Gig Business, Using GigSalad (Vendors)

How to Avoid Scams that Target Performers

By Tessie Barnett

Since the entertainment industry has adopted more digital technologies, artists are experiencing both the benefits and pitfalls of marketing their talent. Many performers have found themselves struggling, and unfortunately, there are people out there who want to take advantage of their hunger for more work. Although online scams are nothing new, we’ve recently seen more scams targeting performers, and we want to help stop this. Here are some things every performer needs to watch out for.

Red flags

For most entertainers, making it in the industry depends on getting your talent noticed. Today’s independent artist knows that having a strong web presence is key. With that exposure, however, you’re also open to con-artists, schemers, and identity thieves. The scams out there range from obvious, poorly written emails to cleverly designed business models that fool thousands of people. Because of the wide spectrum, it’s important to be cautious and watch for red flags.

  • Vague requests for services – If someone contacts you using very general terms like “your services,” this has the potential to be a mass email. Be alert for messages that are not directly asking for the type of performance you offer.
  • Poor grammar – ​There are several reasons why many online scams contain grammar errors. This could be a deliberate attempt to bypass spam filters or to give the impression of being a non-English speaker. Although these are the most obvious scam attempts, many of them have been successful. Do not reply, click on links, or download attachments within the email.
  • Contact info doesn’t add up – If you’ve been contacted by a business, make sure the email address looks legitimate. Some scammers make the mistake of using a gmail account, which is not a standard practice for established companies.* Keep an eye out for personal email accounts, email addresses outside the U.S., or invalid phone numbers.

*Updated information: One of our readers has brought up a very valid point in the comments below regarding the use of Google mail. Many small and big businesses use Google as their email provider, so it’s not a rare occurrence to be contacted by a business representative using the service. You do, however, want to keep an eye out for email addresses that do not end in @businessname.com. If an address seems a little too informal, you can always double check by going to the “Contact Us” page on the business website.

  • Requests for personal information – In any online correspondence, you’ll ​want to avoid giving out personal information including address, social security number, and banking information. Only credible, verified companies you’ve researched or already do business with should have access to your private info.
  • Advance fees – You’re offering your services to event hosts and planners, so there are very few situations in which you’ll need to front the money. ​Many scammers promise big results and great opportunities, but until you do your homework, keep your money in your wallet.
  • ​Unusual payment process – Any unfamiliar, foreign, or cashier’s checks should be accepted with caution. If someone sends a check for more than your fee and asks you to wire them the difference, don’t accept the agreement. There’s a chance the check could be fake and you would be held responsible for reimbursing the bank. We also discourage performers from downloading any unfamiliar payment apps that require your private banking information. You’re providing the talent, so it’s up to you to choose the payment process you’re comfortable with.
  • ​Too good to be true – We’d all like to reach our goals in the easiest way possible, but life has taught many of us that nothing good is easy. If it sounds too good to be true, in a lot of cases it is.

GigSalad’s security​

One of the many benefits of booking through GigSalad is our dedication to your security. We have systems in place to detect red flags like these, so if you’ve been contacted through your GigSalad PromoKit, we can monitor those quote requests. We detect any messages that have been sent out to an unusually large amount of performers because, most often, those are spam. We also block any email addresses coming from outside the U.S., as some of the biggest scams are shown to be generated from foreign countries. But even with our efforts to protect you from fraud, scammers are constantly improving their tactics. That’s why we’ve implemented your own flagging feature within your PromoKit.

Image of fraudulent quote request.

If you’ve received a message that looks suspicious, you can notify us by clicking the flag icon at the bottom of their event details. You’ll be given a few options to help us identify the type of message you’re reporting.

Screenshot of flagging options within the PromoKit.

​Once you’ve submitted the suspicious lead, we can start investigating and stop the user from contacting other performers. This helps us stay on top of scam trends and keep our system secure.

Proactive steps

It’s always wise to use a safe approach in your business communication, but we don’t want this to lead to paranoia. There are occasions when you’ll be required to submit a payment in order to participate in an event or opportunity. ​If you’ve been contacted through your own website or a platform other than GigSalad, there are a few things you can do to prove whether a message is legitimate or not.

