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When a Photo Licensing Proposition Turns Into a Scam…

Here’s a personal story showing that even street photographers are targets for scammers.

An exciting proposition…

I was contacted on Instagram by a musician. He wanted me to take some shots specifically for an album’s cover. A photo licensing deal for an album. How exciting!

I love music and I love the cover arts I see on my CDs. Having one of my photographs on an album’s cover would be like a dream! Plus it could be an opportunity to get a bit of exposure.

The first red flag

Checked the account and I thought it was legit with all the likes he was getting. 

I didn’t understand what kind of photographs he needed, so I asked him to send me the brief he was talking about. The first red flag I didn’t notice: he wasn’t clear, and it was hard to understand what he really wanted. 

But that was just a scam!

I received the email, second red flag: he sent the brief via WeTransfer (a file transfer service). I still downloaded it by curiosity. Third red flag, the zip file needs a password (he sent it to me via Instagram). I uncompress it, takes a while, and bam! Avast blocks it as malware. 

Probably one of these viruses that encrypt your hard disk. And then you need to pay a big sum to get your files (and photographs) back. Hopefully, my computer has not been infected. 

A few advices to avoid these scams: 

  • Don’t be nice, be suspicious of any commercial proposition sent via social networks 
  • Commercial propositions on social networks are often scams, ignore them
  • Beware of password protected zip files
  • For legit propositions, have a proper license purchase process (via a shop section on the website for example) 
  • Don’t be desperate to have your photographs used by others 
  • Backup regularly all your important files on multiple external hard disks