Recently I’ve had a flood of emails that share similarities. Short notice bookings that state they are out of the country and can only pay via money order or check and are unavailable to Skype or speak on the telephone regarding the details. Apparently, I’m not the only one and today we will visit “warning signs of a scam that directly targets wedding and event vendors.”
The first email stated that a venue, flowers, photographers & videographers, catering, a band and bar were needed for 150 guests with a budget of 45k. The English used featured numerous typos and the writer explained “I’m at sea and a captain of the ship so I’m unable to meet with you but, I trust you to take care of the details and will be using a credit card to pay ahead of time to ensure there won’t be problem for you. I think this that you can do me a good job and have a lot of money for a big partie.”
I immediately was suspicious of the amount budgeted and decided to ask a lot more questions since after all, I own a low cost event service business and expanded to offer no cost services by taking trades at The Pawning Planners so large budget events are few and far between. Besides, even with a venue, band, coordinator fees, photographers and catering- the approximate amount would be closer to 10k since I’m well aware of other costs associated for an event. After six years, it’s hard to “pull a fast one on me.”
Forwarding a copy to my twin sister, photography team and a few venues with the headline “If it walks like a duck- it is a duck and this is a scam. Haven’t figured it out yet but I will.”
Just to feel this scammer out, I sent a contract and advised this John Doe that I do not accept money orders (I’ve been burned on that before with a fake money order in exchange for an antique hutch that was more than the amount I was selling it for and they requested cash for the overpayment. Prior to paying them the difference upon pick up- I went to the bank and was told how the money order scam works by erasing the original amount and typing in a different one).
Advising this person that cashiers checks and credit cards are accepted as well as Paypal since I have my own link for payment, I immediately reviewed an email answer stating that “Paypal is too much trouble. I will give you a credit card number to charge the event instead.”
I did get an email with credit card information and did nothing with it. The following day, another email came advising me “I’ve overpaid you and need you to wire transfer the additional payment to me immediately because I have other expenses to pay.” Since I hadn’t run the credit card and chose instead to figure out the con game- I advised him that no charge had been made and I had a strong suspicion that this was a scam.
I never heard from him again but, two weeks later received another email this one for a different amount (30k) with remarkable similarities of services and bad English. Recognizing how odd it would be for me to get two similar requests for services with very large amounts for the budget- I hopped on the Internet and googled wedding vendor scams.
Figuring out how the scam worked was easy after reading what had happened to others- Scams Targeting Wedding & Event Vendors. I then changed my search to Wedding Photography Scams- How The Scam Works. Interestingly, the two emails that I received asked me to sign up with intuit.com and came up with too many reasons for not wanting to use PayPal. For more reading on this read this-Photographers Targeted By Scammers. There is even a “fake bride scam” targeting vendors- Vendor Beware- The Fake Bride Scam.
It’s always important that I ask a lot of questions especially if travel is involved. I’m licensed in numerous states so it’s not unusual for a client to request that I or my entire team travel to a destination event but, our expenses are paid by the client. Anytime a vendor is asked to “cover the costs up front” you need to step back and ask yourself why. Wedding vendors need to stick together and post suspicious sounding emails in order to alert others who may not be suspicious enough.
Since all of my blogs have a large audience, I’m posting today’s blog in order to alert others of the possibility of getting snared in this type of a trap.
After being burned by trusting the client would do what they said regarding payment and services- I now require a contract from any client booking myself or my staff in order to have legal remedies for Breach Of Contract Issues. While I would love to “trust a client to do the right thing,” if a bounced check for services leaves me unable to pay my staff- I cover the expense out of my own pocket which is why I can no longer believe that a client won’t take advantage of my naivety in trusting that they will do the right thing. Over the past 6 years, I’ve had bounced checks and broken promises happen on 4 occasions so if I sound cynical- I have good reason to be which is why these emails out of the blue had my antennae going up.
Any client unwilling to speak with you or meet with you is suspicious since after all, they are trusting you to handle their event which is a pretty big expense for them. They need to be certain you’re capable of the task at hand and you need to screen them in order to weed out the potential problem clients up front.
Taking on a client with your eyes wide open to the possibility of being unable to ever make them happy should give you a “heads up to cut EM loose early!” Failure to do so may have you dealing with a demanding diva for months while attempting to accommodate other clients.
I recently had a discussion with my husband regarding how his business deals with divas or dudes and learned that weeding them out early will save you a lot of time and aggravation later- it’s a rule he lives by!
Although my clients are usually honest about all of the details concerning their budget and their wishes- there are several different scams going on that could cost vendors thousands of dollars if you “get caught in the net.”
Protecting yourself and your business isn’t easy when there are cyber scammers hitting your website and thinking you could fall for their scheme.
The moral of the story is that if it sounds too good to be true- it usually is…
Wendy M Wortham