Friday, April 1, 2011

Don't Fall Victim To a Photography Scam!

It happens more often than we care to admit. There's virtually nothing you can do about it once it happens. Odds are high that you've already been targeted.

I'm talking about scams in the photography industry and in order to not be tricked, you need to understand how you can become an unsuspecting target.

Here's the ploy:
You are contacted, usually via email, by someone posing as the groom or a friend of the couple. They are "making wedding arrangements and found your website and are inquiring about pricing, etc." Once you contact them with your info, they will send a check to reserve the date.

Here's the problem:
In almost all cases, the check is for an amount considerably larger than your required retainer. You are then contacted again via email by the party, asking you to wire the overage to another vendor. Often it's a florist or other service provider, strangely far from your area. You deposit the check, wire the money (immediately, because it's urgent!) only to find out later that the check is fraudulent. You're now out all the money you wired (usually to a foreign address) plus the bank fees for the bad check!

A few years back I had nearly been duped by one of these myself, fortunately realizing what was happening before it was too late. All of the communication listed vendors they would be working with in my area and while I was aware of this type of scam, the individual in the email was well-educated on the industry and the local venues. It seemed completely legit. Then came the email asking me to wire money to their "florist" who just happened to be in Canada. Fortunately, the email came prior to me receiving the check. When the check arrived, I called the issuing bank to validate the account and was told that no such account existed. The check was fake.

Whew! Expensive bullet - dodged!

Here's how to avoid getting scammed:
  1. Don't deal exclusively through email. Make sure to get other contact information such as addresses and phone numbers.
  2. Make sure any payments actually clear before you issue any refunds.
  3. Never, ever forward a payment to another vendor.
  4. If it seems fishy, check it out. Call the bank to verify the check is good.
  5. Any time it seems like easy money or a deal too good to pass up . . . check it out first!
The folks at PhotoShelter recently made a list of other scams targeting photographers. Check it out here:

Hoping this saves you from an expensive mistake,
- David Grupa

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