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VoiceOverXtra Survey - Part 1
 
@Scams: What Are Online Casting
Services Doing To Protect You?
 
By John Florian
©2010 VoiceOverXtra
August 24, 2010
 
With apologies to the honest folks named Frank Mayfield and Charles Thamesmeade, it's good that scammers using those names are finally getting their due - if not in court, at least over the Internet - as predators who are conducting a Nigerian Lottery-style hoax on voice actors and artists.
 
In the scam, a bogus money order is sent to the voice talent or artist as payment for work completed or to be done. 
 
This is followed by a request for a refund - from the victim's personal checking account - because the dollar amount on the money order was erroneously too high.
 
"Actually almost fell for it (the scam)," an artist writes VoiceOverXtra. "Something made me Google him ... and I found this (article)! ...  Thank you for the warning/information."
 
WHERE IT BEGAN
 
As detailed in an earlier series of VoiceOverXtra articles (starting with: Scam Alert: 'Oops, We Sent You An Overpayment. Please Refund'), Mayfield/Thamesmeade posted a voice over job on Voices.com, an online casting marketplace, in early May this year.
 
Many voice talents responded to that posting and carried on email correspondence with the London-based crooks - some even speaking with a person there by phone. And at least a few talents recorded the requested commercial for a high-energy drink.
 
VoiceOverXtra has also seen documentation from one voice talent who lost approximately $1,300 in the hoax. (We're checking with authorities on what can be done about it.)
 
ONLINE CASTING RESPONSIBLE?
 
Meanwhile, since the scam began with an online job posting, we're curious about what the online casting services are doing to prevent scams and expose crooks.
 
So we asked major services to respond to eight questions about their policies and responsibilities. Following are the replies from (click on a name to go directly to reply):
Part 2 of this series features replies from Voice123 and Voices.com.
 
Bodalgo.com
Armin Hierstetter
Owner
 
Do you have formal procedures for screening job seekers and/or job postings for scams?
 
Yes, we do! Every job posting does get checked in a variety of ways, especially job postings from people that:
  • post for the first time;
  • have a google/yahoo/hotmail/you_name_it email address and “odd” description; and 
  • post a non-specific job. Those get deleted straight away.
What’s more: Unlike other sites where poeple seem to be able to post any jobs at any budgets, bodalgo will not forward job postings to talents if the budget is not up to scratch.
 
We have rejected more than 500 job postings in the last 12 months because of clients wanting professional audio for a dumping budget. We do not support this, although we know that there are talents that might would do those jobs because of the tough times we’re living in.
 
Still, we are a firm believer that proper jobs need proper rates. Otherwise the market gets “kaputt”.
 
Do you report suspected or confirmed scams to the Better Business Bureau, FBI, IRS ... other law enforcement?
 
Not at this stage. This is mainly because of the fact that we take action before the actual fraud happens, so there is little to hand over to law enforcement.
 
Do you address the topic of scams on your website or in communications with members?
 
Yes. Also, we encourage talents to watermark files for first-time customers and ask for upfront payments.
 
Per year, about how many scams are you made aware of related to job postings on your site? Do you see a trend?
 
To this day we have been informed about two cases (in 28 months) where talents have not been paid.
 
We could solve one case, unfortunately not the other one (150 USD job).
 
Apart from that, to the best of our knowledge, fraud has not been an issue with bodalgo.
 
What do you do when a member informs you about a suspected or actual scam?
 
We contact the voice seeker, research the company, phone them up and ask the right questions in case we get ahold of somebody.
 
If something is feeling odd – the seekers gets banned. But – we have to be fair here – it’s not always the seeker to blame. We also had one case where a voice talent was not paid because he claimed to be a native speaker of a language that he was not native in.
 
Do you (or would you consider to) send all members a warning about a confirmed scam related to a job posting on your site?
 
Well, at least to all members that auditioned. But I think it’s better to do the screening right before the job gets posted.
 
Do you (or would you consider to) compensate members whom you verify to have lost money related to a job posting on your site?
 
A clear “no” here – and I know that it sounds a bit harsh. But if somebody tells you to send money because he sent a cheque to you with too much credit on it, it’s a no-brainer not to do anything before the check has cashed in for good.
 
What advice can you give to voice talent about avoiding scams?
 
Use common sense. The second you ask yourself the question, “Is this real?” you already have a BIG WARNING SIGN that it might not be.
 
Use your brain to evaluate. Watermark your stuff for first-time clients.
 
And NEVER pay anything to anyone. Except me, that is ... ;)
 
 
Commercial Voices.com
E-Learning Voices.com
Rick Gordon
Owner
 
Do you have formal procedures for screening job seekers and/or job postings for scams?
 
Anything sounding too good to be true is immediately deleted. If I have the time I will search out information on the originator, along with a quick email contact to verify the information.
 
Should anything smell shady I simply ignore.
 
Do you report suspected or confirmed scams to the Better Business Bureau, FBI, IRS ... other law enforcement?
 
No, I think in most cases that would be a waste of time. It’s difficult enough informing new clients how we do what we do, than also trying to inform an Agency or the Law what we are all about.
 
Do you address the topic of scams on your website or in communications with members?
Yes, I will contact all members in CommercialVoices.com and E-LearningVoices.com about the (current) scam.
 
I also watch with interest the comments on Yahoo Voiceovers and VO-BB.com.
 
Per year, about how many scams are you made aware of related to job postings on your site? Do you see a trend?
 
Nope, maybe one in three years.
 
What do you do when a member informs you about a suspected or actual scam?
 
I research the information and then inform our members.
 
Do you (or would you consider to) send all members a warning about a confirmed scam related to a job posting on your site?
 
For sure.
 
Do you (or would you consider to) compensate members whom you verify to have lost money related to a job posting on your site?
 
Yes, but I doubt that would happen. The majority of our members are by far business savvy.
 
What advice can you give to voice talent about avoiding scams?
 
If it looks too good to be true ... well ... you know the rest. If you decide to play the game, just be careful. Sometimes it’s good entertainment.
 
In the words of Elmer Fudd, “Be very,very careful when hunting wabbits.”
 
 
VoiceHunter.com
Gabrielle Nistico
VP Operations
 
Most of these questions don’t really pertain to us. The main reason why is because we handle all negotiations and payment terms for our talent.
 
We have the ability to stop a scam before a talent even get’s involved. And if a scam was to take place it would affect us, not them, as all money comes to us first.
 
Unlike the pay-to-play sites, we actually manage these affairs for the VoiceHunter.com talent – they are not on their own to negotiate deals and collect payments.
 
 
VOplanet.com
Donna Summers
Co-Manager
 
It’s not an issue for us at all.
 
We are a well-known legitimate business, and our clients are also very legitimate. We pre-screen clients for our talent, so there has never been a scam in the 30-plus years I have been handling VO talent.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
See Part 2:

 

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Comments (1)
BP Smyth, Narrator
8/25/2010 at 8:35 AM
Hello John,

Thank you for all the great work you do for the V/O community. I for one, appreciate VoiceOverXtra tremendously.

It's nice of course, when casting agencies learn of the scammers beforehand and boot them off their sites, but I believe it is the ultimate responsibility of the voice talent to screen ALL potential clients prior to performing.

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