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Scam Alert: Oops, We Sent You
An Overpayment. Please Refund ...
July 21, 2010
 
By John Florian
VoiceOverXtra.com
 
 
Note: This article is triggering response about additional scams - with names and schemes - to beware of. See the COMMENTS at the end of this article for all ...
 
How many times have you won the Nigerian Lottery? Or have you received a voice-over job offer from Charles Thamesmead or David Connor?
 
Those names are among what is perhaps a list of alias in an alleged scam making the voice over rounds now.
 
This scheme has a familiar hook at the end:
Oops ... We sent you an overpayment for your services. Please send refund in the amount of ...
Naturally, the original check is bogus, and the crooks will pocket whatever refund you send.
 
FOR ENERGY DRINK
 
One version began innocently as a request for auditions on Voices.com, the online VO marketplace, on May 10, 2010, for a 30-sec voice over for an energy drink, paying $300 to $500.
 
The names that have surfaced to beware of in this scenario are:
  • Charles Thamesmead (c.thamesmead@yahoo.com), who is seeking auditions/demos for this job, as a consultant for ...
  • The Tanner Group (www.tannergroup.comuv.com), a self-described "Invest Group" based in Dubai, with invoices to be sent to ...
  • David Connor (d.connor67@yahoo.com), who is based in the UK, and ...
  • Jamal Arola, who is apparently the VO decision person at the ...
  • High-Breed, or Hybrid Energy Drink manufacturer.
Hmmm.
 
Below, voice actor Rich Brennan (www.justmyvoice.com) and voice talent/coach Marc Cashman (www.cashmancommercials.com) report their separate experiences with this crew ...
 
CHECK WAS RUBBER
 
"I'm informing you of a SCAM that I was almost caught up in," Rich Brennan warned members of the Yahoo Voiceovers forum on July 20.
 
"I quoted this person (Charles Thamesmead) for a job on Voices.com (Hybrid Energy Drink) and stipulated that he was to provide 50% of my quote before production begins.
 
"A week later I received a check for more than DOUBLE of what I quoted in the first place.
 
"After questioning this, he told me that the client paid me the ENTIRE amount (my fee plus Charles's fee or commission), and that I was to submit the balance ($2,700) to Charles in the U.K.
 
"I contacted the bank - in this case, a credit union - that the check was written from, whereby they informed me that it's FRAUDULENT."
 
CASHMAN'S CORRESPONDENCE
 
Marc Cashman also saw the May 10 audition notice, responded, and received an apparent indication that he was being recommended to Mr. Arola for the job.
 
Cashman sent the potential client a letter of agreement.
 
"I never got the signed document back, never received a check, nor any follow-up, so I figured the project had fallen through," Cashman wrote in an advisory email to voice over friends.
 
"But I've discovered that this person contacted at least two colleagues, and there are more than likely additional voice actors caught up in this. Hopefully, they weren't taken in."
 
CONNOR: 'VERY BUSY'
 
In his dealings with the company, Cashman was advised to send an invoice to Connor (see that list of characters above), who wrote back:
"Marc Cashman, this is to inform you that you will be receiving payment in a matter days, kindly update me ASAP when you do and if there are any other questions, do not hesitate to contact me.
 
"NB: I will be going for training courses from the 19th to 27th and may be very busy, but will try to be available as much as i (sic) can. David."
WORD SPREADS
 
"The voice over community is a very tight-knit one," Cashman notes, "with members communicating throughout the world.
 
"Scams like this make me wonder even whether this company and website is fraudulent!"
 
As a test, Cashman sent an email to the Tanner Group, advising them about his experience with Charles Thamesmead. No reply. No surprise.
 
'SLIGHTLY FUNNY'
 
The original job posting for the energy drink spot on Voices.com noted:
"Delivery should be slightly funny, at times a little fizzy, restrained comedic, and somewhat low-key.
 
"Note - there is almost no action in the video, so the voice needs to be quiet and narrative and instructive, the voice over should be a little hushed tone."
For some time, Cashman has been compiling crazy, confusing directions that voice talent receive. The above would be a good candidate for that collection - if the circumstance was not so serious.
 
Note: If you have a similar experience, please comment about it below, or write me personally at: JohnFlorian@VoiceOverXtra.com.

 

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Comments (24)
Paul Seidel (Australia)
5/24/2011 at 9:10 AM
We don't see so much of the scams here in Australia, however I have had the email that James Alburger refers to in regards to the domain names.

