The owner of a Forth Worth special events venue is raising the red flag about a scam targeting photographers in North Texas.
Lynae Vosberg owns Fort Worth Country Memories, a wedding and special events venue. Vosberg said she began getting calls from photographers in early March – each asking to confirm her venue was booked for Howard Lee’s 50th birthday celebration.
“I really didn’t think anything about it until I got the third or fourth call,” said Vosberg.
Vosberg said the calls kept coming and she heard from at least 15 photographers from across North Texas.
Vosberg said the date of the party would change, but the story was often the same.
Vosberg said photographers told her the client, whose name is likely not Howard Lee, mailed a check for too much money and claimed it was a mistake. The client would ask the photographer to deposit the check, then use a cash app to transfer the rest of the money to another vendor.
Different versions of the scam, known as an overpayment scam or job scam, have been around for years. This scam specifically targets local photographers like Natalie Luna of Lewisville.
“I was looking into the check and realizing that the check was set from Chicago, but the company that cut the check is in Oregon and his phone number is Florida,” said Luna.
Luna took her check to the bank to confirm it wouldn’t clear.
There are many variations of the scam. The scammer sends a realistic-looking check and asks the victim to deposit it into their account and send money back – through a cash app, wire transfer, or gift cards. By the time the check bounces, the money the victim sent to the “vendor” is long gone.
The scammer may weave a convincing tale about a family reunion, wedding or some other event. Whatever the story, the scammer usually asks the victim to take part in an unusual financial transaction and insists the victim needs to act fast. The scammer may spoof a real company, person or, in this case, venue.
Luna didn’t lose any cash because she confirmed the check wasn't a good one and called the venue directly.
“It's tough times right now and I don't want anyone to be stuck in a situation where they're out the money,” said Luna. “I caught it soon enough, but because they're doing this and they're doing it to so many people, you know it's worked.”
Vosberg said she’s focused on getting the word out to other professionals.
“I’ve posted on all the different sites. There was even somebody that commented on one of the posts: Howard Lee? He's been celebrating his 50th birthday for two years,” said Vosberg. “Obviously, he has been doing this for a long time and unfortunately probably will continue.”
Vosberg said she also emailed the scammer directly with what she knew and the calls have stopped.
“I know I'm not the first, I'm not going to be the last, but I will try to be the loudest,” said Vosberg.
You can find more information about fake check scams and how to avoid them here.
You can report fraud to the FTC here. Even if you didn’t lose money, the FTC encourages people to report scams.
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