It may shock you to hear this, but we spend quite a bit of time perusing videography groups and forums online. We frequently see posts saying that someone received an inquiry from a potential client, and it sounds too good to be true (spoiler alert: they are). Scammers are getting more and more clever, and they have been targeting small businesses and freelancers. Look out for these three red flags that point to an inquiry being a scam.
1) They Want To Pay You Immediately
This might sound a little counterintuitive, but it's a scamming tactic that's kind of genius. In this situation, the scammer hires a small business for a service and immediately sends a payment that's well over the invoice. They'll reach out with an innocent-sounding message along the lines of, "Oops! I can't believe I accidentally sent you too much money! Can you please reimburse me the extra?" A few days after the the small business owner sends back the surplus money, the original payment disappears. It was either a bad check that bounced or a cancelled credit card payment. Whatever their method was, the business owner loses the initial payment AND the scammer gets the "extra" money that was sent back to them. Because of the nature of the scam, the potential "client” won't be worried about how much money they are going to be charged. These scammers will always say yes to almost any cost, and they will want to pay you immediately. No time to waste by getting contracts, checking your reviews, or learning anything about your company. They can just get your money and run.
2) They Are Available Any Day
Obviously, we love when clients are flexible. And sometimes it's reasonable for a client to be so eager to complete a project that they're willing to move things around in order to work with a business ASAP. However... when a client is a little TOO flexible and TOO eager, it's suspicious. Think about it: Even in the off chance that one or two people are able to clear their entire schedules for that business, specifically, there would be far more than just two people directly involved with a real project. Coordinating schedules with multiple people in the corporate world can be tricky--especially if any C-suite people are involved (CEOs, CFOs, etc). Typically, a legitimate corporate inquiry will include a date range that they are looking to film during, along with a hard deadline for the final product. A scam becomes even more obvious when the "client" is an individual looking to film an event. No one reschedules their wedding for the videographer. Chances are, if you're willing to pay a professional to film/photograph the event, it's not something you'd reschedule just for the first business you happened to reach out to. Unless they're a high-profile photographer with celebrity clients, the documentarian is not the most important factor in a client's big day. When the first part of a new inquiry is that "the day is flexible," be cautious. The scammer doesn't want to throw a date and risk that you are busy and won't take the bait.
3) They Will Not Talk On The Phone
If you're a fan of Catfish, you already know that this is one of the biggest red flags that someone isn't who they say they are. We've heard a lot of excuses for not being able to talk on the phone. But, thanks to Zoom, none of them are valid anymore. The most common excuse is that the "client" is "out of town." This is honestly just lazy and nonsensical at this point. We once had someone reach out to create a kickstarter video for his new product. However, he was in the military and stationed in Asia, so he couldn't talk on the phone... Suspicious, right? We asked if we could do a Zoom call instead, and he immediately agreed. We set up a time that worked for both of us (he wasn't somehow magically free whenever). To our complete surprise, it really was a US soldier stationed overseas looking back at us on the Zoom call! This goes to show that if someone is legitimate, they can find a way to talk to you. Remember: An actual client will want to vet you just as much as you want to vet them. Another common excuse that we see is "I'm deaf and can't talk on the phone." We ask to Zoom, explaining that the app has closed captioning, and, when I speak, they'll be able to see us and read what we're saying. The client is welcome to write back in the chat to reply--we just always like to put a name with a face. If they refuse to show you their face, they are a scammer. A scam is especially obvious when the "client" is simultaneously immediately free at any time for the project, but not to talk to you for five minutes.
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