate the card holder.
    • The purchase was declined by the credit card company.
    • Account history.

    Please reply to this e-mail if you think there may be a mistake. We are happy to work with you to rectify any discrepancy. Since we have been unable to contact you via the telephone numbers listed in your account, please reply to this e-mail with the telephone number where we can reach you and the best time to call. A Travelscape Transaction Processing Representative will contact you.

    Please do not call Travelscape Customer Service for assistance with this matter. They will instruct you to e-mail


    Drew Howard
    Transaction Processing
    Travelscape LLC

  • Someone says:

    Logged into his newest email account

  • Sophie says:

    Great read guys, thank you so much for sharing. Love your approach towards transparency!

  • Justin says:

    +1 for the good guys – I’m glad you managed to turn it around.

    p.s. Am I the only one who thinks either of those guys could be related to Tim Ferriss?

  • Guys as someone who has been done in before I appreciate the anger you guys must have felt about this. I was once also in a situation where someone cheated me out of a lot of money, and I had some “inside information” about the person which provided a great opportunity for payback.

    I discussed this with my father at the time and he ask me one question: “Are you doing this to protect other people, or are you doing this for revenge?”. I thought about it and realised it was for revenge, and subsequently let it go – which was sort of a liberating feeling in itself.

    With that in mind I think exposing these guys’ names, photos and modus operandi is well within the bounds of protecting other people, as you are putting the information out there for someone else to Google in the future and read the story, and in doing so you are protecting them from suffering the same fate.

    Publishing personal details such as passwords however, is going too far and crossing that line into revenge territory in my opinion. I think you could have done this article without exposing that sort of information. Please keep it in mind next time…

  • Nico says:

    Hi Justin,

    glad you got the websites back – I must say I enjoyed the read! I understand why you don’t take credit cards for big payments, even if transferring money to the US can be a hassle/expensive from the buyer’s point of view.
    There is another payment option which makes a lot of sense in my opinion: Bitcoin. There are good Bitcoin payment processors out there ( or for instance) which let you accept bitcoin but instantly receive USD, thus removing the risks of charge-backs and exchange rate fluctuation (charge-backs are not possible with Bitcoin). Their fees are also much more reasonable than those of Paypal & Co. As a bitcoin holder and potential website buyer, I would personally be really happy to have the option to pay in the internet’s native currency 😉

    I hope you consider it!

  • Crazy!

    Glad you didn’t go the nuke approach in the end then..someone could have bought the sites and then had them tanked, which would have made even more victims.

    Lucky Nate is a loyal reader too!

  • Steve says:

    I spent a few minutes looking through Vlad’s social media. Turns out he’s quite the philosopher. Claims to have read 100 books in the last 18 months. Claims to have a string of business interests. Big praise for capitalism, Western democracy and entrepreneurialism. Has a blog and e-book called ‘100 Ideas for Start-Up Businesses’ (idea #1 could be “How to rip off entrepreneurs in Western democracies”).

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading this. It was good to see this preening, pretentious, lawless toerag bitch-slapped into electronic oblivion. Perhaps you should use some of the recovered $20k to hire some bikers, meet him at LAX and give him a real ‘welcome to America’. His next post to VK might be “Here I am in traction. God bless America”.

  • Kevin says:

    Why not just make a verification call for all large(r) credit card orders? Would eliminate 95% of scams. Works very well for my ecommerce site.

  • reg says:

    Russians cant help themselves i got scammed for some software but i nailed the guy good that ended his sites and work career from his spanish setup scmming people

  • reg says:

    Western union online have the ability to send money to any bank in the philippines overnight up to $5k for $10 flat and the rate is reasonable and from my bank overseas i dont pay eg 3% overseas charges just tye $10. Might work better

  • Quinton Hamp says:

    Too bad they made it to the US. Hopefully somebody will wise up and kick them back to the motherland.

    Glad it worked out decently and that you have a chance to recoup your money. This is why we must never, ever give up. If you hadn’t kept the pressure on, you would not have started the chain of events that brought the sites back.

    On the credit card verification, there are some systems out there that use Lexis Nexis to automatically research the card holders and alert you to dangerous footprints. Might be another option to consider.

