While I knew this had to be a scam, I felt foolish when all the information about this scam was easy to find. In fact, this exact scam had been done many times. I had been duped.

A few months ago, a man reached out to me via my photography website asking if I would be interested in working with his client on a fashion photo shoot. I’ll call him “Joseph.”

How cool would that be to work on a fashion shoot? I wrote back immediately telling him I’d love to work with him, but was he aware that I was not a fashion photographer?

He replied that he had visited my website and just liked my style. My head swelled. Wow, I was getting noticed!

Joseph told me the brand he was working with and asked if his proposed salary would be acceptable. I said yes (the fee was more than generous).

He needed this done on a tight timeline, could I do it, he asked? “Yes I can,” I told him. So long as it was done before April 4 when I was having minor surgery.

We went back and forth on potential dates which he said I would coordinate with the model agency. I lined up a photo assistant, scoped out locations and began my research. I took time to find some new urban locations and though I have always enjoyed flipping through the pages of fashion magazines, now I studied them.

There was less than two weeks before this proposed shoot and time was of the essence.

I had a few red flags. He never committed to a date, though he was in a hurry. The name of the model agency was never provided. He wanted three outfit changes for each of four models, but when I asked what his desired aesthetic was, I received no answer. My ego wanted to believe he just loved my photography.

Joseph finally told me he was sending a check, and explained that it would be my responsibility to pay the models. I wasn’t on board with that requirement and told him so. A few days later he told me he was expediting a check despite my telling him I wasn’t willing to disperse the funds.

At this point we had less than one week to get the work done and all my alarm bells began ringing.

So I finally did something I wish I had done earlier. I searched online for experiences others had working with this brand and then I stopped dead in my tracks.

While I had begun to realize this had to be a scam, I felt foolish when all the information about this scam was easy to find. In fact, this exact scam had been done many times. I had been duped.

The way the scam works is that someone like Joseph sends a check that they hope gets deposited by their victim immediately who then disperses funds to the address provided. The scam works if all of this is done quickly, before the bank realizes the check is no good and victims are out thousands of dollars.

I finally wrote Joseph and said, “Hey, it was fun playing along with your little check cashing scheme, but I’m done playing now.”

He never responded though I received the check he had promised. I tossed it into the trash.

Should I have reported it? Maybe, but the likelihood of scam artists like Joseph getting caught is slim and I had just come off of dealing with fake charges to my bank account. Unraveling that took a lot of time and phone calls to resolve. A few weeks earlier, I had received an email from my bank asking if I had authorized almost $1000 of DoorDash charges from Kentucky Fried Chicken on my debit card. No I had not. Unfortunately they approved over $450 of those charges before getting an inkling that the expenditure might not be legit.

Being on the receiving end of a scam or finding out your email, bank or social media has been hacked is an awful feeling. But it’s important to remember that this is common and the scammers are getting smarter by using personal information or one detail that sounds believable. Chances are everyone will fall for some sort of scan in their lifetime so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Just a few weeks ago, I received an email from my ‘daughter,’ that had a subject line with a link saying “I meant to send you this earlier.” Without thinking, I clicked on it and it led me nowhere. Then I checked the email it had been sent from. It was not my daughter’s email even though it had her name listed as the sender.

I wish I could give you full-proof methods to avoid this, but beyond common sense things like regularly changing your passwords, never providing personal details over the phone or via text, never clicking on suspicious links (especially links without any other text) and considering using a credit card for all your purchases (if your credit card has fraudulent use, your money won’t be tied up while it is resolved like my bank account was), I don’t.

But I can say that forgiving yourself and appreciating that these scams are commonplace these days will go far. If you are taken advantage of, I can guarantee you’ll be a bit more street wise in the future.

Some articles that might be helpful to avoid scams:

How to Avoid a Scam

BBB: 10 Steps to Avoid a Scam