Scam Alert!

10/24/2016 11:28:00 AM
By Rob Tavaglione
Rob Tavaglione
If you’re a small pro audio-oriented business owner—studio owner, audio engineer, live sound provider, all of the above—you’ve surely warded off attempted scams, phishing, spoofs and/or hacks in recent times. Anyone who has sold expensive audio equipment via Craigslist has surely seen some hackneyed attempts at scams, but lately my inboxes have been blowing up with a couple of interesting new rip-offs, so take note and beware. Cynics may be able to shrug off such injurious advances easily, but those who are anxious for some new business activity may be tempted to give these crooks the benefit of the doubt…but don’t.

1. The “gift for the guy in the military” scam: This is a good one in that it pushes some emotional buttons as well as monetary ones. It starts out with texts containing generic transaction questions that don’t require any special customizing of the scammer’s template, such as “Is the unit in good shape?” or “Is $XXX your bottom price?” Your responses are accepted as the scammer pulls for your heart-strings. “This is a surprise gift for my brother/nephew/cousin who is overseas in the military; he has a tough time with PTSD/injuries/battle, etc.” Scam-boy continues, “I’ll pay with money orders and arrange for my shipper to come get it.” The catch is that the money orders will be fraudulent, and by then, you will have already shipped the goods.

Rob’s Advice: Lead them on for a while with naive responses, waste their time considerably and then kiss 'em off with a sudden burst of profane indictments before blocking their number.

2. The “deaf guy with the record label” scam: This one isn’t as clever, but has hit my inbox four times now. Dude wants to know if you can accommodate a fairly large ensemble from [insert exotic foreign country here] who will be stateside in a month; they want to record their new album in a whirlwind four-day stretch. It’s very much an audio-specific scam in that he asks about day rates, mentions a producer and claims it’s a project with international successes pending. If you inquire further, he’ll unveil that he literally cannot talk to you about this project, as he is a deaf record-label owner with a charitable bent and he can only negotiate by e-mail. Long story short, he offers to advance some money orders, needs you to cash them and distribute to the producer, or tour manager or some other lame ploy. Eventually the money orders bounce to Topeka and you’re left holding an empty bag.

Rob’s advice: Delete the e-mail. It’s not worth the time to mess with these dimwits.

It’s hard enough making money in this business without hucksters nipping at our heels. Let us all—though networks of peers, social media, and formats such as this column—communicate enough to spread the word when audio pros are targeted.

These days, even hosting a website puts a target on your back. My studio’s site gets probed with malicious attempts and corrupted files every week; at least Wordfence (a free WordPress security plug-in) does a pretty good job of isolating the issues. Pro tip: Check with your webmaster for more ways to reduce spoofing—e.g., scams in which the spammer uses your e-mail address. Ultimately you should remain cynical, don’t leave any digital doors cracked open, trust your instincts and always remember this: “If it seems too good to be true, it is.”

What scams have you noticed lately?

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