    I’ve been looking forward to this blog post. Glad to see it turned out so well for as bad as it was!

  • enedil says:

    Hi man!

    You can try to recover his email accounts.

    He was using the shown phone number to secure at least
    The password has been changed 29 hours ago.

  • throwaway says:

    I did a little digging. The d-bags have another email you can add to your list . Confirmed by using the same password to login. It was unfortunately changed soon after I got in. Also, I’ve got another phone number associated with the account (which belongs to Alexandr I think). 8+912-744-0410

  • barry says:

    Great recovery guys. Hopefully these guys will eventually get what’s coming to them

  • Dennis says:

    Actually I run into these situations on a regular base but as I provide SEO services (backlinks) I can just remove the links and only loose money spend on content. It happens about once in a hundred orders so it’s not a huge issue and there are no large amounts involved like with you guys so it’s just a calculated risk.

    The only thing I do worry a little bit about is for the next buyer, what if these Russians want revenge after they read this post and “they” start to actually neg SEO the domains? The right thing for you to do would imo be to keep the domains/sites yourself and the earnings that come with it and recoup your loss that way. With a little luck you recoup all your losses (that includes the $5k and the $2500 retainer spend on the attorney).

  • Glen says:

    On my phone so forgive brevity but thought this was a brilliantly written post.

    Not sure I would have shared the password but I agree on everything else.

    Hope his trip has some unexpected hickups!

  • Mark says:

    Wow! What an episode! Although you ignored Brendan caution, I think the lessons are worth everything

  • praut says:

    I don’t see any “syndicate” here. Just one 18 y/o punk. And your own incompetence in question of verifying your customers.

    Going to russian court is good idea. And expenses on that in Izhevsk will be much less than those, you already pay to your lawyer. You just need to find someone local, who will curate that for you.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Definitely some incompetence on our end, Praut. We wanted to point that out, actually, to save others from going through something similar.

      Not going to bother with Russian courts. Even if it were to work, the added and drawn-out hassle doesn’t sound worth it. We’d rather focus on our business continuing to go forward.

  • Danny says:

    ooh sweet – you got the sites back already 😀 ignore last comment.

  • Danny says:

    I’ve seen UDRP used more often lately to recover stolen domains. I can point you to a couple lawyers that do these kinds of cases all day long, if you want to get another opinion.

  • Jasom Dotnet says:

    The Russians touched the sacred cow of the Americans – the MONEY. Therefore we can read such exhaustive post. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Alex Stern says:

    I am happy about the ending of the story. But to me the most sad part is, even after discovering who is responsible of the evil act, there is not much we can but watch him celebrate.

  • Mark Dixon says:


    Congrats on the way things turned out! I love what you did in exposing these dirt bags as well. You guys handled everything!

    Your decision to only accept wire transfer is 100 % spot on as well. In my experience with eCommerce over the last 11 years my policy with regards to sales over $3500, or on service related sales, and on any overseas sales is to accept only bank wire transfer. It was a hard wone lesson from many years ago.

    However, since we are being transparent here, I let down my guard and excepted Paypal on a $5300 transaction in February which also ended up in a chargeback. We spend a lot of time effort and money on these people. As a result they were provided with a deep look our industry while we are left holding an empty bag. This is to say nothing of the energy that has been diverted away from going after new biz. So, I will go back to basics and only offer bank wire transfer again regardless of the potential sales we might not close.
    Lesson learned.

    Thanks for your honesty:-)


    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Mark!

      Yeah, only accepting wires has fixed this issue for us completely.

      Sorry to hear about your chargeback issue, man. Did you win the dispute? The funny thing with chargebacks – even if you win, you can’t get back the time, effort, and brain energy that went into fighting them, heh.

  • “Vlad Smolentsev
    (translated) Dreams Come True. Summer in Hawaii, and then go around the United States from the west coast to New York. drimtim # # Hawaii United States # # trip”

  • Yes, I was a moderator in 2006, and hacked, and returned a bunch of domains back then (among other things I can’t publicly say, but it all was in the public interest). As for how to avoid chargebacks, well, thats one of the reasons for Bitcoin.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Joseph.

