Way to Get my Hopes Up Nigerians

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.

Thank you,
Melissa Brown
glowingflower01@gmail.com

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.

 

Hi Melissa,

 
Thanks for reaching out. What all do you have planned so far? 6-8 hours is somewhere in between two of my packages but I’m available on Sept 15th and I’m sure we can find something that works for both of us with a little more information.

To which I received this response:

 

Hello Noah,

       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 .

Melissa Brown.

 

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.

Far fewer than 100-150 guests at this Central Park wedding

 

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.

9 thoughts on “Way to Get my Hopes Up Nigerians

  1. Noah, I always get a chuckle out of these emails when I get one. My standard response is always something like:

    Yes, I am available, and would love to work with you. Please send a money order for 3,000. I realize my fee is only 2,000, but I can give you the difference in cash when you arrive. Please know that the cashier’s or counter check must be drawn from a bank internationally recognized as I have all my accounts at a small local bank, and they simply will not cash a check that is not from a major bank.

    I never hear back…

  2. thank you for posting this. i actually get plenty of vague emails from potential clients, but i, too, felt that this one was worded weirdly, and then my website is currently under construction, so i was even further perplexed why they would choose me. from one photographer to another, thank you for your blog about this. i have marked their email as spam. :sigh::

  3. I just got this exact email this morning. What a joke. Thanks for posting so I could reference their response. I replied not thinking anything about it. Guess we will see where they are planning to ask us to go soon.

    Best Regards.

  4. Thank u so much for posting this! “Mellissa brown” just contacted me and i almost believed her!

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  6. I too received this email this morning. It always seems like after the first line or two, I can tell what’s a legit inquiry or not! Just out of curiosity, a couple of years ago, I DID drag one of these inquiries out. I knew it was bogus, but wanted to see how far they would take it. They refused to set up a phone consultation and sure enough after several spotty emails back & forth, the “couple” sent a fake check for the total + about $2,000 so that I would pay the difference to the “wedding coordinator”. Plus, they never signed my contract. What happens is that you go to your bank, cash the check and by the time your bank realizes it was a bad check, you’ve sent the cash off to they address they provide you with and BAM! You are out a few thousand dollars. I went to my local police station since I thought there was a clear trail (with addresses that I was instructed to send the money to). They said they probably couldn’t do anything since the addresses were out of state…but honestly, it angers me so much because surely some people fall for it. I get at least 5 emails a year that are entirely suspect – broken english with very plain jane names like “melissa brown”. The first thing I do is google the email. Most of the time the exact email will come up, but sometimes they don’t. Regardless, all I do from there is treat them as if they were a regular client, but insist on a consultation – either in person, phone or Skype. At this point, most of them have caught on that I know what’s going on and don’t write back. If a venue name is given, I contact the venue to verify that it is bogus, and it always is. If only these jerks could be stopped.

  7. Thank you for posting. I kept telling myself that something was very wrong with this request. I am in Texas, and of course I travel, but like everyone has already stated.. this was full of holes and red flags. Glad I Googled. 🙂

  8. thank goodness i found you, i’ve been asking around twitter as I smelled a rat when they said they were hearing impared. It was exactly the same as your experience, sept 15th and the rather impersonal manner too. I was a little surprised as i’m in the UK and they are in New York, i’ve been asking why they dont pick someone more local.

    thanks for writing about it all and i will be more careful in future

    B*STARD SCAMS!!!!!

    TERI
    X

  9. Pingback: Melissa Brown Wedding Scam......

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