The overpayment scam

I’d never thought of myself as gullible. Quite the reverse, to be honest. Master of the Snopes. Debunker of the flimsy tale. And all that.

Not quite so much now, though.

The story started one Sunday last November. An email from an event company in the Middle East, asking if I could cover a London exhibition & conference they were organising for a client – for a whole week in December.

A whole week in December?? But so many things already booked in – what were they thinking? Could I? Could I possibly?

It’s a dark secret of the events industry really, that so often the photography is a very late piece slotted into place. This one was, what, just over 2 weeks away? I’d had worse, and still managed to make everything work just fine.

Using some spare capacity across the team, moving some things that could be moved, booking travel back from an overnight job in Paris obscenely early to be on the first Eurostar and get in for the call time… Yes, I could do it! Hurrah.

My head deep in client-pleasing mode, and obviously already counting the windfall of five full day rates just before Christmas, I was already being suckered in…

Some things made lots of sense – the language, though imperfect in its English, was like so many similar approaches. The venue was real enough, and one I’d worked in before, and I gleefully sent my new friend in Dubai a link to those photos, along with a quotation note for 5 days shooting.

You need something to really pin the mark down in a con – something to clinch things. I’ve seen enough Hustle to know this almost always involves an appeal to greed. But I couldn’t see it now. And there it was – they only wanted 5 hours a day of coverage – 10 to 3. A bit weird, that, but hey, I was quoting full day rates. Even given generous provision for set-up and pack-down time, this was going to be a relatively light workload for a tasty paycheck. I was IN!

“Just what we’re looking for” – came the swift reply – “can we book you? In fact, we’re so keen to get everything confirmed now we’ve found you, with your wonderful experience of that venue, that we’d like you to invoice us now, in full, for the work.”

This gets better, I thought. I tapped the name of the events company into Google, just out of interest to see where they were. Got a few links with very similar names (variations on “Emirates”, “Events”, and “Agency”; couldn’t be bothered to look into all of them, so left it). I’d asked for a phone number, and they’d sent one – with the right country code – I checked. But I didn’t ring it.

Over the invoice went – they came straight back with a slightly unusual request – to add the address of the bank. Uh, that plays no part in a normal international money transfer, my brain didn’t whisper to me. They had the codes they needed, why this? – the little voice didn’t say.

So out goes a revised invoice – with the address. Then – all quiet.

Nothing so unusual in that – we’re up to our ears with everyone busy and lots happening. Towards the end of the week before The Event, I’m thinking that the money hasn’t come in yet. So I send a little note out to the agency, asking them very sweetly when it will arrive, and reminding them that if they’ve got admin delays, not to worry – I’ll still be there on the Monday, but obviously they’ll need to sort the finances side out before they get any pictures.

Nothing. And I’m getting a heavy feeling over that weekend. But I tell myself that the weekends are different out there, and they’re probably travelling to London, and a few other reasons why this might still all be ok. Because I’ve committed. Because it’s easy, good money. Because I’d never, ever not turn up at a venue when I’d said I’d be there.

You’re reading this and thinking “PAUL HOW COULD YOU?” – and that’s the beauty of the con – like boiling the frog (yes I know this is a myth, but it’s a handy mythaphor, ok?) you get a few twinges along the way, but the story unfolds and as it does you find you’re rolled up inside it.

So, the Monday in December dawns, and I rock up at the venue, nice and early. They’re very polite at reception of course, but there’s no event on that week – nothing connected with Dubai – nothing Middle Eastern. Nothing that could have been my gig.

And I nod, knowing I’d been avoiding the truth. A quick call to the bank to say “erm, there might be something dodgy going on” – only to get their reassurance that if all the other party has are my paying-in details, I’ll be quite safe, not to worry.

I ring the Dubai number, just in case. Dead line. I even ring a couple of the agencies with very similar names. Not sure why. I was a bit upset. Mostly because it was just at this point that I spotted that the email address they’d contacted me from was a gmail address. Yeah. Really. It’s amazing what you don’t see when a big chunk of money floats past in the other direction.

And so home. A better week for the rest of the team, but not so much for me. And that 5am start in Paris, ugh…

Anyway, that’s when I do some research. I quickly find that lots of other photographers have been approached – I even get in touch with another photographer who’s got one going on at that moment. The job is less believable than mine was, but all the other hallmarks are there.