      We now take bitcoin for both deposits and full-on payments for websites/businesses. We haven’t mentioned it much publicly, but we’ve already completed a few transactions via bitcoin and will be adding it to our shopping cart soon. 🙂

  • Tahir says:

    Thank you for sharing so much of your story. There are great details in there on how to proceed cautiously with purchases of this kind.

    On the buying side as a client I would have no problem jumping through any number of hoops to confirm my identity. It just tells me that you would do similar or even more checks on the seller.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Tahir.

      Ultimately, just requiring wires for full payment has fixed the issue.

      We do put our sellers through a comprehensive vetting process, but would rather limit this on the buyer’s end. I think we’ve found a good solution here.

  • Steven Chang says:

    Let me guess, he bought into the whole Tim Ferris 4-hour work week lifestyle.

  • Amateurs says:

    I have no sympathy for scammers, but you guys are trash.

    ‘Buddy … we’ve been scammed!’ … Pathetic! Not sure if someone serious will ever do business with you given this post.

    Emotional decisions are never good, they are a sign of weakness, you just proved that you are some small time amateurs with no business experience and absolutely no strategy.

    If for whatever reasons the scammers decide to sue you for this posting (and I hope they do) your overall loss will far exceed the $25k, how stupid can you be to incriminate yourself publicly?

    P.S: This posting denotes a considerable lack of education. Maybe you just enrol in a good university for a minute or two, just so you get some sense.

    • Frank P says:

      How exactly would you prefer they respond to getting scammed? It’s pretty obvious that Emipre Flippers is not some thousand person company who can eat a $25k scam without blinking. That’s just about how I would have reacted in this situation, so I can’t figure out why you have a problem with it.

      This post gives me a lot of confidence that these guys are honest dealers, doing their best to do right by their buyers AND sellers, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do business with them.

      • Justin Cooke says:

        Thanks, Frank, and LOL about the 1,000 person company point. It’s true, we’re a pretty small shop and this was a bit painful. It is “small” in the grand scheme of things, but definitely had us pause, heh.

        Appreciate the support, man.

        • Kevin says:

          Unearthed another handle for the perps… Methinks… Los Amateurs doth protest too much yes no? Regardless, want to go on record saying
          – done business with EF b4
          – would definitely do business with them again
          – in my opinion sharing this escapade with us all was pretty much an act of public service.

    • River says:

      Your comment is ridiculous. The scammers SUE them? I think it would be wonderful if they tried – then charges could be brought against them for credit card fraud in Canada. Besides, if you leave your information publicly all over the internet as these jerks did then it’s your own fault if someone accesses your accounts.

      It’s nice to see a company that is as honest and upfront about their business as empire flippers is. Many companies would bury something like this under the rug and never even mention it.

      Your comment makes me think that you’re in league with the scammers.

      • Justin Cooke says:

        Thanks, River.

        We could have just kept quite about it and moved on. (In fact, a good friend/peer recommended we do just that) It’s not how we roll, though. Hoping that by posting this publicly it helps others that find themselves in a similar situation.

    • Reader says:

      LOL. The scammers goign to court? Um yeah I see that happening. Its great what they did. Fuckign scammers like this that’s the least they should get. Some more severe stuff would work better for scum like this. Glad their ugly faces have been exposed.

      Yes they could sue them in Russia…. very promising given the legal system there…..

      This is just with any other crime once you are 100% sure (say DNA) then you deserve any punishment that goes along with the severity of your crime. These losers scammed other people out of money and bet you that’s not a one-time thing so by exposing them they may have helped other people. All in all I don’t care what the business name is etc but applaud to what they did.

    • Michael says:

      Re: Amateurs:

      Some things are just over some people’s head. YOU go and lose $25K with less than zero chance of getting it back then see how you would want to respond. Just so you know, businesses aren’t robots they are actually run by and employ real people.

    • Dan Andrews says:

      This is precisely what serious business people want to see. “Scammers” is hardly the word, these guys are straight thieves the the EF guys stood up and ate it without question to protect their customers, and then came here and entertained / educated us all. Class act.

  • Ryan says:

    So you’re not taking credit cards any more because of one jerk?

    That sucks…

    • Justin Cooke says:

      I hear you, Ryan, but it was the best way to protect ourselves (AND our customers) long-term.

