While most couples book me for wedding photography many months in advance of the date, I’m always happy to book something last minute if I’m available. An inquiry that I got yesterday turned out to be a little too good to be true. Normally I would never share correspondence with clients but this one is special.
Hi, I’m Melissa Brown . Joe & I will be getting married in less than 2
months . We’re asking for a package list which includes 6-8 hours of
shooting time amongst a few other items . Package to exclude the
Wedding engagement/ bridal sessions. Please let us know if you will be
available for Saturday, September 15th, 2012 . And get back with your
package pricing information.
This email was a little impersonal and short on details but it didn’t give me any reason to be suspicious so I wrote back a quick response asking for more information.
To which I received this response:
Thank you for your email. We are currently looking for a
package list which includes 8 hours of photography, DVDs of the
images,10 X 10 20 pages ( 40 sides ) wedding album, etc. I was just
going to be sure you got this right. Ps: Wedding is September 15,
2012…And in New York, NY. Like I said, Full travel ( transportation
and hotel ) will be taken care of . You see, you probably wont
understand how hard it is finding some one locally for the shooting of
our wedding . They are either booked up or not good enough so we
decided to check online a few websites including ppa, photolinks, etc.
So we definitely hate for this to be a waste of time.
I will let you know an exact address in the coming week(s) . I will
let you know asap when something has been booked. So the tentative
Wedding address is” The Central Park Boathouse. East 72nd St. New
York, NY 10021. We are expecting about 100-150 guests over . Both in
and outdoor shooting . Meaning we simply want an event coverage of our
preparation, ceremony, and reception.
It has been hard finding the perfect photographer for the shooting.
But following your response to my introductory email . I’m optimistic
about this arrangement working . So I put it you’re willing to travel
. We are currently in Manchester, UK for an important visit ahead of
my seminar. So I hope to work out an arrangement ahead of my arrival
back to the states.
You see, I am physically impaired (Hearing). So e-mail works fine
for now . We can work out all of the details ( via email) .A quick
question though, Will you be emailing us something like a standard
contract ( to be signed online ) knowing for sure you will be
available for the 15th?Get back to me soon.
PLEASE EMAIL YOUR PACKAGE PRICING LIST to discuss further.
Thank you .
After reading this one through I spotted a few red flags. While this is a little less obvious than the classic deposed dictator/king/rich guy Nigerian scam, it’s still full of holes. What first tipped me off was the the suggestion that full transportation and hotel will be covered. While I don’t make it above 23rd street very often, Central Park isn’t so far from Brooklyn that I can’t take the subway and sleep in my own bed after it’s all done. I think they meant to target a photographer a little farther away. Even given the last minute nature of this supposed wedding, I rarely get couples so eager to book without some kind of personal recommendation from a past client. There’s also no chance that a couple from the UK or anyone else for that matter would be able to book the Central Park Boathouse for a good size wedding on such short notice. I’ve photographed a number of small weddings in Central Park for Swedish couples who have been a joy to work with but those weddings I’ve often wound up signing the marriage application as a witness as there are no other guests attending.
The upfront insistence on email correspondence was just the icing on the wedding cake. I checked my website stats and sure enough, a single hit from Lagos, Nigeria. It figures that ‘Melissa’ was so insistent on getting my price list that’s clearly stated on my website. Doesn’t look like she really took any time to look around my website to get a feel for my work.
A quick trip to Google shows that this scam has actually been around at least as far back as 2005. The photographer David P Henry describes in detail his own protracted experience with Nigerian scammers on his website. It seems that the scammers send a forged check to pay for the wedding photography a few thousand dollars in excess of the stated rate and then insist that you send a check from your own very real bank account to Nigeria to pay pack the difference or to pay for something like wedding clothes or a band. It’s as simple as trading bad money for good. I could probably drag this out further but I’m not sure it’s really worth the trouble.
But if you happen to be planning a last minute wedding on September 15th, you know where to find me.