Don’t get scammed! (Like I almost did)

One of the great things about technology is we can reach people from anywhere, which is great if you have a small business as I do. The downfall, however, is that all your information is out there for the public, which increases the likelihood of being scammed. In the U.S., one in ten adults will become a scam victim every year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Being scammed is exactly what almost happened to me.

I recently had a customer reach out to hire me for family photos and a family reunion in a few days. Their request was on very short notice–they needed me in three days. I asked more questions about the event regarding location, how many pictures they needed, and the duration they would need me.

I was given the address and requested they would like 55 pictures for a 4-5 hour session. I was confused because I could take 50 pictures in one hour, so I thought the session was unusually long for what he wanted. I reached out to some friends and colleagues of mine to ask their opinions about the situation. I thought about having a second shooter accompany me to feel more comfortable; I had never done a shoot at a customer’s home before.

Colleagues and friends advised me to gather information, so I did. I didn’t ask the client their name, so that’s where I started and I asked how they found me. I noticed their responses were relatively aggressive, and I avoided answering certain questions out of safety. They told me they found me on Instagram; I found it strange they went out of their way to contact me by phone number instead of direct-messaging me on the app. I searched my personal and photography Instagram account to see if they were a follower — they weren’t and that was a red flag to me.

I investigated further and the location they gave was actually a house for sale with no current residents. Then, they asked if I could do a favor involving payment with the party planner. I was told to take his whole check and give half of it back via Zelle, a money transaction app. There’s no form of fraud protection on the app, and it runs through your bank’s digital infrastructure.

In conclusion, if you don’t feel comfortable, always follow your gut where safety is concerned. I didn’t want to put my colleagues in a bad position that I myself didn’t feel comfortable in. Always remember to use your resources as well. By simply doing a bit of research, I found red flags with the information I was given and made the right decision. Things could’ve ended badly had I followed through with the request. They could have drained my bank account, stolen my equipment, or worse if I met them in person. You never know what could happen, so always prioritize your safety above all else.

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