      We hadn’t had any major problems up until this point, but now the cat’s out of the bag and we can’t go back.

  • Drew says:

    Looks like he’s spending the summer in Hawaii with your $5k and then heading to the west coast :

  • William says:

    I get emails with links to blog posts all the time. Who doesn’t? I click on the link, begin reading the post, start skimming, and I’m usually done within seconds because I lose interest. Today, I clicked on the link, began reading and noticed I wasn’t skimming. I looked over at the scroll bar on the right of my screen and realized, “Damn, this is a long post.”. It took a long time to read but it was so worth it. Justin, you and your team are studs. It’s so easy to just do nothing in a situation like this. I’m involved in a somewhat similar situation locally with a car dealership. I have been motivated by this post to do something about it. Thanks for the story and good luck to you.

    • Ghufran says:

      Had the same experience as you, read the whole thing.

      Great story Justin, in most cases i condemn revenge, however this definitely got me thinking. Not sure if you did the right thing or not, but i’m glad the outcome turned out to be good.

      Wish you all the best in the upcoming months and hope removing payment options other than wire doesn’t affect your business.

      Best regards

      • Justin Cooke says:

        Thanks, Ghufran,

        I was a bit conflicted about it too, honestly. I’m hoping that us sharing our experiences will help others as they build their businesses and run into issues like this. That’s what drove the decision…

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, William!

      Sorry to hear you’re having your own struggles with the car dealership – I hope you can get those resolved.

      Appreciate the well-wishes.

  • Harry says:

    I really wish there is a blacklist system setup for this business. I purchased 2 websites from Flippa that didn’t have earnings as promised (no earnings at all) and I continued to see “very similar” websites up there for sale under different account names.

    My escalation to Flippa turned out to be transactions are owned by seller/buyer, they are only responsible for the listing.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Flippa remains a neutral 3rd party in the transactions. They don’t vet the sites to ensure the accuracy of the information, but they do share info to help you make the buying decision.

      Ultimately, verifying the information from the site/seller is ALWAYS up to the buyer – even with us. While we do vet our listings, you’re still responsible for your own due diligence. (And it can be a jungle out there)

  • Yaro Park says:

    This is sucks guys!
    Maybe through emails you guys figured out the credit card was stolen, but it might be just some friend gave the credit card, or they lived before in Canada.

    Also I am Russian too (living in USA) and if you guys need some help, just email to me.

    About the last name: Usually when you get international passport in Russia then they will translate your last name and always it’s not like Russians think it will be. For example: Smolencev – this how people will translate the last name in Russia, but Smolentcev – this how passport control will translate the last name.

    And just one call to home land security and they won’t get anything.

    Btw. Isn’t it illegal to hack access to their gmail accounts?? 🙂


    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Yaro,

      It was three separate credit cards, three separate names, from three separate women. I guess it’s possible they were all friends, but I doubt it. I can’t say I’m 100% confident there, but my solid guess here is the cards were stolen.

      That makes sense about the last name. Other comments/emails have pointed out his US visa was approved and that he was putting his flight details to the US on social media.

      All of the information shared here (aside from the password) was through publicly available information.

      • Yaro Park says:

        I see.
        If you guys need any help with translating Russian and so on, just email to me.

        And I think go through Escrow with bank wire transaction is better. I bought a website below $2k through flippa with escrow and extra cost was a good piece of security.

    • Mark Dixon says:

      I agree with Yaro. Contact Homeland Security and have these dirt bags flagged. If they are already in the US they will most likely be deported for committing fraud. May as well give it a shot.

      • Justin Cooke says:

        We’re in contact now, Mark. Hoping something comes of it. We don’t have any intention to sue them, but wouldn’t mind causing problems with Vlad’s US visa.

        • Yaro Park says:

          It’s kinda sad I think that the lawyers can cost almost the same or more than the scam. :/
          US lawyers for sure getting big bank for this kinda cases.
          Check lawyers in other countries around you and also ask your friends, subscribes and follower. Without doubt you will get good deal.