I've replied to indicate that I'm not likely to be opening any branches in China for my company, but they haven't approached to purchase anything for me, and even if they did, that's not something I'm going to let another person do !

I did get burnt by a client who I worked for over the course of a year, sending 2 large invoices 6 months apart (my fault, I should've invoiced regularly or asked for 50% on an agreed price), and once the invoice went 60 days overdue, I found out he sold the business on and bankrupted himself.

He advised sending a lesser invoice for the creditors list, but I've never heard of it again, and the new owners washed their hands of him. My partner sniffed something bad in the voice over air before this happened, I should have listened !
Lisa MG
11/30/2010 at 8:08 AM
Listening to your gut is a good idea when it comes to trusting companies of this kind. However, another (quite silly because it's obvious) observation is ... well ... don't forget to Google Search this name or so-called company. You will find it out there if it exists. Now hold on - just because you find it, doesn't mean it exists.

I've just done a search for the names Charles Thamesmead, Arola, David Connor. None of these names have any connection whatsoever to advertising - one with the exception of The Tanner Group, who do have an existing website and profile information. However this would look immediately dodgy to me ... their interface being extremely poorly designed, very basic, very cheap-looking.

If an advertising company wanted to be in business, they'd invest in some good graphic designers and you wouldn't be left with this shoddy work, no matter how small the company.

One thing with search optimization nowadays is that you're very likely to find these companies in your top searches, no problem. So ask yourself this question - why aren't they there?

Then listen to your gut.

One thing to learn from this is that before signing up for anything, search for real contact information. If it is legitimate and bonafide, it will show up under the right search. If not, I would leave that work to the fish in the infinite ocean.

Before signing up for a business venture, always Google the person hiring you. If the company website looks poor, or a mess, they're most likely illegitimate, untrustworthy or have a really low budget (which many times means they're in debt anyway), which is by the way, is another red light!

Lisa MG
Freelancing Voice Over Artist
Malta, Europe
Maryann Sfarzo
8/20/2010 at 8:27 PM
I too, was contacted by Charles Thamesmead representing Tanner Group Investments. I sent him a proposal and requested 50% deposit in US Dollars or PayPal/SurePay.

It looked real, but something wasn't right. I even spoke with "Charles" at one point and he told me the check was on its way.

I never received a check, I never heard from him again, and the site that I pulled up for Tanner Group Investments is GONE. When I checked with Voices.com they told me that the client has withdrawn their request, and to not work with them.

I guess I wasnít the only one that got scammed.

Thank you for posting this information, I will forward it on to others. I was so pleased to find your article today, and others need to know what can happen in this business. I love doing V/O work and will continue to audition. You canít let something like this stop you.

Thanks for getting the word out.
Maryann

Steven Stone
8/9/2010 at 8:05 AM
Yes, I too was contacted by Charles Thamesmead on Voices.com for this. He wrote a long rambling introduction letter for what was required by "the client" for their 30 second TV ad on Asian Cable in Britain. Then he wanted a breakdown on the invoice for the project detailing talent & studio fees, etc.

This was where I became very suspicious. I did a little legwork and found that there is a 26 year old accountant in Leeds named Charles Thamesmead who has a Myspace page. I still have the emails from the scammer, which includes address, phone number, etc.

The bottm line is that after I explained there would be no breakdown on an invoice, I stopped hearing from
him.

Fortunately, we never got to the money part as I believe the party got wise to the fact that a number of us were catching on. I did produce the ad but he never got a finished product, only an invoice, and I never heard from him again.
Rick Jelinek Voiceover
8/3/2010 at 6:39 PM
Hahaha! Yep, he contacted me, too. And, just like most people, I thought something was up. No video? Ok. He did, however have enough direction on the pdf he sent to work with. It was pretty easy to put together. I kept waiting for him to choose a studio, so during some off time, I played with putting it together.

No, I never sent it to him, haha. But, it was good practice at conceiving a client's idea, no matter how strange the direction. I posted it on my Voice123 site if anyone wants to hear it. I'm glad to have found this article and finally know the truth!

Hahaha, ohhhh man....those scammers...some people just have too much time.
: ) http://voice123.com/rickjelinek
Stephen Patrick--Haylan Studios
7/29/2010 at 4:28 PM
I too have been led down the path of the unrighteous. One experience I had was with a compnay in Canada - Mystique Nightclub. I had just started doing some work for them (radio ads). The first 3 to 4 times went smoothly, only because I asked for the money up front before doing said work. I usually practice business this way until the client and myself have developed a relationship of trust, etc.

