A photographer reached out to PDN last week with details of a fake assignment scam that nearly cost him $4100. A person pretending to be an editor for The Fader, Patrick McDermott, contacted the photographer in late December with an offer of an assignment to shoot a fashion editorial for the magazine. He accepted and was sent a check to cover his fee and expenses for models and crew. He was instructed to use models from an agency that turned out to be fake. The agency demanded fees in advance, and the photographer deposited $4100 into the bank account of the fake modeling agency. Then he found out the check from the client had been recalled.
Photographers have reported versions of this same scam previously, including in September 2017 when a person calling himself “Alan Hurt” contacted photographers posing as a fashion blogger for High Snobiety. (See: Scam Alert: Phishing Scheme Targets Freelance Photographers)
This time, however, the scam had a positive ending. The photographer immediately contacted Wells Fargo, the bank that was holding the account for the fake modeling agency. “I got lucky and they managed to freeze the account and get my money back several days later,” he told PDN via email. “I’m afraid others may not have been so fortunate.”
The photographer who was nearly duped by the fake Fader assignment—and who asked to remain anonymous to protect himself—agreed to share the emails, contracts and other documentation with PDN so that others may avoid the mistakes he made. Here’s his story:
The initial email from the poser offered a shoot with a budget of $6300. The errors in the text of the email might have tipped the photographer off, but we’ve all received hastily written emails with a few errors, right?
Once the photographer replied that he was interested in the assignment, he received this follow-up. Again, numerous grammatical errors and some nonsensical statements (“Your works are quite aesthetic”) that could have been a red flag for the photographer. But the offer of payment for part of the photographer’s fee and the expenses for the talent convinced the photographer this was legit.
Next, the poser sent a contract. The photographer signed the fake contract, and was then sent a check for $4,800; $700 for part of the photographer’s fee, and $4100 to pay the modeling agency, fineline-talents.com. He was instructed to contact “Neil Barton,” a supposed modeling agent. A quick look at the website of the modeling agency makes it appear legitimate, but none of the links or menus function. The photographer reached out to the modeling agency and received this reply, as well as an invoice.
The photographer deposited the $4800 check. A couple of days later, he withdrew $4100. The modeling agency “required a cash deposit because the shoot was ‘short notice,’” the photographer explains. “This was by far the dumbest thing I did. Should have heard alarm bells loud and clear by now but my brain shut down for dollar signs.”
He says that two hours after he made the deposit to the modeling agency’s account, he received a call from his bank saying the check from “The Fader” had been withdrawn. “I was responsible for the $4100,” he says. Realizing what had happened, he went back to Wells Fargo and was eventually able to recover his money.
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