  • dondop says:

    Erhm, one little concern though. While I can understand the urge to gather and use information to trace back who you’re dealing with. You’re basically saying here that if there’s a dispute with a customer, scam or otherwise, you’re not feeling too bad of using gathered privacy information like Google accounts and such to gain unauthorized access into those (social) services. As tempting as it is, I find it strange that the attorney on retainer didn’t object (or that part is missing in the article). Don’t get me wrong, I honestly don’t care if it hurt the scammers’ their feelings. But it’s kinda taking justice in your own hands, you’re still not above the law yourself, right?

    • Justin Cooke says:

      All of the information (aside from the password) shared in this article including images, email addresses, etc. was publicly gathered.

      I’m NOT saying that any dispute is worthy of this, BTW. Far from it. In almost any dispute we’d handle it privately.

      But – this was clear-cut theft/fraud. There’s not even a question as to whether these guys did it or not. As this is across international borders there’s no resolution here, either. Nobody we can really take this up with.

      We did discuss this article with our attorney before publishing.

      All that being said, I hear what you’re saying. It does bring into QUESTION in what instances we’d do this, but we’re pretty reasonable. Anyone who knows us, has done business with us, etc. can attest to that.

    • Michael says:

      You’ve really got to be kidding, right? Did you even read what Justin wrote. This was NOT a common business dispute.

  • Vladimir says:

    Hey Guys,

    I feel you. I have been scammed in Moscow by my ex partner.

    Here is his VK page (Facebook of Russia)

    His last post

    “Dreams come true. Going to Hawaii and then from West coast all the way to New York”

    Stay safe.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Vlad!

      So, I probably should have messaged you privately about this, but in our initial research, it really looked like you!

      We know your history, locations, etc. and were really worried this was you. (Or at least around you) Especially with your name attached to BT’s site. We did some digging and saw that wasn’t the case. (Whew)

      We should talk, man. You know the guy? That’s definitely him…

  • Craig says:

    That is a crazy story. You see this stuff happen a lot in many industries, where ever there’s profit to be made, there’s always scammers ready to mess it all up for everyone. It just stinks because those people who play by the rules end up getting hurt, it’s almost never the scammers. I am happy to see a (somewhat) happy ending to the story where the losses are mostly recouped and the scammer is exposed for all the world to see. Looking forward to a follow up post!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Craig.

      The fact that we got the sites back was simply amazing. Really appreciate Nate doing that and we’ll be happy to pay him back his costs when the sites sell so he’s not stuck holding the bag.

  • DS says:

    1. Listen to your customers—especially when they’re trying to help you.

    Why don’t you guys accept bitcoin payments via Bitpay for example (next day settlement to your bank at 0% fee) and NO CHARGEBACK RISK whatsoever.

    We webmasters are a fairly literate bunch and know how to use bitcoin (or at least most of us heard of it)

    It would not solve your problems with Paypal and Credit Cards where fraud is endemic but you could at least have an alternate option where you know no fraud or chargebacks can occur, once the coins are sent they are sent.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      We’re definitely on the same page here.

      We DO take bitcoin for both deposits AND website purchases. We’ve haven’t announced the fact, really, but we’ll be getting this added to the site and will be more public about it soon.

    • Chris says:

      If I have $1000 in my bank account, I want to send it to you using bitcoin, when you convert the bitcoin back into dollars and it settles in your account do you receive exactly $1000 or do you lose on converting it into bitcoin and back out again? and is the whole process from my bank account into bitcoin and back into your bank account instant like a wire transfer/paypal/credit card?

      • Justin Cooke says:

        Hey Chris,

        If you pay the deposit in bitcoin, we hold it in bitcoin indefinitely. (Without converting) If/when you decide to purchase the site, you’ll send the full amount of bitcoin required for that day and we instantly convert to USD.

        There will be a few minutes here and there and maybe a slight difference in USD value, but not much. Over the long haul for us….some goes up, some goes down, etc.

  • Martins says:

    Smolentcev is how his last name is transcribed from cyrillic in passport/drivers license. Smolentsev is how it is pronounced.

    In cyrillic letter “c” is pronounced “s” like in “sun”. Basically latin “s” is written “c” in cyrilllic.

  • Agni says:

    I am domain/ website seller , Is is now safe for sellers & buyers?
    Thanks for informing about this culprit , I will share whole story on my blog and facebook pages.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Agni,

      No problems for buyers/sellers. It was always us that were holding the bag on this.

