Don’t get Scammed!
A prospective client got in touch with me recently, and it was instantly fishy. First, I am going to tell you what raised red flags for me, so when you read the emails, you will be able to keep yourself out of the same jam.
Do They Exist? Whenever a new client contacts me, I run a quick background check on wink.com, a scary-good people search. No results for the client.
Bad English. Maybe it’s just me, but one of the first things that tips me off that an email is spam is the bad grammar. This “client’s” emails were written the same way. It’s not something to judge someone on alone, but it’s something to keep in your mind when it shows up.
The most important thing you can do to avoid getting scammed is to understand that money only flows in one direction: from customers to vendors. If they want to give you a check for a greater amount than you ask and have you refund the difference, that’s a red flag. Here’s what they are doing: You take a check from them and deposit it, and then cut them the refund check. Your check works, but theirs bounces. You eat the difference, and they take your money and run.
Here’s how it went down:
From: address removed
Subject: I need ur service as my wedding photographer on the 17th Febuary 2008
Date: December 23, 2007 12:57:51 PM EST
Seasons greetings, my friend told me about ur photos and, i saw ur advert on the site with a nice and lovely wedding pics. i’d like to let you know that i’m interested in having ur service as my wedding photographer in my forth coming wedding on the 17th Febuary 2008.
I’m Benita Hopking i’m a model, i live in California with my mum. But Presently am in essex london on a modelling contract which i hope to be back home soon.but my fiance lives in Atlanta, GA, USA and that the place our wedding is going to hold. It could have been good enough to hear from you,if you will be available as ny wedding photographer on 17th Febuary 2008, if yes kindly mail me back with the ur pricelist immediately so as to proceed…..i could have making this a phone order but there is a little problem with the network of the state so bear with me in a couple of days.
Thanks and hope to hear from you soon.
Have a nice and wonderfull day ahead.
So far, no big deal. I will just post the body of the emails, now. I reply with:
First of all, congratulations, Ms. Hopking!
February 17th 2008 is not yet booked. I look forward to speaking with you on the telephone when you come back from overseas. Also, feel free to have your fiancee call me with any questions in the meantime.
You can read more about my approach here, about my packages here, and about my print pricing here. What you may not draw from that information, though, is the absolute passion with which I approach my photography. I’m not going to bore you with a lot of flowery language. I am a happily married man, and I truly love love. I shoot weddings because they are happy, everyone looks their best and is having a good time, and those sorts of moments are rare in every other environment.
Familiarity is very important to me. The better I know you, the better my pictures are. This is why I include a free engagement session. It serves three purposes:
1) You get some great pictures to send out with your announcements and invitations.
2) You also get some private coaching from me on how to ‘take good pictures’ and become comfortable in front of the camera. Apply these simple techniques on your wedding day, and my pictures will be that much better.
3) I learn how to take flattering pictures of you. I study the images we shoot at the engagement sessions, learn which angles are best for you, and then utilize them on the Big Day.
The engagement session is, therefore, a great value to you and to me. Unlike most photographers, I do not offer strict print packages. I offer print credits with packages so you can pick out which print sizes you want (I do offer suggestions if you’re feeling overwhelmed!). This credit is also good towards your wedding album choice.
Feel free to drop me a line at your leisure. I would enjoy learning more about your wedding and your soon-to-be new husband! Even if you don’t choose me as your wedding photographer, I am happy to provide guidance and information for your decision-making process. I look forward to hearing from you!
joie de vie photography
Here, she dangles the plum of the tabloid exposure:
Thanks for the mail, i do apprecaite ur switf response.I just mailed my wedding i just finished a discusing with my wedding planner and we have reached agreement that you will be taking the contract.
As for the payment you dont have a problem with that cos i will be making payment via check address and mailed to you, you can go on and provide me the name you want on the check and the address you want it mailed to and ur contact phone number.
As for the wedding venue, it will be mailed to you as the date unfolds.
I will be making part payment for now just to keep the date secured and later sending you the remaining balance before the Feb 17, 2008 .
I will make am arrangement where you will meet with my wedding planner and the necessary document will be signed and the remaining balanced will be payed as the date unfolds any other necessary information will be passed on and also i want you to feel free to ask my wedding any information required.
I would also enjoin you to put in ur best cos most of the pics will be on a Celebrety magazine here in London, UK.
Like i told you earlier on, i could have making this a phone order but there is a little problem with the network of this residential area so bear with me in a couple of days.
Have a nice and lovely weekend.
Great! Thanks! To book me for the date, it’s $500 non-refundable. A check is fine. You can make it out and send it to:
I need to have the balance paid two weeks before the wedding date. My phone number is 404-492-9699, and it rings both my business and cell phone. Make sure your wedding planner knows that, too!
I look forward to discussing the wedding day Game Plan, shooting your engagement portraits, and all the other fun stuff! Getting married is a fun ride (my wife and I tied the knot in September!).
Feel free to pass my information along to your planner, and let he or she know that I am happy to answer any questions.
Take care and thanks again,
joie de vie photography
Thanks for the address and thanks for not been that uncomfortable rendering ur service to me without meeting me in person. I will like us to carry on with trust and understanding. I’ve got a little problem here and will be glad if you can do me this favour. My company called me today from the state informing me that your 50% deposit payment has been ready but remain to be mail to your company address. Mind you, a payment of $3500 which happen to be my travel allowance last month has been issue out in your name from my fiancee which you just need deduct your own 50% deposit at of the money and help us to send the remaining amount to our wedding planner in united kingdom. Sorry for not inform you about this before, I guess things will work out as well. Hope we can count on you about the payment and your service.
Hope to read from you soon,
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year In advance.
I’m sorry, Benita, but I cannot pass funds around like that. Please just send a check for only $500 to the address I gave you before:
I would prefer to just book the date, and then carry on with our planning when you get back to the states.
joie de vie photography
Compliment of the season and Thanks for the mail and also ur understanding, i do appreciate it.
I want you to remove $1500 as ur deposit for now and when my wedding planner is arround, he will pay the remaining balance before the wedding day. My fiancee would have done this but he is out on vacation and the check that is coming is issued out from my Bank in USA so you dont need to be scared of anything. Here is my wedding planner Phone number, ple feel free to call him and also ask him question.
I will also keep you poster when likely the payment will be delivered with tracking number.
I’m sorry, Benita.
There may be a language barrier issue. I will call your wedding planner on Monday. Please do not send me any money until I speak with him. As per my policy, I cannot accept or deposit any checks above and beyond the $500 deposit.
I look forward to working together!
joie de vie photography
And that’s the last I heard from her. Her wedding planner’s number, obviously, did not work, either. If something smells fishy, it probably is. So keep on your toes and you won’t get scammed either!
EDIT: Thanks for all the awesome comments and phone calls(!) about this post! I’m glad I’ve ruined this scammer’s day.