September 25, 2017

New scam targeting photographers has arrived with a vengeance – Beware!

Has anyone else, business owner or otherwise, seen an uptick in the number of scams popping up lately?    Phone calls, emails, and even texts now, arrive almost on a daily basis.  I don’t know if other industries are the same, but I am absolutely over it.  A new scam targeting photographers has arrived with a vengeance, and it takes every ounce of me not to unleash my inner frustrations on these horrible trolls, who would, and probably have, cheated well meaning but naive business owners out of thousands or hard earned dollars.  I’ll admit, I almost fell for the latest, and I’ll tell you how below.

First, a little background on a couple of the most tiresome photographer scams that have been circulating the past few years.

Wedding Photographer Scam

I haven’t personally been contacted about this one for at least a year, so enough warnings must have gone out where it stopped being as effective (or I cussed them out/wasted their time enough that they took me off their list).

Generally, here is what they sounded like:

“Hi this is {fake, generic American name} how are you doing, my {relative/friend} is having a wedding soon in XX city (a lot of times, one that isn’t even close), and i want to know if you are available for taking photos at the event.  Let me know what dates you are available in XX month (usually within a month or two). Do you take credit card?”

This message is either followed by one of two things; either they have a disability and cannot speak on the phone, demanding a text or email reply, or they live out of the country, and cannot speak.   View the red flags to look out for later on in this post.

Family Photographer Scam

This scam has definitely been more recent, and I still get them, although not as recent as I was.  At one point, it was at least 2-3 per week.   Mostly, this one comes through text.    Here is a recent text I received:

new scam targeting photographers has arrived with a vengeance

Before I go into the newest photographer scam email, here are a few red flags to look out for with these previous two:

  • Broken english!  These scammers do not operate out of the USA, so oftentimes, their english is atrocious.
  • No definite date set, and wanting to know when the photographer is available (odd for a wedding or family reunion, don’t you think?)
  • The date range is extremely close (within 1-2 months usually)
  • The event location either isn’t set, or could be somewhere quite far away
  • They ask if you accept credit card
  • They will tell you in another text that they require you to pay other vendors
  • They cannot speak over the phone because they either have a disability, are in the hospital, or are out of the country
  • Sometimes, if this comes through in an email, their “name” does not match the email address, OR the email address is extremely random with several numbers
  • Their replies are very vague, and they will skip around questions


NEW!  Commercial/Fashion Photographer scam

Unfortunately, it seems the scammers are getting smarter, as I actually seriously replied to this first email I received last week.  I let my guard down and didn’t acknowledge, at first, the red flags in the initial email.    However, it became all too obvious after a few replies.a new photographer scam has arrived with a vengeance


At first glance, this almost looks like a promising inquiry.  The english isn’t terrible, they are very detailed (unlike the others), and include links that could very well be legitimate .  However, after a few back and forth emails, it became clear, and especially after the magic details came out…that I was to be “responsible” for paying the other vendors.


a new photographer scam has arrived with a vengeance

I imagine they are betting on creating confusion among their victim, with all of the legit sounding details, photography jargon, and links to their “work.”  Unlike the credit card scam, they are also asking for a name for the check, a common Craigslist inspired scam, which likely works similarly to the credit card angle.  (more on that below).  I asked “Abby” several questions over about a week, about how this was all going to work (at this point, I really just wanted to waste “her” time and try to get as much information as I could out of this).  The “vendor” I was to pay was the talent agency….in London, England.  (I’m in Kansas City…)   Even though the agency is real, the agent email she provided me was a generic outlook email, much like hers.    After I insisted on a contract several times, she sent a generic contract that was clearly swiped from the internet, as the details of the shoot were contradictory throughout the entire thing, and she got increasingly angry when I brought up discussing it with my lawyers.  Since I received the first email, I’ve received two others from different people working for various “blogs.”

After about a week of emailing, I think “she” finally caught on to the fact that I was on to her, as I haven’t heard from her since.  Whoops. :)


How is offering to pay me a scam?

The first times I received these, I wondered how in the world asking if I accepted credit cards (or a check), they could be trying to scam me.   According to this article, the author proposes that the most likely theory is in their insistence that you pay the other vendors.  To summarize, this “client” is using stolen credit card information, or a stolen check, to give you for the services.  They pay you with the stolen information, and since this event is happening extremely soon, you need to wire money to the other vendor right away (the other vendor being the actual scammer), before the real CC or bank account holder finds out and puts a stop/dispute on their funds.  Ideally for the scammer, this will happen so fast that you have just sent them money before you find out that the payment was stolen.

With the check scam, it will likely work similarly, with you being overpaid so you can pay the other vendors, and the check will bounce later on.  By “Abby” asking for my name for the check (even though you’d think she’d know it already), she’s fishing for information and my permission to partake in the scam, unbeknownst to me.  I’d likely get a check in the mail, but before cashing it I would be required to wire some of it elsewhere. (aka…to her)

(There may be other ways, which are outlined in the linked article…I would implore you to read it.)


You may wonder how honest people fall for this ridiculousness.  It seems obvious, doesn’t it?  I’ll be honest, the first time I received one of the wedding or family photographer scam emails, I did a double take, as I was really wanting that business; ANY business.  I don’t know how often this actually works on people, but this is the scammer’s job, unfortunately, and they have all day to sit there and sift through databases to find people to try and scam.  Some of it may even be controlled by bots.  Please, do NOT fall for this.  Read the red flags I mentioned, read them again, google these scams if you have to, ask in a Facebook group, whatever you have to do.  It’s much better to be safe than sorry.  If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and these scammers are betting on your need for instant cash, possibly naivety, and wearing you down.

Have you been a victim of one of these scams?  Have you received one that I haven’t mentioned here?  I’d love to know in the comments below!




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