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:
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.
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.