So after "trust" was established, I just sent the audio without payment first. You know, when the client has to have it in 30 minutes! So I sent the invoices later for the work provided. Three spots in - no money. I called, he was busy or out of town. So, very similar in some ways.

Another company, from the UK, claiming to be called Sportanity, needed a movie trailer voice - our speciality! We cut a click-track for them, matching voice to words and images in their video. Sent off one completed voice over for their first video of many, so they claimed. Sent invoice for remaining voice overs and the first one I sent, still no response to this day.

Be careful out there VO People. But always remember, there are more good people in this world then bad. I promise!

Best Regards,
Stephen Patrick / Haylan Studios
Miriam Millikin
7/28/2010 at 2:35 PM
Hi John,

Count us in as (almost) victims! Fortunately we never got to the point of payment, though we did send an invoice. I also submitted a demo through Voices.com for this job, and was notified by Charles Thamesmead that we (Creative Mills Productions: http://creativemills.com) were hired to voice and produce all of the audio for the very same spot described here.

Until I saw your post here today I've been trying to contact him. Of course I was a bit suspicious since it was late May that I last heard the project had been postponed for a couple of weeks. . .

Grrr. Thanks very much for sharing though.
Miriam
Creative Mills Productions LLC
info@creativemills.com
www.creativemills.com
800-892-9525 or 513-233-3850
Mirís cell: 513-237-5394
Connie Terwilliger
7/22/2010 at 4:28 PM
As a scriptwriter, producer and director in a former life - I balked at the original audition on Voices.com. It was just - just - just - stupid! The concept, the directions, the way it was worded - were simply not something I wanted to be a part of.

I would like to think that I would have felt the same way if I had been contacted directly - but there's no telling. And since I am a very trusting person, once I think that trust has been vetted, I would probably not have waited for the deposit. (I know, stupid me!)

So if nothing else this alert will prompt me to change that way of doing business!
Stephanie Ciccarelli
7/22/2010 at 2:44 PM
Hi everyone,

There is a new article on VoiceOverXtra that gives you more information about this and also lets you know how we have been handling this situation. Check it out here:
http://voiceoverxtra.com/article.htm?id=uewawunj

Best wishes,
Stephanie Ciccarelli
Co-founder of Voices.com
Steven Lowell
7/22/2010 at 11:13 AM
As a talent working behind the scenes at Voice123, all I can say is ..."Welcome to my world times 10."

I see this nonsense come and go all the time. This 'Charles' guy we caught a long time ago, booted him from Voice123, and he popped again recently under a new name. Why people think we forget is beyond me.

Rest assured, in the past 3 years, I have not only worked with other websites to catch people ahead of time, including competing websites, but also with talent like Mahmoud Taji to share news of scam artists popping up in different places.

Last month, I did a training on 'Online Street Smarts' to catch this kind of thing.

It's unfortunate this element exists, but as a personally owned business of 'you', you have to watch your back, and research who you work with.

News spreads like wildfire, and I have even caught some of these folks soliciting friends of mine on Facebook.

The great thing about this: online casting is at a point where they talk to each other as a community to help each other, even if sometimes you do not see it.

Stay informed all! :)
Best,
Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager, Voice123
Jay Webb
7/22/2010 at 11:13 AM
To all in our voice over community who have posted here and on your blogs about this scam, THANK YOU!

I must admit, I'm not sure I would have thought of the precautions many of you have mentioned, since I haven't run into any overseas business or gigs from sources that I didn't contact first.

I SURE DO APPRECIATE the tips you've given, though, because now I will be much more "on the alert" and will adhere to the best business practices I can.

Best Wishes for All!
-Jay

Connie Wetzell
7/22/2010 at 8:28 AM
So glad I googled Jama Arola's name and I got this information.

I had submitted the audition to Voices.com. Charles Thamesmead hired me to to produce the spot that apparently many other people are producing. I knew it was too good to be true. I did ask for the money up front.

Anyway, I'm waiting for my check in the mail. I'm trying to figure out how to play the rest of this out with him. I know of 3 other people who got the email from Frank Mayfield. When I tried to call the number, I just got the automated message.

Oh well, live and learn. I knew it was fishy from the beginning and now I have the proof. Thanks very much.

