Beware Craigslist Scammers Hunting for Gullible Wedding Photographers

If you’re a photographer looking for a gig on Craigslist, be careful. As with virtually all the types of “help wanted” listings found on the site, requests for photography services are often used by scammers as a way of luring the naive. Scammers also regularly send out emails to photographers advertising their services.

Here’s how a typical scam might work:

First, you’re introduced to a photography gig that seems perfect for you. The pay is great, and you feel qualified to do everything that’s asked.

The client is friendly, and all the arrangements seem to be moving forward at a fast clip.

However, buried among all the details is the fact that the client wants to pay you up front with a cashiers check. That’s the big red flag. It’s the old Nigerian 419 scam.

Here’s an actual example of a scam email, received recently by by a photographer named Anthony Perlas:

Hello ,

Thanks for the quick response and I’m sorry if my message came in late , i have been busy with other arrangements and i hope you understand .Its really nice reading from you and im glad to hear that you are available for my wedding .

I want you to know that this is a inside wedding and the order of events will mail to you a week before the wedding day but the order events is likely to be pictures first, then the wedding ceremony , and then the reception but let me discuss this with my lady because is our wedding so our two has to make the decision together . I hope you understand my point of view.

I want you to know that we will be taking formal pictures so i will like you to recommend 45minutes or an hour set aside for taking formal pictures because we have large family from both my side and the bride side and friends /co-workers we will want to take pictures with . So it will be easier if we can take the pictures before the ceremony because it will be more relaxed with fewer time constraints and would like you to set up a great “first look” shot of me looking at my bride for the first time on the wedding day.

the wedding date is [REMOVED]th of sept 2012

Basically we need your service starting from 12pm to 6pm .

We are expecting 250 guests i.e 200 adults and 50 children .

And also there will be a table place set for you at the reception , so you don’t need to bring your own food but it will be nice if you can just give me an hint of what kind of food you want us to arrange for you i.e if you are vegetarian or eat all kind of foods .

Further more , there will be special important parts/people at the ceremony or reception that i would want you to take a picture of .I will send the list of the important parts/people to you a week before the wedding day and i want you to know that my wedding is a sleek modern wedding .

I need you to get back to me with your charges and i will be paying you upfront , I just called my uncle who will be in charge of your service fees he told me that your payment will be paid to you via certified check so he has asked me to ask for your full name and physical address with zip code that you want the payment to be send to so as for me to secure your service for my wedding party.

I’m currently on working on off shore and im using impaired device ,so therefore i can only send message via internet or send you an sms from my pinger ..

I will send you the venue address once you agree to everything i stated above and also waiting for the details to issue on the check…

Will be expecting to read back from you with the details I have asked for thanks so much and God bless.


If you were gullible and took the bait, here’s how the rest of the con would play out:

After receiving a substantial cashiers check that mysteriously exceeds what your asking price was — a check that appears to be guaranteed by a bank (i.e. almost as good as cash) — you deposit it and follow the clients instructions on sending the difference back to them.

Once you do so, your bank finally informs you that the check was fake, and therefore failed to clear. At this point, your real money has already been shipped off to the scammer, and you might even be held responsible for the fraudulent check.

Game over. You lose.

An actual fake cashiers check sent by a Craigslist scammer

If you know about these scams, you’re unlikely to fall victim to one of them. The reason is because they’re designed by the scammers to be obvious scams.

Microsoft researcher Corman Herley recently did a study on this type of scam, and published a fascinating paper titled “Why do Nigerian Scammers Say They are from Nigeria?“.

He found that one of the reasons they work so well is because they’re so obviously fraudulent. Since the scam is so well known and the emails so ludicrous, only the most clueless, gullible, and naive people respond — precisely the kind of people that actually fork over large amounts of money to strangers.

Making scam emails — and Craigslist listings — more believable actually backfires on scammers, since they then need to spend more time convincing less gullible people that they’re not being scammed. Why do that when they can easily target the perfect victim?