  • ​Do your research – Web searches are a great way to dig up information on the person or business contacting you. You’ll want to start with a basic search and then add terms like “scam,” “complaint,” “fraud,” “scheme,” etc. You’ll also want to seek out reviews and read any forum discussions. Extensive research is the best way to keep greedy hands out of your pocket.
  • ​Contact them directly – If you’re willing to chance it and respond to the message, ask for a phone number to speak with them directly. If they’re hesitant—giving reasons why a phone conversation isn’t possible—we recommend putting a stop there. Strained communication makes it difficult for performers to negotiate, and it’s especially risky when you’re expected to make a payment. If you’re corresponding with a business, do a web search for their phone number and make sure it matches the one they’ve given you.
  • Type the URL yourself – Even if the link they provided looks valid, it’s safe to type the URL into the address bar yourself. Scammers can easily disguise links that lead to sketchy websites.
  • Look for site security – If you’ve been directed to a site to make a payment, you’ll want to make sure it has the latest security standards. Secure web pages show a closed padlock in the s​tatus bar and the URL begins with “https.” More experienced scammers can add what looks to be a padlock icon, so it’s important to double-check. Click on the icon and make sure the “Issued to” name matches the name of the website.

​If the message passes these tests, then by all means, jump on the opportunity. But if you’ve discovered a scam attempt, file an official complaint and notify as many people as possible. Share your experiences in the comments below and help get the word out to other performers. The more scams we can shut down, the safer our community will be.

​Want to know more about GigSalad? Learn how we can help you get paid gigs.

 

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26 Comments
  1. Joe Fry December 27, 2015

    Thank you for the information I appreciate all you do for all the entertainers.

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett December 31, 2015

      Hi Joe! It’s a pleasure to help you out! We want to provide anything we can to help you continue making people happy. Thank you for reading!

      Reply
  2. Miranda Cunningham January 11, 2016

    Its great your looking out for us but I have to say I know tons of small businesses that use google e-mail as well as Big businesses that dole them out to internal offices. You are very likely to get a google e-mail from a business. Also could we get some examples of what kind of scams are being used?

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett January 12, 2016

      Hi Miranda,

      Thank you for taking time to read the article! You bring up a valid point regarding Google email addresses. Of course Google is a major email provider for many businesses, and it’s used legitimately in most cases. But because it also provides the service at no cost and the name is highly recognizable, many scammers will use this to their advantage. I’ll clarify in the article that when an address ends with “@gmail.com” rather than @businessname.com, you should validate the address by going to the Contact Us page on the business’s website. Some scammers will send a message from an address that’s a slightly modified version of the real thing. For example, the Isle of Wight Festival posted a warning to musicians on their website stating that scammers were contacting performers from gmail addresses requesting payments in order to be a part of the 2016 festival. In our own experience, scammers have claimed to be partners with GigSalad and requested payment for casting opportunities. If you’re aware of all the red flags, you lower the risk of being a victim of fraud. Are there any scams you’ve experienced that other performers should be aware of?

      Reply
  3. Brian Wishnefsky January 13, 2016

    Thanks! Excellent article!!! Here’s another possible scam: Customer asks if you will take a check especially with a last minute gig. If you get a Bad Check its usually is not worth all the hassle to pursue it & the Scammer knows it.

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett January 14, 2016

      Hi Brian!

      Really great to hear from you! Thank you for adding that to the conversation. It’s hard for performers to validate checks, and if the check bounces, this can rack up fees with your own banking! But you’re right–scammers know that it would be hard for performers to exclude checks as an accepted form of payment.

      Reply
  4. Neil Smith the DANDY DJ January 13, 2016

    The one I always get asks in broken engrish if I accept credit cards and they anyways want to pay me way more than I charge and send me extra to pay the caterer with. I love that one. Never gets old. I really like the one where the guy gave me the address of the place he was throwing a party for his very young son and the address belonged to an “alternative lifestyle club.” A few weeks ago, I received one from a guy claiming he was in Philly, planning to come to Nashville (where I am) and hold a reunion for 50 people in the main hall of a certain address. The address happened to belong to a several thousand seat basketball arena! Just use common sense people and you won’t get taken.

