July 4, 2013

the way scammers are targeting photographers

In a previous article on how e-mail scammers are targeting photographers, the question came up exactly how the photographer is going to lose money. What exactly is the system in place where the photographer is going to be out of pocket?

In short – the scammer books you, but overpays, and asks you to pay the difference to another vendor. So you send money to the “other vendor” (who is actually the scammer). The transaction where you got paid the money turns out to be fraudulent, and the bank removes that money from your bank account … but the money that you paid to the “other vendor” (ie, the scammer) is a real transaction and you lose that money.

As an example, here is an email that is going around. You’ll encounter different versions of this, but there are numerous tell-tale signs …

 

1. The initial email. 
Note how the wording is vague, and the grammar is nearly always awkward. I am actually surprised they got the ‘new Jersey’ part right. Usually it is a very generic ‘your city’.

My name is Walter Bender i will like to book you for my Engagement Party Dated 30th July 2013 here New jersey. Get back to me if you are available and if you accept credit card payment

My Spidey senses are already tingling at this. This person is just too eager to throw money in my direction, without asking about costs and other details.

 

2. My reply, trying to elicit more detail.

I am available.  How many hours would you like me to be there?
And which venue are you using?

 

3. The scammer’s reply

Thanks a lot Neil for the quick reply,Happy 4th. i need you to shoot for 3 hours ,and i need all edited copies on CD.

Engagement Venue: [ name and address of the venue redacted ]
Start Time:6pm- 9pm
Number of Guest:85

Let me know your Quote Okay,i want to have the date book right away,i will forward you my credit card details to confirm Booking

So far … not too bad. Still just a suspicion that this isn’t a real enquiry. My Spidey senses are tingling!

 

4. My reply, with a dollar amount just thrown in there.
I thought I might push this a little bit and ask for an address to mail the disc to.

Hi there Walter

For 3 hours, and the disc of images, my fee is $1,500 + 7% NJ sales tax.
The total fee would be $1605.00
And I would need your address so I can mail you the disc afterwards.

5. His reply … and tadaaaaa!!  There it is. It’s a scam. 

Thanks for getting back with the Total Quote,  Mailing Address: [ address redacted]. Please Neil  I also want you to help me charge another $1,800 for the florist Booked for the Engagement, I’m compensating you with the sum of $250 for the transfer fee and for your efforts.Please note that I would have given the Florist my credit card for him to deduct the funds but was told that he doesn’t have the facility to charge or debit credit cards, which is why I bring my vote of confidence in you and i wouldn’t want you  to betray my trust. So I want you to  transfer the funds to him ONLY after you have made the charges and the money charged has reflected in your account. Only then can you proceed to make the transfer to the Florist via Western Union Money Transfer.Find below the charges you’ll make on my credit card:

You Charge fee ………( $1605.00)
Florist Fee ……($1,800)
Your Commission…….($250 )

Note that my credit card will be charged for the amounts above. Please do get back to me if you are in the office right now so that I can forward my credit card details to you,i would like you to help me process the Charges through the link at your end, I can then send you the information by which to transfer the money to the Florist by Western Union Money transfer .

Anticipating your Favorable reply
Kind Regards

 

There it is! They are going to overpay, and you are asked to send the “Florist” that sum of money. You would be out of pocket by $1,800 in a week from now when it all plays out.  Guaranteed.

I removed the mailing address since it is a useless address. It’s in the middle of a NJ State Park. Yup, another clue. Because, really, they don’t want the disc. They want your $1,800 …. because this is a scam.

Another clue is that you have to pay the scammer / “florist” via Western Union Money Transfer. That’s generally one consistent part to this type of scam.

This is how these scams work. You’ll encounter variations of this, but there are always specific patterns to it that will reveal you’re dealing with a con artist / criminal / scammer.

 

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{ 28 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Bill July 4, 2013 at 4:54 pm

So, when this happens, do you report it to the authorities?

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2 Neil vN July 4, 2013 at 4:58 pm

The scammers are based elsewhere – most likely Nigeria. They just keep moving on to the next victims with new fraudulently acquired credit card numbers.

The problem in reporting this, is that where I am concerned, there has been no crime committed. I’m not a victim. So if I went to the cops … they’ll just shrug their shoulders.

And I just do not have the energy to deal with a credit card company’s automated phone system to try and report this. They can deal with it when they realize that that credit card has been compromised.

