Monday, March 9, 2009
Spotting Photography Scams
Beware Laurence Smith
I got a message, yesterday, directly from my photography website - which read as follows.
I am Laurence Smith, UK. I have a Fashion job (Assignment) for you. My client wants to update her Catalog with her monthly release Fashion outfits and i am interested in you for the shooting. I am a Model Agent by profession with about a few years experience. Find all details of the job,once you mail me with your interest ..
Even at first reading, it seems a bit "odd". The grammatical structure of some of the sentences is a bit strange - "I am Laurence Smith, UK", (and not, based in the UK - or WHERE in the UK); "catalog" is the American-English spelling, rather than English-English ("catalogue"); the "i" in the 3rd sentence is lower case; "for the shooting" is not an English turn of phrase and "with about a few years experience" is not exactly "the Queen's English" , either. I could go on, and you may spot a few other oddities for yourself.
My alarm bells were ringing fairly loudly - so I sent off an email to a professional photographer's group to which I belong, NVJ Photo which is an off-shoot of the now-closed mailing list for the National Union of Journalists.
It wasn't long before I got a number of very informative replies. It would seem that Laurence Smith (obviously not his real name) is already well-known to the professional photography community, as an "advanced payment scam" monger. The widely-acclaimed Scottish Press & PR photographer Nick McGowan-Lowe sent me a link to the "Fraud Watchers" website, where there is a forum thread entirely dedicated to Laurence Smith and his nefarious activities.
It would appear that the basis of this particular "overpayment scam" is that Laurence Smith will agree a fee for the Fashion Assignment (which doesn't exist) - of usually €6000 - and agree to pay you in advance. He then sends you a cheque for MORE than the agreed fee, and asks you to send the difference on to a third party (him, in another guise, I presume). The original cheque bounces and you have sent several thousand euros to a confidence trickster than you'll never hear from again.
From reading messages on that forum, it would seem that the hoax is quite elaborate. Laurence Smith will reply if you respond to the first email, even telling you about his client (in one message I read, he refers to his client as a wedding dress shop in county Tipperary, which I found on the web - although the phone number was out of order). He even talks about the shoot being in Connolly, Dublin (which is an area of the city and the name of a railway station).
My guess is that the scam would be modified according to the location in which you are based. Because it was relayed to my email address from the website, it must have been submitted by a real live person, rather than an email robot of some sort, which is equally disturbing.
So, be on the look out for Laurence Smith (or whatever he may call himself) when a too-good-to-be-true job offer lands in your email box.
And watch out, generally, for the tell-tell signs of a scam. If it feels "fishy" - it probably IS fishy!
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