Thus, the same Craigslist listing that is so head-slappingly obvious to you is the same one that’s actually working on other innocent photographers looking for a gig to pay their bills.

Please do share this with all the clueless photographers you know — it might save them a pretty penny.

Image credit: cashier’s check scam by cafemama

  • wickerprints

    Craigslist has long since stopped being a reliable source for conducting any business transaction.

  • Philip Han

    Before anybody says “How can anybody be this stupid?”, just take a step back and look around you. It’s really not that hard, everybody falls for something. These scammers may be scum, but they’re smart.

    I’m shooting a VIP wedding in Michigan this fall, I need a crew of photographers, editors, and assistants. I’m hiring a total of 8 people and paying everybody an equal share from a $35,000 wedding media package. Please email me your SSN, phone number, and bank info so we can this thing rolling. Michael Zhang is the director of photography, so better bet this is a once in a life time opportunity!!!

  • Michael Zhang

    Check your email.

  • Rob Feiner

    This scam is done not only through Craigslist, but through any source you use on the web, including your own website. I’ve had two different “people” try this twice on me the last 2 years and both times I knew it was a scam.

    I led on one of them to see just how it would play out, and sure enough, got a certified check that almost looked real–until you bring it to a bank and ask them to verify that it’s fraudulent, which it was. Then I called them one it and they were Shocked! Shocked I tells ya. Obviously I never tried to cash it. Did submit all the info I had to the FBI, even though it’s highly unlikely they’d catch these people. Some have schemes that just sound almost plausible enough at first. Caveat Emptor!

  • Joey Duncan

    agreed, I set up my company website and within 30 minutes of activating the email address I was receiving emails for service, but they were fake… 30 minutes? I hadn’t even registered on search engines yet hahah.

  • Mark Dickinson photo

    How about who looks on Craigslist

  • pixmation

    Hmmm, first clue is that it’s always the bride handle the photography part.

  • Spider- Man

    LMAO!!! Yeah but if anyone sends you a check and asks for money back and you don’t get a WTF feeling then yes you are stupid for not questioning it. This isn’t 1996 this has been going on for too long time.

  • Mike

    There are legitimate posts on CL, not fair to criticize the service because scammers also use it. eBay, Kijiji, Amazon, etc. are all victims but it doesn’t make the service bad. Anyone who uses their brain will not get scammed.

  • Owen Franken

    there is also one looking for photographers to photograph their local zoo, to supply images to a “zoologist in London”

  • Michael Dixon-Brooks

    Always wonder how people fall for these scams, but the fact they are still going on indicates there are plenty of gullible people. As far as any sort of checks go you wait for the money to clear into your account before doing anything.

  • William Eng

    I’ve actually had a similar experience where the person was abroad and could not handle organizing their wedding here in the US. So they wanted my address so a check can be sent out to me. I checked the message header and it originated from Nigeria. So I replied back with an address to the local FBI office.

    Months later I got the same exact message but this time with a different name and wedding date…everything else on the message was exactly the same! lol

  • wickerprints

    The problem with Craigslist is not that there are scammers using it, but that the signal-to-noise ratio is really, really low. CL can no longer rely on its own user base to weed out the fraud. The fact that you even feel the need to excuse CL at all by saying there exist legitimate posts, is a demonstration of the proof of what I am saying.

    The issue at hand is not whether one might be victimized. It’s whether bothering to use CL is worth the time and effort of sorting through all the junk, because the design and operation of the site has not kept pace with the need to increase the quality and reliability of its content. It’s stuck in a feedback loop–the more scammers there are, the less people will even bother to try, and thus user-centric moderation via flagging becomes weaker, making it easier for scammers to proliferate.

  • chuckles

    I don’t know what the problem is here….I figure this will thin the giant herd of “wedding” photographers out there. if they are stupid enough to fall for these scams they…..well, nevermind…..

