SCAM ALERT: Fake Photography Gigs

With spending in flux this holiday season, we need to address scams. Scams in our industry are REAL and can strike when least suspecting. Your hard-earned year-end surplus deserves to stay where it belongs and utilized to YOUR choosing.

One of our members, photographer Ron Hutchinson, fell victim to such extortion in the guise of a lucrative photography gig. We wanted to take the time to relay his account and outline some red flags to be on the watch for so this kind of deception doesn’t strike twice.

Ron was contacted by a prospect named Paul Brownell, claiming to be the North American Editor of HypeBeast producing a photo shoot. The outreach looked official, Brownell used all the right language and the contract felt legit.

Ron received the request to pay the 50% deposit to the agent for the hair, makeup and model fees. This was when Ron started to feel slightly uneasy. But after talking with other photographers and editors, they all agreed that the photographer paying those fees directly to the agent is something that is common practice. So he continued to move forward with the job, reservations aside.

After paying the agent the solicited fees, the deal went sour. The compensation check bounced and Ron was out $3,647.

Here are the red flags to be wary of before excitement hits when first communicating with a prospect who “found your portfolio online”:

  1. Their intro email doesn’t have any of your defining characteristics listed, including your name, organization’s name, references to your portfolio, etc.
  2. Check for grammar and spelling errors – this can happen because a message is not written in a native language or is meant as a filtering tool for capturing the most enthusiastic victims.
  3. Nobody should be having YOU, the photographer, forwarding money to anyone to cover fees.
  4. It if seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Be vigilant, ask questions and never pay anything out of pocket.

Hopefully, this unfortunate adage can save the next person from falling victim to an industry-specific scam.

Happy Holidays!

Lindsay Partridge

Lindsay has been with Agency Access for four years. After a transition from Campaign Manager where she managed multiple client campaigns, she found her home as Marketing Manager. She enjoys working in the creative world and bringing her Public Relations background to the forefront.

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  • Gus Schmiege - 1 year ago

    I have been solicited by the same outfit three or four times. They keep using a different “producer” but the concept remains the same.

    Here is there initial reply:

    “Thanks for the reply and the interest to work with us on this project. An agency will provide a male and a female professional fashion model, makeup and hair stylists. The budget for the project is $5300 (photographer gets $2000 and $3300 for the talents). You will be paid $500 upfront plus the talents budget while your balance payment will be paid upon sending us proof that the job has been done; usually watermarked images.

    We want a gritty outdoor look with a clean product focused images; I’m attaching some pictures as samples. I will advise you use 2 to 3 locations; one could be very natural while the other is gritty but clean. You will have to do little retouching if pictures can be taken with natural lighting. Final images will be 300dpi or larger, to be delivered via sharefile.

    Photographers we hire usually take on the responsibilities of coordinating the shoot, selecting location, and disbursing fees. Your upfront fee will be issued prior to the shoot; this covers your upfront and extra for talents’ fee payable to their manager. You will are the licensor but you can only use the images 30 days after delivering them to us.

    Please confirm if you are comfortable with this arrangement by providing the name to be written on your check then I can work on the contract and the mood boards.

    Thomas Fox

  • Joseph - 1 year ago

    I agree with the above advice and after many years as a photog..I have learned to trust my gut and not listen to my head or wallet. I too have had these types of requests.

  • Alvalyn Lundgren - 1 year ago

    There’s been an email scam targeting web designers going on for over 8 years. I first blogged about it back then. This scam sounds very similar.

  • steve - 1 year ago

    I got the same email. I knew it was a scam right away and contacted the real Hypebeast to make sure they knew they were being spoofed (they did and were trying to track down who it was). After having some fun with the scammer by going back and forth (I actually got him to agree to a 20K day rate :) ) i then was able to find his isp through the email headers and contacted them and forwarded them the emails and as of last night they shut him down and blacklisted him. That doesn’t mean he will now find another email provider but if you get these scam emails report them to the ISP that is hosting the mx records. But for now he has no email capability. Here is a copy and paste of the email i received from his email host: Hi,

    Thank you for reporting to us.

    Based on your complaint, we have blocked the spammer account “@1o1medialab.com” from our Zoho Services.

    Kindly let us know, if you receive other such mails using our “Zoho” services.

    Vijayasridher TT|Zoho Abuse Monitoring Desk.