And then I find this and this. (Links describing something called The Dubai Overpayment Scam). It is embarrassing how closely they resemble what happened to me.

That’s what’s going on – they’re going to pay me a ton of money with a stolen cheque, sent directly to my branch. They’ll try to get me to repay the overpayment and – greed time again – throw in a bit of the “extra” for me to keep, just for my trouble. Money for nothing. I’ll send a few grand to their untraceable slush account somewhere, the cheque will eventually bounce, and I’ll emerge as a big, big loser.

And you’d think that would be that, wouldn’t you? A near miss, but no more than that. Older and wiser etc.

Couple of days later – here’s an email in from Dubai – sorry for the delay in payment, don’t worry – it will be with you soon.

So I send a weary note back to my scammer – with those links – to say, look pal, I know the game, don’t bother right? Just wasting your time. Bear in mind we’re now 6 days after the point at which I stood in central London asking a receptionist about a phantom event. Now the little voice pipes up all right – so why would they keep trying? What’s going on?

Boxing Day – and I’ve been doing a good job of staying away from work for a proper rest for a few days. But I do just have a quick check, because there was a (real) client payment I’d been waiting for, and I wondered if it was in. Fell off my chair when I saw the balance. Oh dear.

paid in

Worry time. Why would they do that? On to the bank immediately after the bank holiday, of course. 8.30 in the morning. Priority. They’re helpful – to a point. I ask if I’m at risk. Evasive answer. I say “surely with only my paying-in details, I can’t be at risk?” They say they’re not sure and then worrying stuff about money laundering, and that I might be drawn into it, and there’ll be an investigation. Hmm. Ok, I say.

Popped into a branch a couple of hours later to pay in a cheque and – oh no – they can’t pay it in. Looks like everything’s been frozen. Another hour on the phone in the branch. Then home to print out all the emails and the invoice. Back to the branch so they can fax it to the fraud team. Yes, print and fax, you heard.

Given the bank must hear this daily, their response wasn’t great. They said they could unblock my account, but only if I was prepared to take the risk that something bad might happen. They actually said this. I asked what bad thing could possibly happen, but no firm answer. The little voice in my head is now shouting things it’s making up on the fly about international draft clawbacks, and insiders transferring everything twice by mistake, or malice. I’m now experiencing a very different type of big number blindness – the one where you might well see 30 grand sail away with nothing to be done about it. It’s horrible, believe me. Why would they be persisting with this when the game was actually up? Why would professional scammers have gone ahead with the payment if they didn’t have some chance? They’re criminal, but they’re not stupid, surely? And I found this, which though it’s probably a highly edited reporting, terrified me.

Customer service stories are never all that interesting, so I’ll leave it there. There was nothing else I could do.

And sure enough, the next day:

paid out

Phew.

Be careful.

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

card reader

35 thoughts on “The overpayment scam

  1. Why don’t banks just alert you for unexpected payments of a large size by unusual routes? The cards companies are all very good at spotting anything out of the ordinary. Your bank let you down here.

  2. You were lucky Paul we had the same email and I couldn’t find the “event company” on Google. Sent them an email asking for more details but didn’t hear anything more.
    Will be even more suspicous now.
    Regards
    Steve
    smartpicsuk

  3. hah! exactly – it seems very easy for out-of-character payments to be picked up on a credit card. I can’t think of any reason why the bank couldn’t do similar. I’ve seen the offending cheque now – they actually sent me a photocopy for my records! Drawn on a London branch of the Swedish bank Handelsbanken. So, nothing at all to do with Dubai. Very odd.

  4. Oh wow, what a lucky miss! Thanks for sharing this information. I am a photographer in the Netherlands I recently received an inquiry for some work with a fee that was too good to be true. However, there were a couple red flags: many spelling errors and an inconsistency between the name in the e-mail address and the supposed name of the client contacting me. I did a bit of googling and found this to be a very similar scam as to what you experienced.

    Thank you for sharing your experience!

  5. I am a videographer in Houston Texas.
    A Middle East Trading LLC is trying to scam me right now the same way.
    Overpayment. They asked I forward the balance to a third party.
    Suspicious check/confusing routing.
    No Venue booked.
    I’m a good and honest person (chump)
    They will get no info from me.
    Thank you for your story. It gives me confidence that this is a scam.

