Photography Horror Story

Every job or profession comes with risks and rewards, positives and negatives, moments of satisfaction, and cringy, even dramatic happenings. Of course, some jobs are way more dangerous than others, and thus you expect things to go sideways at any given moment. I should know, I‘ve been in that situation for almost a decade while working as a police detective investigating criminal gangs and unlawful behavior of all sorts.

Oh, the stories I’ve gathered over the years! I tell you, there's probably no other profession in the World that gets the chance to witness the raw human nature as cops do. But that’s not what I'm going to talk about today. This piece is about photography and how criminals and ill-intended fellow humans relentlessly target people from every domain of activity in their pursuit of fast money.

The story, like most stories in a photographer's life, starts with an email. An email from a soon-to-be bride who was inquiring about my services as a wedding photographer, as she was about to make the big step in Las Vegas, on the last day of October. As the owner and sole employee of my photography business, CVW_ART, I have to say I was very excited about this gig, especially considering that I just moved to Las Vegas a few days prior to the events taking place and I had my share of concern when it came to getting new customers and work.

Nothing out of place so far. We exchange a few emails, I let her know the prices and what services I can provide and then we move the conversation to the phone’s messaging app.

She seemed happy with my offer, so she lets me know that she’s going to send me a check representing the agreed deposit for the event in a total of $500. I let her know that as soon as I get the check I’ll give her a call in order to discuss details for the upcoming event and meanwhile, I send her a contract for her to review and sign in order to proceed with our business collaboration.

It was all fine and dandy until a few days later when I actually received the check. To my surprise, the check was for $1500, so I contacted her about the extra $1000. To this, she replied that her uncle, who is old and ill, offered to pay for some of the wedding vendors, and he had only one check left so the extra $1000 was intended for the wedding DJ, and she asked me if I could transfer the sum from my bank account to the DJ’s account through Zelle. This was, of course, a huge red flag, especially considering that the check was still processing in my bank account. I replied that I’m going to send the money to the DJ after the check cleared, to which she insisted that the whole affair was time-sensitive and that I should send the money right at that moment. I declined politely and told her that I was going to help her after I get the money in my bank account.

Soon after this conversation, I decided to investigate the matter a little bit. I was very suspicious about the exchange, but at the same time, I was maintaining some form of hope, given the hard times we live in and how difficult it is to get customers, especially during these last few months.

So I picked up the phone and I called the venue in Las Vegas where the wedding was supposed to take place on October 31st. I didn’t get an answer so I left them a message describing the situation as best as I could.

Meanwhile, I called my bank, and from the conversation with the bank’s representative, I found out that this was a well-known scam and that I shouldn’t send money to anyone because, most likely, the check was about to bounce.

By the time I was finished with the conversation, I received a message from the wedding venue informing me that the person I inquired about does not have an event booked for October 31st, and even more, I was the third person let to believe that.

There was no doubt in my mind anymore. The whole thing was a hoax. A carefully put together plan to make hard-working, self-employed photographers like me, send free money to their accomplices. It is called ‘The Fake Check Scam’. What started out as being too good to be true, was in fact not true.

Needless to say that the check bounced after a few days, but not before the money actually making it into my bank account, which was a strange thing in itself.

I’m positive that some of you readers know about this scam, either by direct contact or by the word on the ‘street’. At the same time, some of you might not. This is for the latter.

Stay vigilant people!

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Claudiu I Varzaru

Photographer/Videographer/Drone Pilot. Owner @CVW_ART