Connie Wetzell
Connie Wetzell Creative Ent., Inc.
www.ConnieWetzell.com
Melanie Haynes
7/22/2010 at 12:50 AM
Just wanted to add another name that was used a couple of years ago. Mrs Merrin Tullock - same scam different verse .... also contacted via Voices.com (and reported to same).

Got the Frank Mayfield email, too - lots of details, smelled fishy, so just ignored.
Melba Sibrel
7/21/2010 at 11:51 PM
Melba Sibrel wrote:

I, too, was contacted "privately" via Voices.com by "Thamesmeade" with an offer of contract. It certainly wasn't large enough for the job description, but large enough to catch the attention of some hungry entrepreneur who might be flattered at being offered a job without so much as a single audition.

I also found the description and the declaration that audio playback must be produced without seeing video ("do not ask to see it, for I do not have it and have not seen it myself") so absurd, that I literally laughed out loud. And I certainly doubted the authenticity of even such a surname (Thamesmeade? Oh, really?)

So I checked out all his info - just for fun. No one by that surname in the village given, nor in alllll of England was listed in the phone registry; no "Tanner" development company, no website, no patent pending for "Hybrid (pronounced High Breed) Energy Drink". Address didn't check out as having anyone by that name in residence (yes, it IS amazing what you can find online and what folks will tell you by personal query if you know how to pose the right questions).

But I couldn't just let it lie without a little poke.

So I composed a short refusal to serve as producer and production coordinator, but offered to give him raw session audio of me only, no retakes, for my original submission bid of $600 via Voices.com's escrow service - assuring him of the benefits of such an arrangement.

Signed with my "best regards" and post-scripted with the question: "Oh, and I'm dying to know - did you purchase that last name from a Nigerian, by chance??"

As you can guess, I have NOT heard back. But I had a bit of fun.

Best wishes!
Melba Sibrel
MelbasVoice@bellsouth.net
www.MelbasVoice.com
Anne Ganguzza
7/21/2010 at 7:41 PM
Thank you John, and everyone involved, for informing us and posting this important information!

I too, was contacted by "Frank Mayfield". After receiving his email request for a 30 sec TV commercial, I inquired as to more details on the project to provide a quote. He responded with a very detailed project description involving sfx, music and 4-5 additional voice talents, and wanting me to "manage" the project.

At that time, I searched on the web to see if I could find out more information about him, but was unsuccessful. I responded to his email and declined to bid as project manager based upon my schedule and his projected completion date for the project. I told him I would be happy to provide a quote for just the main voice if he would like.

He replied immediatley and said he would be interested so I returned a quote, along with the stipulation that 50% of the funds be depopsited into my PayPal account prior to the job start. He wrote back and said that the client would only issue payment by "Certified USA Financial Instrument namely Check/Money Order or by direct deposit into your account." And if that was a problem, he would understand and find another VO talent.

At this point, I had read about the scam and ceased all contact with him.

I am amazed at the amount of time and energy this guy spent on this "scam" - he was professional in his email, his spelling was good, and he sounded like he was in the business!

Thank goodness for our tight VO community, who are so quick to respond and so willing help each other out! I'm thankful, proud and humbled to be a part of it!

All the best,
Anne Ganguzza
annespeak.com

Maxine Dunn
7/21/2010 at 4:23 PM
Thank you John, Marc, James and everyone for the great information about the scammers out there. I have not experienced one myself, but I appreciate the warnings.

The only clients I accept checks from are clients whom I have worked with for a long time, or who I know personally. I accept checks from maybe 4-5 clients. EVERYONE else I do business with pays in advance via PayPal , and I've never had a problem with PayPal in any way. The funds have been delivered 100% of the time. I highly recommend requesting payment in advance for work, payable via PayPal. Not payment in advance of delivering the work. Payment in advance of STARTING the work.

Also, I'm a strong believer in listening to your intuition. If something "feels funny," that is your gut - your intuition - shouting at you to pay attention and pause to analyze. If you feel your guard going up, that feeling is there for a reason, and most probably you should not proceed.

Also, the more you educate yourself about the business as a whole - the best practices for purchasing domain names, the typical flow of a job casting and payments, etc. - as well make sure large red flashing lights go off in your head when a "client" suggests sending money BACK to them for any reason ... you'll be way ahead.

As an aside, with regards to domain names, I think a voice actor should have every conceivable domain name under the sun for his/her business. Not only the typical .com, .net, .tv, .info, .biz, etc., but also many variations of the spelling of your name. If you have all bases covered already and know about domain pricing/procedures/policies, youíll know not to take someone seriously who is trying to sell you more domain names.

