Many amateur photographers like to share their work via dedicated photo sharing websites or social media outlets. This is perfectly fine and a great way to get your work seen by others and receive recognition and feedback.
However, be aware of money laundering photography scams that often victimise amateur photographers via such public portfolios.
How Such Photography Scams Work
You suddenly receive an email, or private message claiming to be from an advertising executive at a high profile company such as Coca-Cola. The “executive” claims that a photograph in your portfolio is perfect for an upcoming advertising campaign. He or she offers to pay you a substantial fee for permission to use it.
You feel flattered by the recognition. And excited that you might finally receive a bit of revenue to cover all of the money you’ve spent on camera gear. So, of course, you readily agree with the proposal.
The “executive” sends you a cheque or direct funds transfer for the usage fee. However, the amount of money you receive is considerably more than the agreed-upon usage fee. Supposedly, the extra funds are for related expenses such as advertising agency fees. And, you will be asked to wire the extra money directly to the “advertising agency” via a money transfer service such as Western Union.
But, the cheque will turn out to be stolen. Or forged or, in the case of direct transfers, the funds will come from a hijacked bank account. In fact, any money you send to the “advertising agency” will go right back to the scammers.
Via this ruse, criminals are able to “launder” the money they have stolen while leaving you out of pocket and potentially facing legal repercussions. Since you will have processed the funds via your own bank account, subsequent police investigations may lead directly to you. By this time, the criminals will have disappeared having received the bulk of their stolen funds in the form of cash.
Risk of Identity Theft
During the course of the scam, the criminals will harvest a large amount of your personal information, ostensibly to allow an image usage contract to be formalised. They may subsequently use this information to steal your identity.
Other Types of Money Laundering Scams
Of course, photography scams like the one described here are only one of the many ways that online criminals launder money. The scammers may also offer well-paid jobs as “financial agents”. Or, they may offer to buy an item that you have listed for sale online. Again, the scammers will attempt to trick you into processing money via your own bank account and wiring the extra amounts as cash.
Be wary of any “deal” that requires you to accept more than an agreed upon price and send the extra amount to a third-party. No legitimate company is ever likely to conduct business in such a way.