      It was a small(ish) amount of money in the grand scheme of things..just a painful pill to swallow.

  • Dianne Hall says:

    Geez… what a read Justin. Besides being well written that was almost full circle. Pity there is nothing you can do in calling immigration USA or homeland security or something like that to stop their little visit. I also wonder why that credit card purchase even went through if it was a stolen card.. you would think it would have been cancelled by the owner. I get these emails at least a few times a week with people wanting to book flights to Australia from Canada or the USA and fly with British Airways. The funny thing is that they never ask for a stopover which is the only reason you would fly that long way around from those areas. I once called British Airways and asked them if they had Business Class seats booked for the 5 people and they had. Some other travel agent had fallen for it and was probably going to be out about 60 grand.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Dianne,

      Interestingly enough, Vlad has been kind enough to post his flight details online. It looks like he’ll be flying through Honolulu in transit to the mainland US.

      Will see what I can do about that…

  • Adi says:

    Its a small world, I was in Koh Samui Last month(apparently Vladislav was travelling there at the same time)
    Glad they are exposed.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Definitely a small world, Adi!

      I’ll be heading there in the next couple of months myself and have friends in Chiang Mai that were there when he was there.

  • Amir says:

    Thanks for sharing this story in details 🙂

    Did you consider suing these guys in Russia? Wouldn’t a Russian lawyer be able to help you with filling a complaint inside the country?

    Also, please have this article translated in Russian (visit Fiverr). Because their compatriots will be able to read this article easily 🙂

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Amir,

      Suing them in Russia isn’t something we’ve really considered, although contacting the local authorities is probably something we’ll do.

      Even if we were to win the case against them in Russia, the mind-space lost in trying to deal with that over the long-haul just isn’t worth it, IMO.

      We’re better off moving forward than getting caught up with this crap over even more months.

      Good idea on getting this translated to Russian though, heh.

  • SC says:

    Hello Staff at EF:

    I’m glad to see you are working very hard to protect your customers and your sellers from needless harm.

    It is very sad to see that this person has acted on a very poor thought to run a scam against your work here. I hope they regret their actions completely.

    I understand how your feelings were deeply hurt and you were embarrassed by this shameful act, but it is my hope that you understand : adding another wrong will not help – getting revenge is no better.

    “Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath [of God]: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord.”

    I hope this encourages you, and that you can forgive this person for what they did. For if you forgive, you will be forgiven your sins.

    Best wishes,

  • Frank P says:

    An epic journey, thanks for sharing it! That Nate Kay sounds like a class act.

  • Matt says:

    What a bunch of d bags. Glad you guys caught and outed them.

  • Sandy says:

    Isn’t going through someone elses email illegal?

    Besides that question, you should go after them legally in the US. Make sure they never get a visa 🙂

    • Justin Cooke says:

      I’m not sure, Sandy. None of us are in the US, though.

      Wasn’t worth the cost of litigation in the US, according to our lawyer. Will definitely be reporting them to the US, though – hopefully that US visa gets denied, heh.

  • James Parrett says:

    So these guys only made 5k from what seems like a fair bit of scamming work invloved, and now they have their names and faces permanently linked online to this. Ouch.
    Great post.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      That’s right – doesn’t really seem worth the hassle/risk, eh? Much easier to check out Niche Pursuits, SPI, etc. and find out how to build profitable sites from scratch. More money, less risk/hassle.

      Thanks, man.

  • Jeff says:

    I had followed your link from the DC because this sounded like an interesting story, but before I could get to reading it I realized my own gmail (and paypal+hosting) was hacked and they tried to take 11k from me. It sucks.

    Im glad you guys were able to figure out what was going on and how far the damage spread quickly, and that in the end everything worked out OK so far – it’s why we put time and energy into maintaining relationships, right?

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Wow, are you kidding me, Doug? Did they actually get the $11K or was it a near-miss? Sucks man…we definitely feel your pain.

      The $25K was rough, but the time, hassle, and mind-share that went into this AFTER the scam happened was probably even more costly, TBH.

      Amazed we got the sites back. Nate’s a pretty cool cat!

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