If you ever got a mail asking you to transfer money to a banker until he sends you $2,580,000 from an abandoned inheritance you know you are being phished. (similarly, if they are asking for money so they can send you your “Microsoft lottery Grand Price). It turns out that photographers are being targeted as a group, with a more specific technique. Photographer Neil van Niekerk shares the general technique and a few war stories.
Generally the scheme works like this:
- Potential “customer” makes contact via email and asks for a booking
- Said customer over-pays the photographer with a credit card
- Customer asks for the difference back before said photographer sees a nickel.
- Customer is gone and card bounces.
Here is a typical solicitation mail that Neil shared on his blog:
From: mike steel
Sent: Tuesday, July 08, 2008 12:06 PM
Subject: PHOTOGRAPHER NEEDED
i will like to Make an enquiry Concerning my Wedding Which would be Coming up on the 5th of september 2008 ,i need a Good Photographer/videographer who will be Covering all the event(5 hours).Please let me know if you are Available and if you have facilities to accept Credit Card Payments.
Hope to hear from you in other to know your Prices
Neil shares some of the tell-tales for such a scam:
- Poor use of English (yea, I know this blog has had its English wrong a few times too
- Vague information about the needs of the customer (Usually an unclear venue, not being specific about # of participants, type of event …)
- Details of customer may change over time
- Unwillingness to chat over the phone
Specifically, an almost sure sign of a scam is if the customer is asking you to pay on his behalf and to do so with a Western union transfer.
“Thanks for getting back with the Total Quote, Mailing Address: [ address redacted]. Please Neil I also want you to help me charge another $1,800 for the florist Booked for the Engagement, I’m compensating you with the sum of $250 for the transfer fee and for your efforts.Please note that I would have given the Florist my credit card for him to deduct the funds but was told that he doesn’t have the facility to charge or debit credit cards, which is why I bring my vote of confidence in you and i wouldn’t want you to betray my trust. So I want you to transfer the funds to him ONLY after you have made the charges and the money charged has reflected in your account. Only then can you proceed to make the transfer to the Florist via Western Union Money Transfer
Usually, after the wire is completed, the credit card charge is reversed and the customer gone forever.
Know the tell-tales so you can protect yourself from the scam.
[photo based on art by Winston Wolf]