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3 cierra tomlin July 4, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I have actually run into this exact thing. I did not fall for it though.

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4 Trev July 4, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Same here Cierra [Australia], I had 2 similar in past 3 months, just wanted to throw money at me without seeing my work nor inquiring about rates first up, just book me.

The absolutely dead giveaway is *always* going to be the Nigerian scammers methodology wording of “which is why I bring my vote of confidence in you and i wouldn’t want you to betray my trust.” or similar, along with the mention of Western Union.

Anything with ‘trust/confidence’ and Western Union is 100% guaranteed to be scamming.

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5 Seb July 5, 2013 at 6:11 am

We’ve received similar e-mail some time ago.
Such attempts are quite frequent.
See this – http://photographyservices.ie/wedding-photography-scam.html

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6 manvin July 5, 2013 at 6:23 am

I’d like to check email id & ip address to find out where they are sending it from?

again it is a good idea to add filter IP address on your website to block out any specific country – this will prevent scammers to look up your website & email, however scammers could be anywhere in the world that’s the problems.

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7 Neil vN July 5, 2013 at 7:58 am

The IP address is 209.85.223.196
This resolves as Mountain View, California.

Wouldn’t this just be because the culprit is using gmail?
Or would that be the actual IP address?

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8 Ian July 5, 2013 at 8:36 am

Nice example Neil. It’s important that this kind of stuff gets posted. It’s hard to believe that people fall for these scams, but they do – that’s why the scammers keep doing it. This one was a bit more sophisticated than the “Dear Beloved” types, but has a lot of the same hallmarks.

It’s too bad that you need to have a well developed Spidey sense, but that is the universe we live in.

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9 Herbg July 5, 2013 at 9:06 am

I’ve seen the same exact scam done to Bed & Breakfasts. It’s really sad.

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10 Garth Jones July 5, 2013 at 9:22 am

This scam does get around. I just dealt with a very similar case in my furniture design business. A ‘marketing executive’ from California wanted me to build him a dresser. All was well and good for a couple of emails and then came the scam – would I be willing to take an overpayment so that I can front some money to his ‘shipper.’ Not so much!

Ah well. Since I’m writing a comment let me say something positive – I’m an avid photographer and I’ve learned a great deal from your blog. I photograph all my furniture and the black foamie thing, among other tricks, has been a great help in making well lit, glare free images. This is one of the best blogs on the web. Thanks!

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11 manvin July 5, 2013 at 10:02 am

It’s hard to say from here to be honest because culprit will always look for “Anonymous Proxy” or “computer hijack” in order to use their ip address to show they are from united state, who known if they are actually from different country?

It’s really good things you post here and helping people to prevent this kind of scam.

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12 Charles July 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I had one who wanted my personal home address to fedex a check to me, they did not even want a studio address but my home address. I told him I do all business thru my PO Box and they can fedex to that for a signature and they said home address only. So I declined the wedding. Hard to tell what they want my home address for.

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13 Seb July 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm

manvin I wouldn’t block any IP addresses as quite often scammers are using dynamic IP addresses, so you might block potential customers.

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14 stakx July 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Why doesn’t Western Union do something about these scams? (Maybe they are? If so, it doesn’t seem to be very effective at stopping them.) Anytime I see “Western Union” I think scam– this can’t be good for their business…. or maybe it is because they get fees from the scammers?

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15 Manvin July 5, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Seb yes you are right buddy. I’m not blocking any IP addresses however but to analysis IP address to find out which country are they in, only specific users cannot access the website.

This method seem to work quite well with either dynamic IP or static IP.

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16 Seb July 6, 2013 at 6:06 am

stakx The reason why they use WU is very simple – you can’t track your money. Also literally anyone can get your money, they just need some details regarding transaction. Another channel is Money Gram or relationship with some king or queen in Nigeria.

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17 Juraj Dorko July 8, 2013 at 7:28 am

I would understand if this was happening in the English-speaking parts of the world only, but it doesn’t! Every now and then I sell some photo gear on a Slovakian website – and these scammers have found me several times! My ad is in Slovak language, everything on the website is in Slovak language – yet they somehow manage to click through several options and find the ads that might be of interest to them. How they do it, I have no idea – do they actually make the effort and have the website translated via Google translate, so that they can navigate through the site? But how did they find the website in the first place? Its name means something like “flee market dot SK”, but not exactly – it’s actually a made-up word, not generally known in Slovak, so how did they find out that this website is where they can find ads, is beyond my understanding.

