How one Photographer got scammed on Instagram

photo of instagram app on phone

Online scams against artists are far from rare on the internet, and social networks are no exception, Instagram too.

One photographer found out about this the hard way when she became the victim of one such fraud. Instead of receiving money from a “buyer”, the photographer, Madie Meyers, ended up losing $3,000 that the scammer then spent on partying.

According to a report with CBS News, Madie was just a newly-minted photographer excited to enter the world of online art sales, and only too happy to have what seemed to be a first customer.

The Chicago-based photographer had received an Instagram message from a supposed buyer who claimed she was a fascinating “muse” and had been inspired enough by her work to use one of Mayer’s photos in a mural of their own.

For this the person messaging her offered Madie $500. Naturally enough, she was thrilled and accepted.

In Madie’s own words, “I’m like, I can buy Christmas presents for the first time ever. I’m gonna go spend this $500.”

Not quite as it turned out. The deceptively simple swindle started shortly after that first wonderful-sounding offer.

Once Meyer’s had accepted the Instagram scammers offer of $500 for permission to use her photo, this individual then told her that they’d send her a check for $3,500 which she’d need to deposit into her PNC bank account.

As the scammer explained to her, she could take $500 of it for her agreed-upon commission after sending back the remaining $3000 for supposed art supplies.

Madie Meyers, noting that the buyer specifically emphasized in messages how he wasn’t asking for any bank details at all, thought the whole process was completely legitimate and duly sent back the $3000 via Apple Pay.

“I’m like ‘Oh he doesn’t need any of that? This can’t be a scam,’” said Madie in her comments to CBS “They made it seem like they really wanted me to be paid.”

As it turned out, the scammer didn’t need any bank details when he could simply count on Madie to gullibly do the legwork herself.

What happened next is pretty easy to imagine: the check she’d deposited later bounced and Madie’s father, who underwrote her bank account, was left with a $3,500 liability to the bank.

The scammer meanwhile, already had their cash, obtained at no expense except a little time and convincing communication.

According to Marc Meyers, Madie’s father, the thing that really annoyed him, and made the scam so much more convincing, was that the amount on the check did indeed show up as an additional balance in the bank account.

This is what caused her to send the money along to the scammer in the first place; seeing the check’s balance reflected at first made her trust its authenticity.

As her father said to CBS News, “It doesn’t make sense that a routine check takes way longer to clear than these fraudulent checks. That’s really what I’m most angry about.”

As for the scammer, they were unabashedly shameless about what they’d just done. Madie later messaged the individual to tell them “Hey, I know you’re a scammer. I’m mad at you, kind of.”

The scammer didn’t hesitate to respond, with photos of himself enjoying a party and a brief message:

“Your money”.

If you’re selling your work online, in any platform at all but especially in contexts where you have to manage your own payment process, always be very careful about how you clear payments and under what conditions.

As a general rule, never send any prospective buyer money regardless of the pretext they give you. There’s simply no logical reason to do so.

If Madie Meyers had simply paused for a moment to ask herself why this supposed buyer needed to use her account to cash their $3,500 check before buying their own art supplies, she could have saved herself and her father more than a bit of embarrassment and financial pain.

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