Musicians Beware, It’s A Scam To Steal Your Money!
At GigRoster.com, It’s our job to help musicians get great gigs. Any professional performer can have a free listing by registering their act and they are eligible to be booked for gigs. We’ve been helping musicians and performers for over 30 years and that's why it makes us even madder when we see scammers trying to rob and take advantage of hard working performers.
This pernicious scam has been going on for years but as time and technology advance it becomes even more sophisticated. We still get questions from performers who are suspicious, but not sure it’s for real, worried that they may be passing on an easy to book well paying gig. We don’t mince words. This is pure and simple a con that is designed to steal your money and likely open you to identity theft! It is despicable that as hard as everyone in our business works to provide professional talent services that we need to deal with low-life criminals like this, but it’s out there and you need to recognize it from the start.
It plays on the desire of most of us professionals who are always anxious to book a great gig with the pay we deserve and sometimes it can blind us to the red flags when a supposed customer or client is saying they are ready to book your act for a great price. It looks like a good deal and easy money, but wait!
How Does It Work?
Usually it happens like this. You are approached by what seems to be a serious client asking to book your act on a certain date. Often it does not include the location, but you assume it is local. The location is usually not given until you answer the request which is always by email or through messaging, such as facebook messenger or through a booking platform or even by sms/text message. At this point they know where you are if they look you up on the internet or any number of booking sites.
Once you’ve replied to the scammer the con is on and they will begin working you. They will ask what the price is, and, believe it or not, it will not matter what price you give them. They will agree to it no matter how ridiculous. You could be a solo guitarist and tell them it's $3000 an hour and they will readily agree. There is your first red flag. This one might be harder to catch unless you know they are con artists from the top, since most likely you will give a reasonable price and the scammer will agree. Great! You’ve got a gig and for once it was easier than talking the customer into it. Fantastic. Let’s do the contract. No wait, let’s not do that!
There are typically a few more red flags to tip you off. Often the purchaser is currently out of the country, so they will need a little more help from you in setting up this gig, and, because of their location, for work or some other excuse, they are not able to call you and go over details on the phone. It doesn't matter where they tell you they are at, they are not there. Be assured they are not inside the USA or Canada either, where they would be vulnerable to things like law enforcement. So they will tell you many times they are working through an event planner or that they’d like you to also function as their event planner. They, or their representative, will be forwarding you a check (it will come, but watch out, it’s a fraudulent check, cashiers check or money order!). They may offer to pay you by credit card. That’s a little more recent but since many artists now have a way to take payments by credit card, this is even slicker. And no, that does not protect you either. It is a stolen credit card. When it is reported or the issuing bank flags it as stolen, that money is coming right back out of your account, just like it will from a check, cashiers check or money order! It may not come out as fast as you think though. It could take 30 days or more to be reversed. Long after you think it is cleared funds. It is not.
Now the part that is always a part of the scheme. They will want to overpay you for your services, pretty much no matter how much you are charging them. Since they are outside the country currently, they just need you to help them out by taking a larger payment, keeping your portion and sending the extra to the event planner or other event professionals after the check or credit card clears. Sometimes more than one if they think you will do it. They may even offer to add another fee of $500-1000 for your trouble in making these arrangements. They will request it by check or by money order. Never by credit card. They will be vague as to why they need the money to go through you (see some of the common excuses in the red flags below). Intelligent and well meaning people DO fall for this, caught up in the excitement that they have a gig that is going to pay very well. It does not matter what excuse they tell you as to why they need the money to go through you, their new best friend and event planner, but no matter how they explain it, the overpayment is where they make their score.
You may say, “But if they pay by cashiers check or money order, that’s the same as cash and I can just go down to my bank and cash it.” WRONG. If it is a cashiers check or money order, sure, your bank will take it. In a few days they will “clear” it and you can even take the cash out of your account. But when it bounces, and it will, then you are responsible for that money. Even if it means your account is overdrawn. Most often it will be on a foriegn bank, a real one, so don’t bother checking. The advantage of drawing it on a foreign bank for the scammers is it could take 30 days or more before you know it is fake and the money is pulled back out of your account.
The will be weeks after you have forwarded the extra money to the other fake event professional(s) with your own perfectly good check. Yours will actually clear in a few days and the money will be out of your hands forever. Now, you have lost perhaps $1000 to $1500 or more of your own money and the $5000 fake check that they sent you isn’t worth the paper they themselves printed it on. Next you may even have to start dealing with bank fees for overdrawing your own account, bounced check fees. Yes, the bank charges you too when someone writes you a bad check through no fault of yours.
