SCAMS & FRAUD
Scam Season Drags On: How To Use
Your Best Protection (Your Brain) ...
September 26, 2017
By Armin Hierstetter
CEO, bodalgo online casting
When it comes to fighting scams, you possess the best weapon in the world against it. It's called: a brain.
Here is how to use it.
There is hardly a week passing by without reports about scams in the voice over world (and other creative branches). This leads to a large amount of insecurity with a lot of talents. Others become overly suspicious and begin questioning even legit jobs.
So it's time to outline best practices to avoid the scammers without excluding valid opportunities.
For example, bodalgo has integrated a lot of features to prevent scams. Every job posting is manually approved before you see it.
But when it comes to direct messages sent to you via the form on your public profile page on bodalgo (or other profile pages you might have out there), there is little that can be done upfront.
The good news is, though: There are simple rules for you to follow. If you do, scammers will never be an issue for you - promised!
Rule 1: Never send money
Scammers are not interested in your work. They are solely interested in your money and want to trick you into sending it to them.
But remember: As a talent it is you who gets the money, not vice versa. So don't send money - under any circumstances. Never. Really. I mean it.
One common tactic of scammers is to send a check that has been issued with too high an amount, so they ask you to send the balance. Needless to say, there would be a big surprise waiting for you weeks later when their check fails to clear (although it might have been accepted initially by your bank).
Never send money. It is always as scam. There is no exception to this rule.
Rule 2: Do your due diligence (a.k.a. "Use your brain")
This rule not only helps with identifying scammers, but also identifies clients that might have no interest in paying you once the job is done.
You always must make sure that you have full contact details, including postal address and phone (easy to verify!). A little suspicion should be added when you have to ask for this information, as any professional company will provide it in the footer of every email sent to you.
If a company name is given, but you cannot find any information about it online, this should raise eyebrows. It's not necessarily a scam, but you should ask for more details.
Stay away from clients insisting on using payments to you via Western Union, which is the bank of choice for scammers because it makes it easy for them to hide in anonymity.
Frankly, in my book, Western Union itself should always be avoided at all costs as they are making millions in commissions by helping crooks all over the world and not doing anything about it.
Important: The use of public email providers should not make you think less of the legitimacy of a client. There are a lot of freelancers out there, and not all of them have their own email server.
HOW TO AVOID NOT BEING PAID
Not getting paid is almost as painful as being scammed. So we want to avoid those "clients" too.
Again, follow these simple steps to be safe for good. But beware! All of the practices below should only be applied to first-time clients of whose legitimacy you are not 100 percent convinced. Never use these strategies when the customer's identity is not in question. The risk of not getting paid drops significantly with the client's level of public awareness.
1. Ask for partial payment
There is nothing wrong with asking for a partial upfront payment when dealing with a first time client. A reasonable amount would be between 25 and 50 percent.
But avoid asking for a full upfront payment. Why? Don't forget: As much as the client might be new to you, so are you to the client.
If a private person or a company you have never heard of refuses to pay upfront, and the script is some multi-level marketing (get rich, lose weight, etc.), I strongly suggest you stay away. Those business models should not be supported anyway (and definitely not using your precious voice).
2. Watermark your work!
"Watermarking" means that you add sounds to the audio before sending it for approval. These sounds need to be audible enough to render the audio commercially unusable. At the same time, the client still needs to be able to judge your read.
Over the years I have heard a lot of different ways to watermark:
3. State your payment terms
Be crystal clear about your payment terms before doing the job, and make sure that your client understands and agrees to them. Not clarifying payment terms upfront and then asking for immediate payment in the invoice will surely lead to unnecessary discussions and bad customer experience.
STILL HAVEN'T BEEN PAID?
Haven't been paid? There is still hope.
Be patient. Too many times, talents have approached bodalgo claiming they have not been paid, when in reality they have just sent the invoice a week or two ago.
Patience is a virtue, especially if you have failed to discuss payment terms (see above).
If your invoice is really overdue, don't just write one email after the other. Pick up that phone and call – nothing wrong with that, if one or two emails did not do the trick.
Be friendly. Be firm. In very, very rare cases, nothing of the above will help.
But if your client commissioned your work on behalf of another client, there is still hope! Approach your client's client and tell them in a friendly but firm way that their agency/production company/service provider did not pay, and that they must not use the recording before your invoice has been dealt with.
USE THAT BRAIN ...
So there you have it: Being scammed is totally avoidable, and it does not take much to protect yourself.
The same goes for identifying clients that are potential troublemakers.
Feel free to contact me in case you come across (potential) scammers on bodalgo. I am constantly updating bodalgo's built-in scam protection system.
Armin Hierstetter is the CEO of bodalgo.com, the global voice over online casting company he founded in 2008. As a voice over platform purely dedicated to professional talent, bodalgo is known for innovative design and functionality. In addition to online casting, bodalgo offers the completely free ISDN-replacement bodalgoCall (www.bodalgo.com/call), and will add a lean CRM system to its tool box. Armin lives with his wife and his two daughters in Munich, Bavaria.
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