Beware photographers! There's an apparently well-known scam running out there. Well, well known to many, but new to me up until today.
I received an email stating that an individual was looking for photography services.
Date: Wed, 15 Jul 2015 15:39:45 +0000 Subject: Family Reunion Event From: Krystal Collins <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Hi there! How are you today? I was doing a little research online for an event photographer for my family reunion that's coming up, I want you to capture the wonderful event. My name is Krystal Collins and do you accept credit card payment? Get back to me if you do, i will be looking to read from you ASAP. Regards, Krystal
Ok, the grammar is a bit "off", as is their eagerness to use me without much discussion, and the inquiry about credit card payment. I Google the email address, and it returns a Facebook profile with the same name, but no legitimate photos and very few friends - also mostly lacking in photos. Ok, so I'll bite, as I had recently signed up with Amazon Local Register (It's cheaper than Square, and lets me eat from my own dog food, so to speak!), and can now accept credit cards for payment of session fees.
I respond about 2 hours later:
Hi Krystal, Thanks for reaching out! When is your event? Where would it be located? How long would you want a photographer onsite? I can accept major credit cards, as well as Cash, PayPal, and Amazon Payments. -Rick
Notice that I didn't mention anything about a retainer.
Much later in the evening (just before 11pm MST), I received the following reply:
Date: Thu, 16 Jul 2015 05:58:02 +0000 Subject: Re: Family Reunion Event From: Krystal Collins <email@example.com> To: Rick Johnson <firstname.lastname@example.org> Rick, Thank you for the swift response. The dates has been narrowed down to some weekends date in the month of August (15th, 16th, 29th & 30th) and September (5th, 6th, 12th & 13th) but it depends on which which of the date you have available. I want you to check your schedules and get back to me with the dates you have open. The event is going to be held on a private property about an hour or two drive from your zip code. I'm in the hospital (recovery unit) I had ear surgery and the doctor wants me to stay away from phone at the moment till I fully recovered but i can still text. That is the reason why i emailing for this event. The event consist of both indoor & outdoor activities. I want you to be there for 4 hours (12pm-4pm) to take about 250-350 candid shots, I want the candid shots burn on 3 DVD's. Also during the 4 hours that you are going to be there, you will take one big family portrait shot that will be printed in 3-16x20 regular matte print. The total numbers of 25-30 peoples will be present at the event including children between the ages of 9-12 years. I want you to work on an estimate for me and get back to me with the total cost for this event but i will be making 50% deposit upfront to secure the date you have open with my credit card. I'm looking forward to read from you ASAP Regards, Krystal.
Ok. Now a few more things just feel wrong about this situation:
I haven't replied. I first forwarded it to a trusted photographer friend, but then I realized - Google would also know! It sure did! And now, thanks to this blog post, there will be one more entry warning others about this scam!
I'm sure if I had replied, the next steps would have been a request to accept an additional payment, plus commission, then pass it onto a florist or caterer who isn't equipped to accept credit cards (do those still exist?!). The way this scam supposedly plays out is as follows:
Now Google "Krystal Collins Photography Scam", and you'll find the nearly exact text of the initial email in multiple articles, including some from a county sheriff in Colorado. Googling a broader search of photography email scam reveals many similar stories, with different names and event names, but the same end-result.
Don't be a victim! If an inquiry seems a bit too eager to hire only you, especially with multiple dates depending on your availability, it's probably too good to be true!