- Maxine
maxinedunn.com
Joe J Thomas
7/21/2010 at 3:10 PM
Unfortunately, this is all too common. I got the same email, and had a back-and-forth correspondence with "Charles."

I like to operate in a mode of "Trust, but Verify."

In cases like this, it's best to be up-front, and on your guard. I simply informed him that I could only do the VO (not the full production), and that payment in full was required, and that the funds must clear the banks prior to any work being done.

After he agreed, he told me the check was on the way... That was the last I heard from him.

Be careful out there.
Measure Twice, Cut Once,
Joe
Frank Baum
7/21/2010 at 2:29 PM
Scammers in this vein add insult to injury. "Please dance wildly and give me your money."
James Alburger
7/21/2010 at 1:53 PM
I haven't yet had to deal with this scam, but there is another one out there that those of you who own domain names should be aware of.

The scam is basically in the form of an email notification that the company contacting you is representing a 3rd party for the purchase of several domain names similar to yours.

Of course, the domain names in question are different extensions from what you own (like .in, .tv, etc.). The pitch is that this company is "concerned" that your "brand" may be in jeopardy if they proceed with helping their client obtain the domain names and they (with their broken English) are contacting you to let you know of the potential conflict.

If there is any positive response, this scammer will eventually offer to help protect your brand by registering the domains for you - at an exorbitant price. I was hit with this one last week and from my research it is definitely a scam originating in China and is currently making the rounds.
Gabby Nistico
7/21/2010 at 1:04 PM
Unreal - yeah they got us too. And we are usually super careful about that kind of stuff.

(Note: The VO job was the same, but this time, the client's names were Frank Mayfield and Charles David.)

Wanted us to book all the talent, handle all parts, etc., and production. We sent an invoice and just heard back from them TODAY actually about the status. We know to rip up the check if we get one. And we are
planning on responding to Mr. Frank Mayfield / Charles David to let him know that the entire industry is aware of his scam.

Gabrielle Nistico - Director of Operations
VoiceHunter.com / VOCareer.com
Michael J. Schoen
7/21/2010 at 12:43 PM
I received a note from Mr Thames - but after seeing the project, I told him I was not interested in proceeding. Something didn't seem right and it was a lot of work for the money, including hiring other voice talents and composing music! So we never got to sending checks. And I never gave him a quote.
I don't recall where I first was approached - I have only the follow up emails
Marc Cashman
7/21/2010 at 12:32 PM
Informative. Accurate. Timely. Good reporting, sir! ;-)
Julie Williams
7/21/2010 at 11:19 AM
I was hired for the same job. I submitted with a bid over $2500 (based on usage). They "hired" me.

I was suspicious from the start because something felt wrong. I told them I would have the audio returned to them within 24 hours of receipt of payment by PayPal, VISA or Mastercard. (Standard operating procedure.)

Of course, payment never came and I never heard from the guy again.

This is why I ALWAYS require pay in advance from overseas clients - and never accept checks from them. Period. No exceptions. Even checks that clear can be returned months later - and bank charges back your account. So don't ever accept an overseas check. Ever. For any reason!

VISA and Mastercard have protections in place for you and your client. And I've yet to find a scammer use them or PayPal.
Bobbin Beam
7/21/2010 at 10:32 AM
Same thing here, but with Frank Mayfield.

I am pretty good at sniffing these scam things out, but since there was a detailed acript/storyboard that arrived with the Energy Drink copy, and other factors, like "Mayfield" sounded and wrote in good English grammar, and seemed to pose pretty well as a production coordinator - I accepted the gig with reservations, because I've seem plenty of scams. I, too, sent an invoice in advance that was forwarded to Mr. Arola.

In my last email to Mr. Mayfield, I requested payment in advance via paypal, certified bank check or money order, or cash ONLY in the amount of the talent fee. If check was indeed to be sent, I would have to wait several weeks to be sure it cleared.

In reading this today, my suspicions were confirmed.

But I have to say, the level of sophistication with scams like this has improved. I have been able to spot 'em a mile away. With this one, the person's ability to write in clear English (no grammar or typo issues) and posturing himself convincingly as someone knowledgeable in production! Plus, the script looked legit.

It is a huge service to our industry to call this one out everywhere on the web, so no one falls prey.

Will post on my blog asap!
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