The misleading photo contests
Rip off stores
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Since the Internet is the biggest and freest place on the planet, it’s also where most scams and frauds come from. None of this is new to you, but it might be surprising to find out that there are scams especially designed to trap photographers and make them lose money. We thought it would be a good idea to show them to you and also tell you how to protect yourself.
The scenario for this case is almost the same every time. Imagine you are the well-intended photographer looking to get some feedback or some exposure via a good photography competition. You stumble upon a contest organized by what seems to be a very legit organization. There is usually a cash price for the 1st place, but the biggest prize is that all the winners get their photos published in a book that will be sold all across the planet. For anyone who is at the beginning of their career, this could present itself as a major opportunity. So you submit your work. After a while, you are notified that you are indeed one of the winners and that your photo will be feature in the album. Furthermore, they would like to include a short bio, for up to $40. Obviously, they would like to order your copy of the book, which could go up to $100. You order the book and you wait a couple of weeks, until you finally get something in the mail. You get the book indeed, only to realize that you did indeed win 2nd or 3rd prize and are mentioned with a full bio, but so are another 100 guys. It’s the “everyone’s a winner” game.
There are multiple variations, some of which include baby photo contests. The parents enter the contest paying fees of up to $20 and are promised that the winners will be featured in a book called “America’s Most Beautiful Babies”. Every entry is a winner, everyone wants the book and a small fortune has just been made. This kind of activity is not illegal. But it is misleading and you can easily fall prey.
How to avoid it? Be smart enough to use the Internet as your ally. Dig up anything you can find about the organization who is hosting the competition. Go on forums if you have to. Some of the people who have been tricked often make forum or blog posts about the scams. Also, any transaction made by credit card can be reversed, so if you find out something suspicious after sending them money, you can still save it.
You are a wedding or portrait photographer, and one morning you open your email to find a message from a potential client who wants their wedding or portrait photographed by you. It might come from someone sounding like a wedding coordinator as the bride and groom are usually too busy to take care of these details by themselves. The gig is in another city, but all expenses are covered. It all sounds exciting and you agree of course. They offer to pay you in advance via a cashier’s check. This should be your first alarm signal. After the check arrives, you realize that the amount is larger than what was discussed. You being the honest photographer call the client and to notify him or her about the mistake. He will have a shocking epiphany, realizing that he accidently sent you the musician’s or the florist’s fee instead. By now, alarm number two should be going off in your head. They will then ask you politely to send the amount to the musician or florist or whatever service. This is and old trick using cashier’s checks, but a lot people still fall for it .A week later the check comes back as fake and they remove the written amount from your bank account. Guess who the musician or florist was?
How to prevent this from happening? Ask for as much information as possible. Go into all the details about location, the bride and groom, anything you think might catch a potential suspect off guard. Also ask for a 50% deposit and allow for enough time to pass for it to be cleared by all the banks.
You, the honest and hardworking photographer want to buy something, let’s say a new camera, online. You look around for the same model and notice that there isn’t such a tremendous difference in price between major stores, online a few dollars most of the times. Until suddenly, you stumble upon an unbelievably convenient price for the same camera. You check out the store’s page and you even find a physical address, usually in Brooklyn, NY. To your mind, this sounds like a genuine store, so you order the camera. This is where the scam kicks in. It comes in the form of a series of attempts to get more money of you, usually by phone calls from well-trained sales people. They will start with the need to confirm your order and then go on working every little thing on you. In some cases they will tell you that the price you pay is for the camera body only, and it doesn’t include the battery, the charger or the strap and those have to be paid separately. All this despite that manufacturers supply everything in one box. With people who have no technical education, they might try telling them the lens they bought is the plastic version, and that they can get the glass version for just $250 extra. There is no such thing as plastic and glass version. Delivery charges might also be suspiciously high.
If it’s looks too good to be true, it probably is.
How to protect yourself? Shop only from trusted retailers like Amazon or other major online store.