Beware of this photography scam!

For the past year I have been receiving emails of fraudulent nature I feel I need to inform fellow photographers about, please beware of this photography scam.

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I believe I received four in the past 12 months and although I never fell for it, I did reply to the initial email which felt totally legitimate, but eventually realised early enough it actually wasn’t.

Scammers are increasingly ingenious these days and long gone are the days of the Nigerian prince in exile trying to transfer his millions to your bank account to then proceed and empty that said bank account of your own millions.

The reason this latest scam may be a danger to photographers is that it’s quite specific, well written and targets a group (photographers) in need of job opportunities, so in a way fairly vulnerable.

Let’s face it, most photographers need paid work so any email asking for your availability for a photography commission will undeniably attract one’s attention. Once your guard is down, through a well-crafted email that feels way too personal to be fake, boom… you’re in danger of falling for it.

What are the steps to getting scammed?

1 – You will receive and personalised email which looks nothing like a copy/paste job, using your first name which helps remove suspicion. That email will ask if you are available for a photo shoot (it could be a wedding, birthday etc…) near your location which the scammer will have researched thoroughly and for a date on the calendar distant enough that it is likely you will be available. All the ingredients to invite a reply from you. They also will ask for a quote.

2- You reply and confirm your fee and availability.

3- The scammer will write back in above-than-average English (for a scammer anyway) that the fee is within their budget, they are pleased you are available and would like to proceed

4- They will then take it up a notch and ask you something along these lines (with slight variations between scammers) THIS IS WHAT RINGS ALARM BELLS:

Scammer: Hi Nick,

Thanks for the reply

The total cost for 3 days of £4500 is okay with us.

I would be on a short visit soon to Paris. So, in order to fully secure the booking before I leave, I would send you my credit card details for a deposit payment of £4000.
I also wish to inform you that I contacted an agent who will also assist us during our vacation and equally help handle flight logistics and accommodation on our behalf. The agent would assist us during the event. We have also decided to make a deposit payment to him so he can as well as secure our flights and other logistics. His details would be sent to you as soon as we have confirmed this arrangement.
I will send you my credit card details to charge the total amount of £8500. This amount would include the deposit for your services and £4500 for the agent for our flights and accommodation expenses. You are to make the charges for the agent because he has no credit card facility and I can't disclose my credit card details to more than one person as the whole funds for this event has been credited into the credit card.
So, I believe you have a credit card charging facility in your office?
I would send the card details and then authorize you to charge the total amount of £8,500 plus taxes and bank charges from the card. Once the fund has been credited into your account, you deduct the £4,000 as deposit for your services while you forward the £4,500 to the agent.
His details shall be sent to you as soon as you confirm the funds in your account.
Please kindly confirm that the arrangement is OK with you so we can proceed with the booking properly.
I would also need you to prepare all invoice and contract in my name.”

 

Of course some of you may say this is an obvious scam but I feel being so specific to our industry and clearly written by an English speaker, it still represents a real risk.

Another example, I received this week:

 

Scammer: I need a photographer for my daughter sweet 16 birthday celebration which will be on the 30th of March here in town please let me know if you are available that day..    

Me: What town are we referring to? Sherborne?

 I should be free but just confirm location kindly.

Scammer: Thank you for the response,

I will like you to work on an estimate for my daughters sweet 16 birthday bash.

Duration: 4 hours photo coverage from 4pm - 8pm of both candid and group/posed photos

Location: Bradford Road, SHERBORNE, Dorset

Guest : 70-80 people

I wait for your reply with an estimate so we can move forward...

 

Do you see what they did here? Kept the location “in town” undisclosed, to which I asked if near Sherborne (where I am based), they then probably Googled a fake address in this location making me think they were legitimate…. That is until they used pretty much the same line as above:

 

Scammer: Great Nicholas your estimated cost for the package is fine with me and even below my original budget ... and i am also ready to make full payment upfront and also secure that date and time...

I will also need a favor (OF COURSE YOU DO MOTHERF*CKER!) i am recovering from a partial stroke i had last year and it had really limited my mobility....so every other thing is been handled by this local event planner from church so i will be giving you my credit card to charge for your total cost of £800 for photography service plus an additional £2,500 which you will help me give to the event planner when the funds clears and is available to you...he does not have the facilities to accept credit card payment yet i would have paid him separately....please i really need your help to make this happen for me..

I will also be taking full responsibility for the additional credit card processing charges for the total transaction so you will have no form shortage... all you will need to do when i give you my credit card details is charge for the total of £3,300 plus the sales tax and when the funds clears and is available you will take out your full payment and help me deposit the £2,500 to the event guys so he can complete some other arraignments to make this event a success, i hope you understand.

I also authorize you to charge an extra £50 as ur tip/gst

please let me know if this is something you can help me with so we can proceed and get everything set for that day...

I will wait for your reply so we can move forward..

 

 

I feel this is really a pretty messed-up and somehow clever scam that some slightly trusting photographer will eventually fall for.

If you agree to the go ahead, this fake client will request to pay you with a (stolen) credit card VERY QUICKLY. Once you transfer money to the third party the original card payment will be charged back / reversed, you lose the money and of course contact with the scammer.

I hope this article will help avoid this happening to you and I encourage you to share it online to make as many people aware as possible, we’re a community and need to help each other out.

Have you had a similar experience? What other photography scams specific to photography have you encountered? Drop a comment and help others by making them aware.

Nico