This alert is for the benefit of my fellow videographers and photographers. Scammers have discovered several of the well known lead generation sites, like Craigslist, Thumbtack, Wedding.com and TheKnot.com, among others, and are using these sites to lure pros in under the guise of having a “great opportunity” of a video project. In my case, the lead actually came from my own website.
Over the last month or so, I’ve been in an email exchange with “Carletta Esparza” seeking a videographer for her wedding on June 29th. It seemed a little dubious from the onset, but I went along, figuring I’d play it out and see where it went…making sure that it didn’t take time away from my business activity. The first red flag came from their willingness to pay a rate I deliberately pegged high, as there was something in her correspondence that just didn’t seem quite right: poor grammar, and a strange formality to the tone of the email.
What was interesting was that “Carletta” never signed my wedding agreement, but was sending me a check for the unusually high rate. At first, she asked for all the typical information as one would request in order to deposit the money directly into my account. My mama didn’t raise no fools, so I made it clear that I would NOT be providing any such information and to send a regular check to me, via my business mail box. They complied quickly, because sending a check is actually part of their “plan B.” Now it gets good…”Carletta” admitted to me that her fiancee “David” had inadvertently sent my full payment, in addition to payment that was supposed to go to the “Band Boys!” Kind of a lame name for a musical group, don’t you think? Now, my “spidey senses” are going off full blast as this is highly irregular!
The check arrived today! I didn’t open it as my skepticism blocked me from doing so. What if it’s a letter bomb, or has ricin in it?!? The return address was bizarre, too! Someone named “Donna Jean Brindley” sent the letter from Brooklyn IOWA (NOT New York) so I did a Google Maps “flyover” over the address, and IT IS A VACANT LOT!! Oh, by the way, there is NO “Donna Jean Brindley” IN Brooklyn, Iowa, either. Surprised?
I sent “Carletta” a final note last Friday, indicating that there was NO WAY IN HELL that I was going through with this arrangement! I am returning the check to its point of origin, with the comfort that despite their clever attempts to scam me, THEY FAILED!! I then Googled “wedding videographer scams” and all sorts of similar reports came up–including a great blog from a New York based video production company, 2Bridges Productions; first position, to boot! If you want to read their account, click here. One can only wonder how many gullible types have fallen for this fraud, but I know TWO that didn’t!!! And by the way, I haven’t heard back from “Carletta” since. Wonder why?
These scammers are shameless and relentless, and it reinforces the old adage that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t risk your business–and your bank account–by falling for one of these frauds. And for the record, these characters violated at least a dozen local, state and federal laws, especially when they put postage on an envelope and sent it via US Postal Service. The bad guys won’t care, though, because nearly all of this is being orchestrated offshore.