    Venue not booked

  6. Have a similar one contacting me now from Paris allegedly. Same thing, ‘can I order some prints, have a decent budget. Next email, ‘sorry for delay my wife died in Nice attacks but I’d still like the prints. My PA has sent cheque but for too much etc etc. Sick, and no need to use Nice attacks really!?

  7. Same thing – looking to book a place on a College Course in Dublin.
    A colleague had progressed the enquiry over a number of months and she believed it looked legit. The company claimed to operating out of UAE.
    The representative was looking to book 2 places and claims that her “accounts” dept had over payed the booking in her “absence”.
    Literally this morning a mail came through stating this “overpayment”.
    This was the first time i saw this conversation and my suspicions immediately aroused. Googled straight away and got this post – thanks Paul.

    Few Flags:

    1. The broken English
    2. Company could not be found and use of LLC trading entity very much like a copy and paste approach.
    2. No website and a gmail e-mail address used
    3. The physical address stated is on a High Way in Abu Dhabi, and likely just a google maps search result.
    4. The persons claiming to be just back from Malaysia, plausible in so far as is another Islamic nation and businesses tend to work within ethnic regions..but more likely a freudian slip as to where they are really based.
    5. We quoted in euros and most e-mails in return were in euros until the last which was in £. Could be what their accounts dept actually processed the credit in..more likely its an amount they use to target UK businesses already :)

    All in all if too good to be true, likely is.

    One question I have is how they manage to transfer an uncleared amount. Can you make a bank transfer using a cheque as payment type ? Or is it done locally ? If the latter its quite sophisticated.

  8. It seems to be a flaw in the way that manual cheque payments are processed. Were they very keen to get a physical address for your bank? In mine they actually sent the dud cheque by courier to the branch. It seems that stolen cheques like this have to be treated as legit until proved otherwise, which takes a few days. And in those few days they try and get their claws in.

  9. Just received this.
    From: “Ali Farid”

    Message: Dear Sir/Madam,

    We are Max Events, a reputable event planner located in Dubai, United Arab Emirate. looking for professional Photographers to shoot our incoming event which is 26th,27th & 28th of January 2017 in Sheffield ,England

    Job Description

    Behind the scenes images of 50 People during annual meeting for 3 days for Annual report and company's internal use Includes post-production and upload to online archive system for either viewing,download or further distribution.

    This will be for unlimited worldwide usage for 25 images
    Time…Between 12pm to 5pm Daily

    Total cost for 3 days including transport, travel, accommodation and meals:..

    Kindly email us Quotation for the Jobs as soon as possible

    Please get back to us as soon as you received our message

    Regards
    Ali Farid

    I sent a quotation for £3,000 knowing that it was just after 3am in Dhbai so didn’t expect a reply.

    Less than an hour later, I got this email:

    Thank You for your response,

    We confirm to you we shall proceed with your quote .
    Kindly get back to us with the below details:

    Payment Terms :
    Method of payment you require :

    Regards
    Ali Farid
    Churchill Towers, Office 2403,
    Dubai, 112907
    United Arab Emirates
    TELL: +971525805396
    Email:maxeventsllc@gmail.com

    I will not be replying, obviously a scam the same as those mentioned above.

  10. Just received this email too:

    I quoted him and he got back to me straight away with wanting to book.I was suspicious but invoiced him, thinking if he pays its all good/legit…..

    Then I ead this post…Thanks Paul. He emailed me a few minutes ago asking for the address of the bank, I emailed back and said I was no longer free!

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    We are Max Events, a reputable event planner located in Dubai, United Arab Emirate. looking for professional video production company to film our incoming event which is 26th & 27th of January 2017 in Sheffield ,England

    Description:
    Project to produce a short behind the scene style event highlight video of the 2 day event. to possibly include VoxPop style interviews with either Delegates and or key speakers.