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18 Trev July 11, 2013 at 1:28 am

Currently at the moment, I have a scammer on the line (fishing line that is) and am currently conversing with him.

Once I am done, and I can detect the full scam, I shall – with Neil’s permission he already has given me – post emails to and from me.

Hopefully in the next few days.

So far it ‘appeared’ slightly genuine, but when he gave me the venue name here in Australia, over 2400kms away, and upon ringing to confirm their booking of his “memorable festivities”, they have no bookings on the 2 days he wants me for nor anything under the name given to me.

coming soon . . . to be continued . . .

UPDATE: Definitely a scammer, I called the venue again, the receptionist said I was 1 of about a dozen photographers inquiring, and besides that they are already booked for other functions on the days he has supposed to have booked. When queried on that, his “wife forgot, she is busy in Italy buying a wedding outfit and shopping”. :)

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19 Paul Krol August 14, 2013 at 8:55 pm

I just got a similar email. And it sounded a bit like a scam so i googled it and came upon this article. Thanks for posting it. I really wanted to reply “piss off and get a real job” or something like that. But I didn’t..you never know..if they are crazy and will try to seek me out. Photographers are generally easy to trace.

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20 Arek Rainczuk August 29, 2013 at 4:01 am

I got this inquiry this morning. It resembles the scam emails I’ve read here before,
“Hello
How are you today,I stumbled on your website via a Google search,Browsed through all your works and fell in love with your level of creativity.I want to book you to shoot at my Engagement party coming up 24th October 2013 here in Australia .Would be so glad if you are available. Also, do you accept payments via credit cards?
Looking forward to your reply
Walter Bender”

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21 Paris L. September 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Thanks Neil. Walter Bender just emailed me too and also got my spidey senses going. A quick google led me to your post. Thanks for saving me the time responding to this guy!

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22 pat September 6, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Do you have any local info on Walter Bender. I need to contact him to review info he gave to my son and need to contact him in person or phone my son is out $3000.00 that he does not have and also lost all access to paypal and has sold Multics items and also lost all that $ he is out of work and has now lost all his $ that has nothing to do with this Walter scam he is 21 and never even. Gave a thought that he would be scammed out of $he does not have.he has loser everything he owns and is now in the need to sell all his camera equipment and is now without evertthing he has ever. Worked for along with his dreams of having a future.

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23 Neil vN September 7, 2013 at 12:13 am

Pat … there is about zero chance you’d ever meet this “Walter Bender”, since the scammers are most likely sitting in a foreign country – probably Nigeria.

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24 Robson October 10, 2013 at 10:40 am

Hi Neil! Thanks for sharing! Yesterday I received the email from Walter Bender.
Here in Brazil. =]

Em 2013-10-10 08:53, walter bender escreveu:
Thanks so much for the quick reply i need you to shoot for 4 hours ,and i need all edited copies on USB.

Engagement Party Venue:

Plaza Itapema Resort & SPA
Address: BR-101, Km 144 – Ilhota, Itapema – SC, 88220-000, Brazil

Start Time:5pm- 9pm

Number of Guest:85

Let me know if there would be any travel and accommodation cost, i
will take care of all additional cost

Await to get the total quote thank you

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25 Daniel Fried October 31, 2013 at 1:00 pm

From: walter bender [mailto:walterbender13@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, October 31, 2013 7:53 AM
To: dan@hhphotographers.com
Subject: Booking

Hello
How are you today,I stumbled on your website via a Google search,Browsed through all your works and fell in love with your level of creativity.I want to book you to shoot at my Engagement party coming up 24th November 2013 here in NY .Would be so glad if you are available. Also, do you accept payments via credit cards?

Looking forward to your reply

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26 Uma Sanghvi November 3, 2013 at 11:14 am

Got the Walter Bender email today! Your blog post came up immediately during a Google search for “Walter bender scam”.

Thanks for posting about this!

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27 matt sloan January 21, 2014 at 6:06 pm

thanks for posting this. i just got the same communication from ” Walter Bender” this week in Jan. 2014. looks like this guy is going to need to change his name up. haha.

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28 Gladys January 28, 2014 at 9:51 am

Oyi i just got an email from “Walter Bender” and thought I should google him. My thoughts were right spot on. After I noticed last named spelled Bendor and his email spelled Bender. Thanks

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