Good friend and employment lawyer, Nance Schick, just sent this information to me about an actor’s experience with a scammer. She asked me to pass it along to the actors I knew - her email address is linked at the bottom, in case you have any questions.
And now, from Nance:
Several of my friends are actors and models with profiles on Backstage.com. On 09/30/09, one received the following email message:
Sep 30, 2009 11:57:50 AM, email@example.com wrote:
Hi, I am emailing you as regards your post on BACKSTAGE. I was really thrilled when i saw those wonderful shots of yours, I quite appreciate your looks and would like to work with you on a small contract if you don't mind.
I work as a Talent scouting Agent for CODEWEAR Clothing™ in San Diego, CA. The brand's CONCEPT started in 2004 by Postal Carrier Lonnie Reams. The company now expanding into all markets has created a niche product, appealing to all ages. The unique Community based apparel offers a creative, one of a kind way to represent your neighborhood. You can visit their website: http://www.codewearclothing.comfor more details.
We need models to model for the promotion sales just to help publish them and to boost their sales and help them pave their way up the clothing industry meeting up with world fashion business today. Shot will be taking and pictures will be used to advertise their products. Get back to me know if you are interested in the Job offer and let me know your charging plan for 2 hours just for a day shoot. The shot will be done at a location closer to you.
Originally, we were forgiving of the poor sentence structure and failure to provide more details regarding the purported talent agency. It’s not unusual for small business owners to take chances on other “little guys” when they’re starting out or doing their first expansion. However, this alleged job has now been “in the works” for two months, and there have been a number of discrepancies that caused me to contact Lonnie Reams directly today.
He confirmed for me that he has no relationship with any such agency, the alleged supervisor or any other such expansion efforts. He has been getting frequent calls about this and is concerned that this scam will make his business look illegitimate. It is not.
We suspect that the scammers will eventually ask for the model’s bank account number or send a check that the model will cash. This might also give them access to the model’s bank account information and possibly allow them to hack into the account. Wikipedia contains a thorough, plain-language explanation of such scams, which it calls the “Cash the Check System.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_fraud#Cash_the_check_system. The site also contains links to the various authorities who investigate internet fraud.
It makes me very angry that anyone would be targeted for such a scam, but it is especially unsettling because the models and actors who might accept such a low-paying job are probably struggling financially. Please don’t get sucked in!
Here are some of the Red Flags to watch for:
• Consistently poor grammar, sentence structure, spelling, etc. in what is supposed to be a professional communication. An occasional error is understandable in our electronic age, but frequent inability to express ideas clearly is odd in this competitive marketplace.
• Incomplete or minimal contact information. If you’ve been offered a job and the employer still doesn’t trust you enough to know who you are working for, you probably really don’t have a job.
• Notice that a payment is coming to you in an amount greater than what you had agreed to. We are still investigating, but we suspect the scammers will offer to pay you by check so they can get your bank account information from your endorsement or your bank’s verification. (If you are still writing your full bank account number under your signature when you sign your checks, stop this immediately.)
• Google or otherwise investigate the companies or agencies you will supposedly be working for.
• Trust your gut and pass on offers that seem too good to be true or “weird.”
• Contact the purported client (e.g., Codewear Clothing in this case) for verification of the relationship.
• Consider filing a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or other government authority.
• Never endorse your checks with your full bank account number on them.
Finally, I have filed a complaint with the FBI and alerted the investigators of this latest scam. It could be difficult to trace the perpetrators, but if you have information that might assist the discovery process, I encourage you to submit it. Backstage.com had some system problems last week that might be connected to these scammers and possible hackers, which further complicates the issues. I have alerted them as well.
Be careful “out there” (online)!
Nance L. Schick, Esq.
UPDATE: Nance received a response from Backstage. Check out their message here.
Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.