The Life-Changing Gig That Never Was
Like they say, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
But I suppose the scammers are hoping that we will suspend our disbelief just long enough to get sucked in. Sure worked with me, and I thought I was smarter than that. Nope!
I did catch on eventually — before I lost any money — thank goodness.
So, the other morning I got this email:
I saw your website when I was searching for fashion photographers and would like to learn more about your services. I’m looking for an experienced photographer to work with me on an on-going fashion articles for Allure.com/condenast magazine.
I’m compiling shots for Allure.com “fashion page” segment and we are looking for professional photographers who want to create stunning images to feature on our website- Allure.com is particularly looking for outdoor and urban looks.
If you’re interested this project, it is important to understand few details about the project. These are:
- You will be required to work with two(2) models, one(1) hair stylist and one(1) makeup artist(MUA).
- There will be 4 outfits per model, 4 looks for each outfit, which totals 32 looks/images.
- Outfits/Wardrobe will be supplied by us.
- Location, date, and time will be fixed by you.
- We want 32 professionally taken pictures in High Res Digital Copies.
- Delivery date: July 30th.
- Compensation: $3,400 ($1,300 upfront and $2,100 final payment).
- You will hold full image right (Licensor)
As the photographer we want you to handle other aspect of the gig and dictate the creative direction. If you can handle this, please reply with your full name/Business name (to be written on your payment and contract), phone number, and address.
I will forward a contract to be signed by both parties.
Real Name of someone who works at Allure (‘cuz I googled)
RealName@allure-condenast.com|Editor | (480) 400–7832
Anyway, this looked like a legit email. There were no red flags to speak of. Ok, maybe a couple grammatical errors, but I’m picky about that kind of thing. It’s not unusual for me to get gigs this way, but this was of a different level, from a prestigious company.
It was very exciting to have this opportunity presented to me. This job was totally in my wheelhouse, and the pay was fantastic. I was so glad she found my website. My work speaks for itself, obviously. Finally, all my hard work is paying off! After all these years, I deserve to shoot a job for Condé Nast.
Goodness knows where this could lead. Today Chicago — tomorrow Paris? Bali? Barcelona? Man, I have to do a good job on this, since it will surely lead to tons more work.
If you can handle this, she says in the email — Of course I can handle this! (or can I?) — OF COURSE I CAN HANDLE THIS.
Shit, I’m going to have to line up an assistant. I hope I can fit this into my schedule, since I have a full-time job. Hell, I’ll be quitting that full-time job once these gigs start rolling in. Boom.
Trying not to sound too excited, I emailed back that I was interested.
The next email came quickly, with more detailed information about the shoot and desired final product. Photos were attached, and the shoot was to be in a similar style.
Could you confirm that you will be able to deliver this quality on or before the delivery date.
Indeed I can, and I sent off an email stating just that. This is great. I even have the perfect location already picked out.
And then it came.
The next email included this:
I was just informed the budget for the project has changed a little; it’s now $10,000 (photographer gets $3,400 and $6,600 for the talents). You will be paid $1,300 upfront plus the talents budget while your balance payment will be paid after sending us proof that the job has been done; usually watermarked images.
Photographers we hire usually take on the responsibilities of coordinating the shoot, selecting location, and disbursing fees. An advance payment of $6,600 will be issued prior to the shoot; this covers your $1,300 upfront and fee for talents’ fee payable to their manager.
If you’re comfortable with the above, let us get started. And once I get your response, we will start preparing the contractual agreement but I will still need your full name (to be written on your payment and contract), phone number, and address to prepare the contract.
Um, I’m not comfortable with this.
I sat on it for a little bit, then reached out to a photographer friend who is used to shooting high-profile jobs. I asked him if this arrangement is normal.
His instantaneous response was:
“Scam. The check will bounce.”
A quick google search, and there were tons of cases of this exact situation. The wording and companies were changed up a bit, but the proposal was the same in all of them.
“The person you’re supposed to pay is in on the scam.”
Ok, I was laughing now, but I felt like crying. And I was embarrassed that I fell for it.
I felt pretty stupid.
These scammers are cunningly adept at knowing what people want and need in life. They hit all the right notes with me — money, recognition of my talents, exposure in a prestigious publication, and hope for future success — everything I strive for. I was particularly vulnerable to this kind of seduction.
Some scammers go after lonely people. They promise everlasting love and companionship. They make the victim feel special and cherished — even though they’ve never met. It happened to a friend of mine. She said it happened during a “perfect storm” of vulnerability for her. She was an ideal target. And she was left devastated.
You hear stories of elderly people falling for get rich quick schemes, as they hand over their social security checks, only to be swindled out of everything they have. They are desperate, and they want to believe.
We all want to believe that it’s our turn for something incredible to happen for us— professionally, financially, or romantically.
And that’s exactly what the scammers prey on. They are clever, and the scams are getting increasingly sophisticated. The creators and perpetrators of these schemes are truly evil people, as they continue to destroy lives for their own good.
So, I felt a bit deflated after all of this. But it could have been so much worse, as it has been for many people. So I consider myself lucky that I had the instinct to check it out, and an informed friend to turn to.
I like to think of good things resulting from bad things. Of course, I didn’t lose any money — as others have from this scam — so that’s good in itself.
But I also felt confident enough to do this job, and I may not have in the past. So maybe I need to go out and get a job like this, or similar.
Because, I can handle it.
So there’s that :)
Thanks for reading, and please pass along to any photographers or groups who might be susceptible to this scam, or others.
And remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.