A credit card version of this works the same. They will overpay you using a stolen credit card number and then you just need to send the overpayment money to whomever they have told you needs to be paid by check, cashiers check, or money order because the person you are paying is temporarily unable to accept credit cards or any number of other excuses. Your money will be long gone before the credit card payment is reversed for fraud, which could take over 30-60 days.
Sometimes they are not able to make a credit card work if you request they do that and they will ask if they can send you a check instead, pretending there is some problem with their card. There’s a problem alright. That means your credit card system which probably has good technology and has enough protections in place that their AI has found the transaction suspicious and won’t take it. At GigRoster, we’ve had scammers try it 20 times, over several days! Failing each time of course and they still try to make the transaction happen long after we’ve ascertained that they are playing the old con. We can usually spot it right away though.
Here Are Many of the Red Flags You Can Look For
- The gig is too easy to book. The purchaser has little or no questions other than price and wants to book your band or act with no further information, promo, video or questions.
- A gig request that comes with vague details that they then provide you AFTER they find out who you are and where you are located. At this point they can simply google a local wedding or event facility and say, that’s the location. They can’t have too many specific details about you or your location in the original email, since the email is being sent to thousands of people.
- The performance date is an odd day of the week. Such as a wedding on a Tuesday. Sure it’s possible. We’ve done many week day weddings over the years, but the scam works better with musicians if they choose a night to inquire about that they are pretty sure you are not booked. That will also be a date you are very anxious to book since you are not getting too many calls for a Tuesday wedding reception.
- Any time a purchaser wants to pay you more than your asking price in advance. Or if they agree to pay a ridiculous price without question. To test this we’ve told scammers that a basic DJ service for 2 hours would be $15,000. No problem. If it starts like this, something is wrong and you need to stop right there and cease communication.
- If the purchaser says they want you to help out by forwarding money to their event planner, or to act as their event planner and pay or some other person involved in the event. Come on! You have to wonder why they don’t just send it to that provider instead. (But don’t get into a discussion about it, they will make up excuses: The credit card system is down, I can only send this one large check signed over to you, etc.)
- They need to pay you by credit card and have you send a check, cashiers check, or money order to another person working on the event because their credit card service is temporarily down and we need to get payment to them ASAP so we can have the event. This is to create urgency. If you can’t help them out, you won’t be able to perform at the event and look how much you’ll lose. WRONG!
- The purchaser is vague about the details and time. How many purchasers do you know that are not very clear about start time?
- The verbiage in the emails or messages sounds like they are trying to write the Queens English but not doing very well at it, or using large or unusual phrases or terms. They are redundant in their answers and it appears they are working from a set of prewritten general answers. Not speaking great english in itself is certainly not a reason to suspect anyone, but it may be if it is combined with a number of these other red flags. And honestly, as you’ll see in the examples below, it is not hard to spot if you are aware of it.
- The purchaser cannot be reached by phone. No way, no how. Even if you offer to call at any time of day or night at your own expense. Nigerian Princes simply are not equipped to take phone calls. As you know though, now with any cell phone it is pretty easy to place a call anywhere in the world using something as simple as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or any number of hundreds of voip apps or protocols. If they are better at the scam, they will tell you they can reach out to you by message only since they are at sea on a ship, deployed in the military or even that they are deaf, or in the hospital with terminal cancer (that’s especially good, since they will play on your sympathy and mercy to help them now in their time of need, never mind that it does not seem to be the best time to plan a wedding or anniversary).
- If they give a lot of unrelated details to you, then you know they are copying and pasting the scam to many in our industry, not just musicians
What if you just want to play along and see where it goes?
Don’t do it. You will not be punishing this person who is probably in a remote country and is working this scam on many people at the same time, having sent out thousands and thousands of emails. Sure, maybe you’ll waste some of their time, but that about it. You’ll waste yours too, and yours is actually valuable. The longer you engage the more chance they have to convince you it is real, or gather more information about you even if you are just messing with them, which may well lead to identity theft.
If you are thinking you can just take their check and deposit it and see how it goes? No harm in just seeing if it clears and not sending them any money, right? Nope. About the best you can hope for is that you’ll end up paying some bank fees. You’ll also expose your account to possible fraud or identity theft since your account number is now on the canceled check.
Read through the examples of real initial letters below so when you so when it's your turn to get that email or message, you’ll be ready with the delete button! Just knowing about this common scam is going to protect you from falling victim. Share it with your fellow musicians and performers. While it is probably not realistic to expect we can stop it, at least those within your circle can see it coming and close the door in the face of these criminals.
