If you have a strong online presence or pay to market your photography business, bogus leads can bombard your inbox. Atlanta photographer Katie Coon received one recently.
An article published by Fox 5 Atlanta reported the story which would be familiar to many of us photographers: a new lead comes in, providing what sounds at first like a standard wedding, event, or portrait shoot. However the client doesn't want to, or apparently cannot, speak on the phone.
According to Coon, she received a text inquiry for a birthday party shoot and the following day, without as much as a phone chat, a check for $3,200 (scammers usually try to avoid phone conversations, as most of them are overseas, and their poor English or accent can raise suspicion).
Although the "I can't talk" excuse is common with scammers, do keep in mind that there could be another legitimate reason a client may not be able to speak on the phone, the main one being a hearing impairment. In these situations I've always been given a heads up from the client that this is why they aren't taking calls.
After sending the check — of course, fraudulent and worthless — the thief's next move was to tell the photographer the event was canceled and the $3,200 should be returned.
The con works by the photographer sending legitimate funds to the scammer before discovering that the scammer’s check has bounced. Now the photographer has been conned, in this case for $3,200.
Another red flag that Coon notes is the scammer's quick display of anger when the victim is slow to take the bait. Having encountered several scammers myself, I think this behavior involves more than just a defective personality. The anger and lashing out is a form of manipulation. Scammers prey on those who are weak-willed, and showing anger is a sure-fire way to get meek people to bend to your will.
I've dealt with this exact same con trick before. Years ago a scammer sent a series of emails each day after mailing me a check, each one more hostile than the last. Checking my email one morning, I had a good laugh seeing that the email subject had gone from "please send moneys immediately" to "GET ME MONEY NOW OR I CALL FBI.”
If you've been in the photography business long enough, this might not be news to you. But there will always be enough novice photographers that this scam keeps providing occasional victims.
Let's do our part to beat the scammers by sharing Coons’ story. And please share your own experiences and "red flags" in the comments below.
Photo by Maklay62 via Pixabay.