    Please get back to us as soon as you received our message

    Regards
    Ali Farid

    Churchill Towers, Office 2403,
    Dubai, 112907
    United Arab Emirates
    TELL: +971525805396
    Email:maxeventsllc@gmail.com

  11. I’ve just had this email to… thank you very much Paul for writing this piece. I had figured it to be a scam, but your blog post just confirmed my fears. :-)

  12. Wish I had looked on here before I sent my invoice, will phone bank tomorrow, Something was telling me it was to good to be true but still went ahead such a prat.
    Dear Sir/Madam,

    We are Max Events, a reputable event planner located in Dubai, United Arab Emirate. looking for professional Photographers to shoot our incoming event which is 26th,27th & 28th of January 2017 in Sheffield ,England

    Job Description

    Behind the scenes images of 50 People during annual meeting for 3 days for Annualreport and company's internal use Includes post-productionand upload to online archive system for either viewing,download or further distribution.

    This will be for unlimited worldwide usage for 25 images

    Time…Between 12pm to 5pm Daily

    Total cost for 3 days including transport, travel, accommodation and meals:..

    Kindly email us Quotation for the Jobs as soon as possible

    Please get back to us as soon as you received our message

    Regards
    Ali Farid

    Churchill Towers, Office 2403,
    Dubai, 112907
    United Arab Emirates
    TELL: +971525805396
    Email:maxeventsllc@gmail.com

  13. Handy little article, thanks so much, I’ve just had the exact same email and even the contact checked out but I was curious and suspicious so I googled and this came up!!

  14. Just got the same email yesterday, haven’t sent any of my bank details or invoice, as I sent a unbelievable quote and they accepted. So I done a search on the email address and this post came up. So thank you Paul Clarke for posting about this

  15. It might be an idea if other people who get this email post the source email address so that it gets picked up in other searches.

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  17. I had the exact same email as Mark Little, but from a Abdul Kazari. Thank God a photographer friend alerted me to this post! Thanks for taking the time to write this.

  18. Yep, I got the same email from Mr. Ali and quoted him. He has confirmed that he wants to use me and asked for payment details which I have not given him. Before I found this train and scam report, I asked to confirm which option pricing he wanted (I gave him 2) and address of the venue that I could check with the venue. This is the 2nd scam in the last month. The other is from a John Frederick for a wedding. I even received a cheque from Mr. Frederick as I had not given bank details.

  19. I’m glad I found this post… I nearly got caught out with it.

    First emails from Ali Farid and now one from him in China at maxeventllc@gmail.com

    “I just receive a mail from our company financial director just now asking for your bank details because his ready to approve the payment but right now am presently in China on business trip i don’t have access to my other email due to my present location kindly confirm your details below and get back to me to as urgent
    Amount: €8,825.00
    [All my account details which of course I won’t post here]”

    He has a lot of detail for my account considering he does not have access to my email.

  20. Glad I searched for Ali Farid Max Events as I have just received the same email. Same process as above. I got to the point where they requested bank details at which I requested a formal letter of engagement. Ten decided to search for Ali Farid and found this.

  21. Thanks guys for the warning , just received same email from Ali Farid… too good to be true , I ask for 5’000 euros for his “event” on the first email then told him we should had some video to my photography for 15’000 euros on the second email he both answer that we should go forward with my “quote” so I think my third and final email will be asking for 35’000 euros for makeup services and ask to be paid in cash in 5 euros bills in a black suitcase with white strips tomorrow morning 5am in the park in front of my house … that’s the only way we can do business :) …

  22. I had an email from Ali Farid last week for a 3 day shoot for their event in Sheffield in Jan. Quoted them but email kept bouncing back. Googled Ali Farid Max Events and found your post. Now that I’ve read above,I can see why the email has bounced. I didn’t find the initial request as suspicious though as I’ve done quite a few shoots over in Dubai in he last 12 months, all paid and genuine clients by the way ;-)

  23. Yep, I have had the same email about the same event in Sheffield on the same dates. However mine was from an Al Rasheed from YAK Events LLC (yakeventsllc@gmail.com) The fact that it was a gmail account got my spidey senses tingling so I quoted £1.5 million with a £500,000 non-refundable deposit just to accept the booking! Google search did turn up what looks like a legit company and deeper digging showed a holding company, which I emailed. Blow me they want to accept :-o Now I was convinced that this is a scam and this thread has confirmed it. They will not be getting any details from me other than the email address they already have.

  24. Another one –

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    We are Times Square Events LLC from Dubai, UAE. We went through your impressive photography works and decided we want to make a booking for our client’s upcoming wedding event in France. Kindly get back to us if you are available

    Regards,
    Abdul-Raheem.

