Photographers, beware: this is how you can get scammed

Tips & Techniques

There is a persistent scam going around that is so pervasive, that you might think everyone has heard about it, and is immune to it. Yet, I often enough see this come up as a question in a Facebook group – where a photographer is unsure if an enquiry is a scam. Most often they are. This is how these advance-fee scams work, and how photographers are scammed:

The scammer will overpay you, and you have to pay the difference to another vendor, whether the florist or model, or whatever. There is no florist / model / whatever – the other vendor is in fact the scammer. The money you pay to the other vendor will be lost, because the money the scammer sent to you will be through a fraudulent credit card. The money paid to you will be reversed from your account in a few days, and you will be out of pocket. Let me restate that for emphasis: You will be out of pocket. There is no other vendor. It is just you and the scammer.

I know it might sound attractive – someone wanting to give you a lot of money, and is even a little insistent on it. Just know it is a scam.

Here is a recent email exchange, and as you read along, you will see the progression until the scammer reveal themselves:

The email I received from “Cheryl Brown” at:

Note the .org domain. Not .com but .org — that already is suspicious.

I came across your website online while searching for a fashion photographer,your work seems impressive..i’m looking for an experienced Photographer to work with me on an ongoing fashion articles for family circle/allrecipe magazine..Get back to me if interested .
Cheryl Brown

I replied, asking where “Cheryl” is located because scammers are always (initially) vague about the location. Remember, it is a copy & paste email they send out.

Hi there Cheryl,

What projects did you have in mind?
And where are you located?

Cheryl replied. Note that she didn’t answer my question. There is also now the authoritative touch of the privacy note, as many companies have in the footer of their emails. (For brevity, I deleted it from “her” other emails that I post further on.)

I’m looking for an experienced photographer to work with me on an on-going fashion articles for Familycircle.I’m compiling shots for“fashion page” segment and we are looking for professional photographers who want to create stunning images to feature on our website- Glamour 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:

  1. You will be required to work with two(2) models and one(1) hair stylist.
    2. There will be 4 outfits per model, 4 looks for each outfit, which
    totals 32 looks/images.
    3. Outfits/Wardrobe will be supplied by us.
    4. Location, date, and time will be fixed by you.
    5. We want 32 professionally taken pictures in High Res Digital
    6. Delivery date: June 30.
    7. Compensation: $2,400 ($800 upfront and $1,600 final payment).
    8. You will hold full image right (Licensor)z

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.

Cheryl Brown Editor (9317160204

The contents of this email message and any attachments are intended solely for the addressee(s) and may contain confidential and/or privileged information and may be legally protected from disclosure. If you are not the intended recipient of this message or their agent, or if this message has been addressed to you in error, please immediately alert the sender by reply email and then delete this message and any attachments. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any use, dissemination, copying, or storage of this message or its attachments is strictly prohibited.

You didn’t mention where you are located.

-New york

The brief is still too vague, so I prod for more details:

Studio work, or out on location?

Do you have examples of the kind of style you are going for?

Along with these details, “Cheryl” also sent a number of Fashion images, shot on location. I am not posting them here, since they are most certainly just stolen off the internet. Remember, there is no client. It is just the scammer. Nothing is real.


Thanks for the quick response and the interest to work with us on this project. Your works are really impressive and aesthetic; I would like to work with you on this gig. There are few details you need to know:

Wardrobe will be picked by our stylist based on urban trends for the winter season. The stylist will also be available on the shooting date. We expect you to shoot in an urban gritty or/and natural outdoor look with clean product focused images;  I’m attaching some pictures as samples.

You will have to do little retouching if pictures can be taken with natural lighting. Final images will be 300dpi or larger, mix of rectangular and verticals, to be delivered via google drive or onedrive. Images will on be used as an editorial content on for 12 months.

Could you confirm that you will be able to deliver this quality on or before the delivery date.
Cheryl Brown Editor (9317160204

Of course this is a copy & paste email. There are inconsistencies – another sure sign you are dealing with a scammer.  Since I don’t have a time-machine, I ask:

“6. Delivery date: June 30.”

I won’t be able to deliver the images before June 30, 2019
So I assume this is June 30, 2020 ?

-Sorry for the error in delivery date,I’ve just been informed the delivery date has been shifted to Aug 30.Please let me know if you can still deliver .

Cheryl Brown Editor (9317160204

This is just too easy – the entire shoot depends on my schedule and happens to be close to me. Just too convenient. So I prod a bit more:

That’s the delivery date.

The actual date of the shoot … is to be determined by me?
And you will arrange for a stylist and hair & makeup and all the models?

And finally the scam is revealed, with the hook made even more attractive. I can make even more money now!

Hi ,

An agency will provide a male and a female fashion model, makeup and hair stylists. I will send the agency details when I’m sending the contractual agreement. I was just informed the budget for the project has changed a little; it’s now $6,500 (photographer gets $2,400 and $4,100 for the talents). You will be paid $800 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. You will be credited for the photo on our pages and you also have the full licencor right of the images.

Photographers we hire usually take on the responsibilities of coordinating the shoot,date for the shoot,selecting location, and disbursing fees. An advance payment of $4,900 will be issued prior to the shoot; this covers your $800 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/Business name (to be written on your payment and contract), phone number, and address to prepare the contract.

Cheryl Brown Editor (9317160204


There is the scam. They will reveal themselves if you play along a little bit, feigning interest.

But for the love of everything that is good in the world, don’t fall for it. Don’t let the dollar signs cause you to be careless.  There is no tantalizing job opportunity. It’s just you and the scammer.

About the Author

Neil van Niekerk is a photographer working mainly in New Jersey / New York. He specializes in weddings and portraits, but also videography, corporate, and commercial work. You can find more of Neil’s work on his website and his blog Tangents, as well as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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