  • Sid Ceaser

    My sister-in-law *almost* fell for this type of scam last year. She was in the process of moving from one state to another and found a “moving company” on Craigslist. If she hadn’t of posted how “frustrated” she was with these movers on Facebook, we never would have asked what was going on, and never would have found out that she was frustrated because she received their check and was about to cash it, but didn’t know what time the “movers” were coming the next day to pick up her households and at the same time give them the difference in funds the check was over. Instantly about 30 people told her to stop what she was doing and call the police. I mean, not only was she about to cash their check, but SOMEONE WAS COMING TO HER HOUSE to collect the money and her households. Even then, we had to practically force her to stop interacting with these people because she said she would “feel guilty” about reporting them to the police.

    So, yes, there ARE people stupid enough to fall for these kinds of things, and you all very probably know one or two of them, even if you don’t think you do.


  • alansky

    How anyone with even half a brain could fall for this is totally beyond me. The tone and wordiness of the email pitch are perfectly characteristic of this kind of scam. But the $64K question is how could anyone be dumb enough to actually send money?! That takes the cake for stupidity.

  • Steve Mepsted

    I can confirm the Zoologist scam. My one was from the Netherlands from somebody calling themselves Kenny Brown. It all got rather comical when I asked exactly which animals he wanted me to photograph and he responded with a list that included a ‘Cat’ and a ‘Crow’!!

  • O’Ryan

    The fact that you are still under the impression the registering with search engines will help you, puts you firmly into the category of those who fall for nigerian 419 scams. I bet some SEO company could do that for you for a nominal fee… wait I could take care of that for you for a small yearly fee of *89.99…


  • massimiliano sticca

    Steve same thing happen to me in last week and he send me the cheque! work for 250€ cheque 3000€… now he still asking me money because he needs my photos, I thought was a scam and now I have the confirmation!!! if you need to contact me do it!

  • whitney

    This just happened to me on Craigslist. Thank goodness for this article…I had a feeling it was a scam, but this just gave me the clarification. So thank you!! He was going to mail me a check of $2500….and he wanted me to take out $400 for myself and send the rest back to him….ugh people are so desperate.

  • jenniburger

    I’ve gotten a few emails from scammers before and I usually string them along until the last moment. I mean I make them respond to TONS of emails. lol. Serves them right. They didn’t find me on Craigslist, though. I imagine they were just Googling wedding photographers in the area at random. I get a kick out of asking them local questions and OH OH – make them send you photos! lol. Have them take photos of themselves. The results are sure to amuse. Might as well get some entertainment out of it – they were going to fleece you raw.

  • jenniburger

    a $35,000 wedding media package in Michigan right now? Lol…

  • RazakPhotography

    This almost happen to me few days ago! A friend of mine who does videography contacted me that he got a gig and the people are also looking for a photographer, but once he forward an email to me where they were asking him to cash the check and send the balance of $2000 to their agent who’s gonna arrange for our flight, hotel, and car rental??? I immediately told him that its a scam! and its not a new one, but i’m just surprise that they’re targeting photography too.

  • Philip Han

    I really don’t see what’s wrong with Michigan, I’ve lived here since 2006 and I love it. Detroit is beautiful and growing. Grand Rapids is booming and blooming. Not to mention the fact that there are some filthy rich people here, last time I checked there are over 200,000 millionaires in Michigan.

  • Me

    My stepmom fell for a scam similar to this when I was in high school. She actually cashed several of these fake cashier’s checks, and sent part of the money to whoever was sending them to her. She had cashed three of them, and was trying to cash the fourth, when the bank informed her that they were fake. The police came to the house and confiscated our computers to make sure that we weren’t the ones who were printing the fake checks. To top it all off, she had to pay all that money back to the bank. So yes, there are people who will fall for this crap.

  • GrammarPolice

    People who don’t notice the illiteracy and grammatical errors in an email like this are obviously really dumb in the first place. It would end here for me and probably with anyone else who has even a modicum of understanding of the English language. Thisis why you should pay attention in school.

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    your stepmom is a white trash idiot of the first order