    Office No. 06, Mezannine Floor,
    Al Jawhara Building, Bank Street,
    Bur Dubai, Dubai, UAE.
    Tel: +971552139087
    Email: timesquarevents@gmail.com

  25. Just had the same email about the Sheffield gig too. Smelling a rat (especially checking his email address), I have asked to be paid 679,000 Ugandan Dollars or the equivalent in Nazi war gold and paintings. I await his reply.

  26. Hi all
    I got the same email as described above today. Ali Farid also goes by the name of Abdul Kazari and uses the exact same email. Looks like he s booked into Sheffield again for another conference this March.
    I am sending back a quote for £10000000 to be paid in used 50ps. I ve got to cover my expenses – Sheffield can be pricey this time of year!
    Be careful out there folks

  27. Helllo thank you for your post!
    Here à new email and destination that we can add to the list

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    We are Al Wafa General Trading Co LLC , a reputable Business Company located in Dubai, United Arab Emirate. looking for professional Photographers to shoot our incoming event which is 26th,27th & 28th of March 2017 in Milan ,Italy

    Job Description

    Behind the scenes images of 50 People during annual meeting for 3 days for Annualreport and company's internal use Includes post-productionand upload to online archive system for either viewing,download or further distribution.

    This will be for unlimited worldwide usage for 25 images

    Time…Between 12pm to 5pm Daily

    Total cost for 3 days including transport, travel, accommodation and meals:..

    Kindly email us Quotation for the Jobs as soon as possible

    Please get back to us as soon as you received our message

    Regards
    Abdul Kazari

    702, Mohammed Abdulla Al Gaaz Building – Al Nasser Square- Deira UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
    TELL: +971525805396
    Email:alwafageneraltradingcollc@gmail.com

  28. Yep, I nearly fell for this too.
    Here’s the email I received this week.
    Thanks for writing this post to save us all some grief!

    “Dear Sir/Madam,

    We are Artaaj Royal Events & Promotions, a reputable event planner located in Dubai, United Arab Emirate. looking for professional Photographers to shoot our incoming event which is 26th,27th & 28th of March 2017 in Toronto

    Job Description

    Behind the scenes images of 50 People during annual meeting for 3 days for Annualreport and company's internal use Includes post-productionand upload to online archive system for either viewing,download or further distribution.

    This will be for unlimited worldwide usage for 25 images

    Time…Between 12pm to 5pm Daily

    Total cost for 3 days including transport, travel, accommodation and meals:..

    Kindly email us Quotation for the Jobs as soon as possible

    Please get back to us as soon as you received our message

    Regards
    Abdul Kazari

    2101, The Office Towers
    Crowne Plaza, Sheikh Zayed Road
    UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
    TELL: +971525805396
    Email:artaajeventsllc@gmail.com
    Artaaj Events Planners”

  29. Name: Abdul Kazari

    Email Address: alrabiahtrading@gmail.com

    How Did You Hear About Us?: Friend

    Wedding Date/Venue: 28

    Phone: (155) 213-9087

    Comments: Dear Sir/Madam, We are Al Rabiah Trading Company , a reputable Business Company located in Dubai, United Arab Emirate. looking for professional Photographers to shoot our incoming event which is 26th,27th & 28th of March 2017 in Lawton, Oklahoma Job Description Behind the scenes images of 50 People during annual meeting for 3 days for Annualreport and company's internal use Includes post-productionand upload to online archive system for either viewing,download or further distribution. This will be for unlimited worldwide usage for 25 images Time…Between 12pm to 5pm Daily Total cost for 3 days including transport, travel, accommodation and meals:.. Kindly email us Quotation for the Jobs as soon as possible Please get back to us as soon as you received our message Regards Abdul Kazari 501, 8th Floor, Al Mustafawi Building, Burdubai, Dubai-UAE, – 1 A Street – Dubai United Arab Emirates? TELL: +971552139087 Email:alrabiahtrading@gmail.co

  30. Yeah they approached me too, for work in Sheffield at the end of March.

    I asked for a £500 deposit to confirm the booking, Called Yak events today and they said they get a lot of calls about this guy who doesn’t work there.

    The email I have for these people is yakeventsllc@gmail.com

    After the call I googled his name (Al Rasheed) and Yak Events then across this blog.

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