Story time my friends.
As a photographer, I am always trying to challenge myself. I started photography as a way to capture the places I was traveling for work. It quickly turned into something much more than that. It is a passion and I am always trying to learn more. My wife can attest to the number of YouTube videos I watch trying to spark an idea about what project to try next. It was this attitude that almost had me fall victim to a well played scam. Below is the saga.
It all started a few weeks back with the simple email below.
I indeed have a 500px account and it is set up that I am open to hire. So I was intrigued. While fashion and street photography is not what I normally put out, I am open to a challenge and though it would be a fun gig. There were a few things that should have sent all of my senses into overdrive telling me that this was a scam.
First, when I went into my 500px inbox, I didn't see this message. I don't spend a bunch of time on the site so I was not sure if that was normal or not.
The second thing I should have noticed was that the email was sent via sendgrid.net. My other job is as a software developer. I use SendGrid as a service to send mass emails. This service can set the return name and address to look legit. I missed that at first and responded to the message that I was interested and I would like more information. I got the following message back.
While most of the message seemed normal there were two lines that made me start to question things a bit.
I reached out the model agency he wanted me to work with but also started to begin searching the web for the agency and Andrew himself. Nothing... I sent a response to "Andrew" to let him know that I had in fact reached out to the talent agency but got the following bounce back in response. Now things are getting really fishy.
He then began emailing me from a different address, a gmail.com address. I started doing some research and found that on the complex.com Contact Us page there is a section talking about this exact scenario.
I reached out to complex.com but didn't get a response. I did, however, get a response from the talent agency. It outlined the services that they would provide and the model's contact cards. When I look at them, I am pretty sure that this is a scam. email address @usa.com are certainly not legit.
In my research, I came across a video on All Things Photo where Jim M. Goldstein discusses a scam hitting photographers who are selling prints online. It sounds familiar to what I am seeing. It turns out, it is a derivative of the Nigerian Prince Email Scam.
At this point, I reach out to "Andrew" and tell him that I want to talk to his contact at complex.com to discuss the shoot. I told him I wanted to ensure that my vision for it aligns with what they are looking for. Any client paying for services would find this a normal request. There has been no response. I guess they figured out that I had caught on to what they were doing. The moral of the story here is, be careful when someone reaches out to you. As the video above describes, Jim actually had a legit client that seemed to be a scam so it can happen but if it seems too good to be true, do you homework. If you have a similar story, I would love to hear about it in the comments.