See below for just a few examples of what kinds of verbiage they use. Notice the similarities between them and the ways in which they work on drawing you in. Some of these are so pervasive that we have received exactly the same email many times as they attempt to reach out to an individual band or performer listed on GigRoster.com. We’ve not corrected any grammar below for purposes of illustration.
Good morning Mary. How are you doing and how was your night? hope it was splendid. firstly. i would like to say i am so grateful to read from you and fulfilling your promised as you said. i want you to know that i am currently out of town at the moment for a special assignment as a US navy officer i am on the sea at the moment that is why i choose this medium as a means of communication due to bad network and i will be coming back to town by ending of next month that is why i want you to handle everything for me because i am making this as a surprise for my wife. More also, there is no way i can sign this agreement here unless you resend it and make it a way i can be able to sign in through internet or through microsoft word.
Thank you so much for your full package of services and i really appreciate you for taking your time to elaborate them to me I am okay with the cost of your service. Does that include processing fee + tax because i would need you to do me little favor,I will like you to kindly coordinate deposit of $3500 for my limo driver that will pick up my wife, family members and some guest to party location and i want you to be rest assured that i will pay all CC fee and taxes. i will be making advance payment of 50% of the service and i want you to calculate everything together and send me the total estimate and agreement so that i can sign. Less i forgot kindly let me know about the payment if you have gotten the merchant setup so that we can proceed with the payment. i want you to know that once i make the payment and fund hit your account i will surely instruct you on what to do and we can proceed from there. i will also be given you $200 as a tip for all the inconvenience and i would be so glad if you can handle this for me perfectly. Thanks for your understanding and your cooperation.
Thanks for your prompt response.
Due to the nature of my job, it's kinda hard to plan a successful 10th year wedding anniversary party with intent to make it a surprise party to my wife, and this has prompted me to reach out to you for assistance. I'm already having lots of stress planning this event on my own. I've made out a list of what I thought would be essential for my event to ensure its success. My event will hold on Thursday, March 30, 2017 in Toronto, ON, and I want all logistics taken care of by you.
Making proper arrangements for flowers and decor
Catering Services; (Italian Cuisine, buffet style)
I'd prefer a DJ and would like R&B and Jazz music.
Event color : White and Lemon
I would like to inform you that all payments to vendors will have to go through you as my event coordinator and you'll have to take care of all logistics and plans for my event as I'm officially out of town because of work. I travel a lot and that's because I work 24/7 on a ship, I'm a Sailor, but my ship has been scheduled to berth on March 25, 2017, 5 days prior to my wedding anniversary. My party time is 3pm to 7pm and expected guests are 50. I'll like to know how much you charge for this kind of event and deposit payment will be made with my credit card in other to formally secure your services once I have a contract from you. I believe you can bring a level of service that surpasses anything we’ve seen before.
I'll be looking forward to hear back from you so we can proceed with necessary arrangements.
Thanks and best regards,
Thanks for your prompt response.
Due to the nature of my job, a Seaman/Sailor, always on a ship taking cargo from one destination to the other, it’s kinda hard to plan a successful 10th year wedding anniversary party with the intent to make it a surprise party to wife, family and some friends all on my own, I guess I need help. I’d like to hire the services of an event planner in regards to my upcoming 10th year wedding anniversary which is coming up on Jan. 28. 2017, in Bryan, TX, but I don’t wanna host this event at my residence, I’m already having lots of stress planning this event on my own that’s why i want you to please coordinate this event for me, as I do believe that you will do me a lovely party and thrill my guest to the best of your ability.
Listed below are the services needed for the event:
Getting us a venue is very important
Making proper arrangements for flowers and decor
Catering Services; food and drinks for the guest I presume my guests would like to try a new cuisine. but it shouldn’t be more than my budget.
I’d prefer a DJ and would like R&B and Jazz music.
Event color : White and Lemon
Budget : 14k
I would like to inform you that all payments to vendors will have to go through you as my party coordinator/event planner and you can get all the necessary arrangement done for my event as i am officially out of town because my work makes me travel a lot and that’s because I work 24/7 on a ship, so I’m always on the high sea but I will be in town 5 days prior to my wedding anniversary. My party time is 3pm to 7pm, Expected guest is 50. I’ll like to know how much you charge for this kind of event. Deposit or full payment, will be made asap with my credit card once availability for venue is confirmed by you. I believe you can bring a level of service that surpasses anything we’ve seen before.
I’m anticipating your earliest response.
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