Thursday, May 7, 2009
How Do You Know if an E-Mail Inquiry is Legit?
With the present economy, e-mail scams are rampant, and wedding businesses, particularly musicians, are often the target.
Most brides and potential clients will include the question “How much?” in their initial email inquiries. They will include your name in the email greeting and may include some additional info about the time, date, and location of the gig. These are all good signs that the bride is genuinely interested in learning about your availability and talents.
However, on rare occasions, you will receive questionable inquiries. Actually, they are not inquiries at all—they are from scammers. As Steve Tetrault of GigSalad.com in Springfield, Missouri explains, “Their ultimate goal is to get you to receive a deposit check for an amount that is greater than what it should be, then ask you for the difference. Their check turns out to be fraudulent and they walk away with a few thousand bucks from you.”
Pretty scary stuff, but true.
Here are seven warning signs that you've received a fake email inquiry:
1. The email message is not addressed to anyone in particular.
It will start off with "Hello", or "Greetings", instead of "Dear Anne". This means that it was probably a mass mailing. Another test: Look at the "To:" field and the "Reply To:" field or the "From:" field in the header of the email. If these are all the same email addresses, the email was a mass mailing, not intended just for your eyes only.
2. The inquiry is riddled with exceptionally poor spellings, grammar, and punctuation.
Yes, some brides can't spell worth beans, but if you try to read the sentences out loud and find the urge to change the order of nouns and verbs, you don't have an inquiry. You have s*pam.
3. The email makes requests that do not apply to the services you offer.
If you are a string quartet, and the email is asking for a wedding DJ, it is too big a mistake to take seriously.
4. The email is giving you bogus information.
I once received an email that said the ceremony and reception would last from 11 am until 7 pm and that my services would be needed for that length of time. Really????
5. The scammer gives you a lot of extraneous info, such as a mailing address and phone number, only to say to contact them by email.
They're trying to convince you that they're for real. Don't fall for it. If an address is provided, go to MapQuest.com or YahooMaps or another map site and see if the address is a fake. You can also try calling a given phone number to see if it actually works.
6. Any email messages from overseas, claiming that they are willing to pay for your travel expenses and accommodations to perform in a foreign country.
Weddings are local events, and brides, event coordinators, and booking agents are most interested in booking local talent. It's pretty unlikely that a client who is not an established fan of yours (already on your email list) will pay you thousands of dollars, put you up in a hotel, provide your meals, and take care of your expenses to travel any distance to perform.
7. Any email from a client or event planner who is itching to pay you upfront, without any previous correspondence or conversations with you.
People aren't that eager to part with their money for any musician, and they like to do a bit of shopping around, asking questions, before they commit to spending money.
If you receive one of these wedding scam emails:
1. Don't reply.
Once you reply, the scammer thinks he has you hooked, and now that he knows he has a legit email address, he may pass your address along to all his scammer friends, too.
2. Report it as s*pam.
If you received the email through an online wedding or music directory, alert them. They'll want to put a halt to it and report it to the correct authorities. Don't blame these online directories, because they are victims as much as you are.
3. Depending upon what is contained in the body of the email, take things a step further.
You can report it to the online FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3.gov), SpamCop.net, your own Internet Service Provider, and a host of other online agencies that exist to eradicate s*pam.
The above tips, and many more, are found in my book “The Musician’s Guide to Brides”. This book is written primarily for wedding musicians, but it’s also filled with savvy information about marketing, advertising, and promoting your business as a working musician. It’s available wherever Hal Leonard Books are sold: music and bookstores, and through online retailers including sheetmusicplus.com, amazon.com, and of course, at my website at www.celticharpmusic.com.
How have you dealt with con artists? Please share your comments and insights below to help others avoid these pitfalls, too.
Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos
(And contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for personal consultation and mentoring—Make a living while gigging)