Every month or so I get an email attempting to scam me out of some money. Yes, as with just about everything, scammers target photographers and even couples planning a wedding. If there is an opportunity out there, someone is working hard at taking advantage of that opportunity.
The emails usually have a familiar theme to them. They are looking to book me for some event; sometimes it’s a wedding. Lately, it’s been family reunion inquiries. A couple of weeks ago I got one for a birthday party in Oakhurst. This person, who lived in England, was arranging a party for some relative of his. They even gave me an address in Oakhurst where this party was to take place. But, the entire email has some of the hallmarks listed below.
They almost always begin by asking me if I photograph events, and they all usually end with do I take credit cards. They will ask some opened-ended questions, the event is “near me” or “close by my location,” and they will just give the month that the event is taking place, not an exact date. They want to through a wide net. If they lock me down to a specific date right away and I am booked, I am gone.
If I respond back by asking the date, they will reply a couple of dates, then begin to tell me how they will pay me. They will almost always set the terms; this is also a red flag. Most customers will ask how I handle deposits etc not tell me, plus the wording is often a little odd for the American language.
With these red flags, it’s obvious this is not a legit inquiry and I just forget about it. I have, on a couple of occasions gone a little future. Several years ago I had one who gave me an address in Visalia where the wedding was going to take place. This sounded a little more legit. But there were still some things that caused those red flags; 1. they could not talk to me over the phone because they were deft so it all had to be by email. 2. When I looked up the address on google, it was obviously not a place that someone would have a wedding. In the end, they told me their uncle was going to send a check that was for double what my fee was going to be and that I should use the extra to pay the wedding coordinator, who was, of course, not a local person. I was to deposit the cashier’s check, then send them the extra money, of course, keeping a little extra for my troubles. (All before the cashier’s check bounced of course.) Oh no, emails over.
I had a good friend of mine, a photographer who has since passed away, go all-in with one of these people. He knew from the beginning that this was a scam, but he wanted to mess with them. He got them to send him phony cashier’s checks and of course he was supposed to deposit them and then send them money back, but he just let them sit on his desk. Haha. They kept inquiring, have you chased them yet? have you cashed them yet?
Scams can also occur with couples getting married. Here the scammers try to get you to book non-existing services. Say a florist, a photographer, or even get them to pay for, or put a large deposit on a wedding dress that never gets delivered, or if it does, it’s not the quality they had ordered. If there is big money involved, and in weddings, there is, then there are people out there who are looking to scam you out of it.
How do you avoid getting scammed? Usually, it’s fairly evident that this is not legit. The wording is off, or the offer is just too good to believe. But, if you have received an email that you want to look into, ask to meet the person. Do they have a storefront (photographer, florist, dress shop) if not, can you go to their home? Ask for references, ask friends, check on social media, and more importantly, do they have a website and do they have their physical address on the site. If so check it out on google. If the website doesn’t show a physical address, that can be a red flag. Usually, if they have no internet presence or just a Facebook page, that can mean that they have not been in business very long and maybe gone by the time your wedding rolls around.
Most of this advice is just common sense. But scammers are good at what they do. That is their job. They sit at the computer all day and try to find those few people who are ready to bite and then work them out of their money.
Update; June 2, 2019
This week I received two new scams. The first came as a referral from a friend of mine so it appeared a little more legit. turns out, it was a referral because the friend was not available for the date and simply gave the scammer my name, not realizing at the first email stage that it was a scam. I’ll just list out the emails. I am going to hide the name the scammer used because I am fairly certain that either they hacked the guy’s email address or used his photo as an avatar. We’ll just call him Joseph B.
the first email from Joseph B: Good day my wedding is coming up on the 15th of June we like was your availability on that day and what are the packages you do offer got a referral from _________.
Just a couple red flags but for the most part, not big ones. Starts out with ‘Good day” interesting choice of words, then the broken English, “June we like was your” and “what are the packages you do offer” but could be just poor typing skills.
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. We are available for June 15th, Here is a link to our websites packages and prices page. Gives you all the details as to what we have to offer.
The second one came from the Knot wedding site, or to be more precise, from someone on the knot. here it is.