There is a rampant scam that baffles me.
Not because it’s a scam in and of itself, but that it’s still going around.
Do you know what that means?
People are falling for it.
The scammers are preying on vulnerable, desperate portrait photographers who will do almost anything to book a gig. The promise of a quick, easy booking is such a draw, that the scammers have been able to perpetuate this for years now. Almost weekly, a photographer is posting online about a ‘suspicious’ inquiry, but that she/he is willing to give them a chance because ‘maybe it’s legit! They mentioned a wedding venue and a date!’
I call this the ‘Family Reunion Credit Card’ scam.
If you are a portrait or wedding photographer and like keeping your money in your bank account, read up!
Here is what the scam looks like:
These inquiries come most often in the form of text messages, but occasionally as emails or even phone calls.
Most of the time these inquiries are for ‘family reunions’, but you may also see them as weddings with venues and actual dates.
Seems so harmless, right? How could they possibly work the scam angle out of this?
For one, a quick call to the wedding venue will likely confirm that no such wedding is booked there. That should be a red flag, but some photographers will continue to engage with these inquiries, assuming they were ‘given the wrong date‘ and perhaps the inquiry meant for 2018, not 2017.
The text for these scams follows a fairly predictable pattern, regardless of who sent it:
Date of ‘event’
Intent ‘need photos’
Then the kicker. This is the piece that should be the biggest red flag of all:
“Do you accept credit cards?”
Here is how the scam works:
After securing the ‘booking’, perhaps even offering dates, times, locations, and sometimes even a signed contract, the scammer will have used techniques to continue making the photographer believe that they are doing something legitimate. They even offer up the entire balance of the invoice up front (instead of just the required retainer).
Then comes the big hit. They say something along these lines:
“Hi. We hired a florist/caterer/DJ for the wedding/reunion but they do not accept credit cards. We would like to pay you the full amount of their commission plus yours, and then we would like to have you send them a money order or cashiers check.”
STOP FALLING FOR THIS!!!! This is the scam.
You accept a credit card transaction for what could be $$ thousands, or more. You then write a check or worse, send a money order/cashiers check to their ‘florist’.
Spoiler alert, the ‘florist’ is actually the scammer.
They cash the check immediately, you never hear from them again. You soon find out that the credit card transaction was done on a stolen or fake credit card; the bank fully rescinds the payment to your account, but you’ve already withdrawn funds to pay the ‘florist’.
That means, the money was never yours and never actually existed. Because you wrote the check or made a withdrawal for a cashiers check, the liability is on you, not the bank. Your bank account takes the hit – and you are out at least the amount of the check you wrote to the florist, if not more for bounced check fees.
Ouch.That is money you will never see again.
I know this is a busy industry. I know that it can be very difficult to stand out and that solid inquiries who are ready and willing to book are a true gem. Do not fall for this! There is a big difference between this, and a client who is able to make a personal connection with you and can share real facts about their event.
It is one thing for somebody to ask if you take credit cards, it’s another to do it in a way that implies that the credit card is the only way you may be worth their time.
I do not care how many times this text/email pops up for people, it will never, ever be real. It is not worth losing your livelihood to experiment with the possibility that these could be legitimate gigs.
These scams all look suspiciously the same.
One last note, try not to engage. By engaging, or even just replying to tell them to bug off, you indicate that you are a warm body willing to chat with them.
This opens you up as a potential target for other scams, and just as bad, it encourages the scammers to keep going and try other photographers.
Engaging scammers can actually be fun and humorous, yes, but it doesn’t do much at all to stop them. It’s not worth wasting your time, or opening up your business and phone number for them to share with other scammers looking to play a different angle.
I hope this helps save you some money. Now go out there and rock your day! 🙂