If we're connected on LinkedIn - you'll know how much I love that platform. Heck - I give people advice on how to make better use of their LinkedIn - it's part of my job. So you can imagine my frustration when I realised I was in the first-throws of being scammed by another LinkedIn user. Let me explain how it happened...
I put out a post, asking people what they would like me to create videos about in the coming weeks. I wanted to know what would add value to their viewing experience, other than me ranting about in-bound sales messages.
On this post, someone had commented that they would like to hire me. "Great!", I thought to myself and hurriedly opened my messenger to get in touch. I dropped them a note, asking them what they had in mind. Their response didn't answer my question and was a bit...confusing. I googled his website and sure enough...there it sat, seemed legit. I checked out his social media. 17.5k followers on Instagram...impressive. Facebook...22 likes? Less impressive. How does a company only have 22 followers on Facebook when they have so many on Instagram? A photographer based in London would surely have more than that?
Then I receive another message from him. A few things caught my eye, "some time in the day I manage to get Photography all around the world", is he saying that in between posting on LinkedIn, he also manages to jet around taking pictures of tigers every day? He then gives a budget of 6k-8k a month. A MONTH. I mean, if you're going to scam someone, at least make it realistic! Alarm bells really were ringing loud and clear at this point, so I donned my Deerstalker and pipe, fired up my laptop and got Googling. Honestly, it didn't take much. The first page of result gave two articles on this very person having scammed not only freelance creatives, like content writers and web developers out of £1,000s, but also actual wildlife photographers of their photos. It transpires that this chap has been stealing pictures from the wildlife photography community, passing them off as his own and even selling them. What's even more interesting, is a quick google image search will show there seems to actually be a man with the same name, who is prominent in wildlife photography and cinematography - so I'm assuming our scammer is also impersonating the real version. Confused? I certainly am. I didn't reply to his message and after contacting one of the authors of the articles, I will be in touch with LinkedIn and Action Fraud.
Luckily for me, there has been no damage done. But there could have been - so what have I learnt? I've learnt to be thorough with every client enquiry that comes my way, to check their reviews across their social media. I've learnt that it's OK to ask questions, quite often when someone is offering the service, they don't feel in the position to ask the "bill payer" any questions of their own - but it's as important that you fully understand the business you'll be working with, their situation and their expectations. Lastly, I've learnt that it's absolutely essential to follow your gut instinct, if something doesn't sit right, or feel right, there's usually a really good reason why.
Want to hear more from me? You can find me on Instagram @ems_marketing_consultant and Twitter @ems_talks, see you there!