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett January 14, 2016

      Hi Neil!

      That’s an excellent way to verify a gig’s validity. Check the event address! Thank you for bringing that to everyone’s attention. I think the more conversations we have about this stuff, the more scams will be brought to light. Hopefully, we’ll make it impossible for them to steal from hardworking performers like yourself. Keep up the great work!

      Reply
  5. Vince Love February 8, 2016

    I recently received one of those scams from another site Weddingwire. The guy didn’t want to deal through the site and wanted to work with me away from the site because he said he couldn’t figure out the contract. So later he sends a check to secure the date for his daughter’s wedding then informs me the vender sent the check for over a thousand dollars too much. When I finally received the check it was tracked and he texts me as soon as I received it saying to take it to the band and deposit it and send him a money gram right away with a ten minute option, so he could take care of the rest of the expenses of his daughter’s wedding. I pretended to take the check to the bank and told him I would send him a check back and he was like NO don’t do that, it’ll take to long, use money gram like I instructed you. I called the company that the check was written, a Truck dealership out of state and they informed me the check was no good and the guy was being investigated. Always use common sense and don’t get too greedy trying to make a living or you’ll get taken.

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett February 8, 2016

      Hi Vince,

      This is the perfect example of how to handle scams! You saw the red flags, you investigated, and you reported the issue so other performers are aware of it. Well done! And thank you for being a part of the discussion. The more we talk about this stuff and share with other artists, the more informed we’ll be on scam trends and prevention tactics.

      Reply
  6. Ted The Fiddler April 28, 2016

    I’ve been doing this for a pretty long time and recently a lot of big festivals and venues who don’t use unknown acts want you to submit through some agency or system with a fee. I don’t think in 40 some years I’ve ever gotten a gig I had to pay to get, unless it was a direct commission to an agent or something like Gig Salad for their services. Most of the booking agents I’ve worked through take a percentage or just pay me AFTER they’ve taken out their fees. I don’t think you should EVER have to pay to play…. Or to get a record deal, recording deal, or any of that stuff. They should be paying you because you are talented enough for them to make some money from. If you’re paying some one to advance your career, 90% of the time it’s a Shark. Now of course there are people like Publicists who get paid to provide you a service. Get your name out there, get you some press. But, there are a lot of “Sharks” out there who use young entertainers with up front fees for photography, recordings, press kits, and so on. Real legit agencies will foot that bill because they know you will eventually make them money. At least that was the way it used to work. Things have changed and we do need to create some of that material ourselves. It pays to know how and what is expected from you, but you really shouldn’t have to pay some one to get you gigs or make you a star. It just doesn’t work that way.

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett April 28, 2016

      Really great insight, Ted! I’m glad we’re talking about this. The more aware we are of the possible risks, scams, sharks, etc., the less likely we’ll be taken advantage of. Thank you so much for the feedback!

      Reply
  7. Sa'eeda May 1, 2016

    Am I the only one to get multiple reminders for gigs that GigSalad has flagged as spam? I received this today, including a threat to remove me…

    “Last reminder! Please take a moment to check out the lead you received from XXXX XXXX 72 hours ago. Important: Not reading your leads could result in your profile being removed from GigSalad search results. ” Please fix the reminder system, so it doesn’t do this!! Thanks.

    Reply
    • Megan Frisbee May 4, 2016

      Hi Sa’eeda,

      Thank you for bringing this to our attention! This issue has been resolved and you shouldn’t be getting any further notifications for leads marked as spam. Thank you for being a member on GigSalad!

      Reply
  8. Les Howard May 11, 2016

    Here are two common scams that many of us have been victimized by but some new artists may not have seen yet.

    1. Someone contacts you because he “likes your music” and wants you to play at his venue – a bar, a restaurant, a club, a private party, whatever. He claims he can’t actually pay you but you have a great sound and there will be lots of industry insiders and others attending who will hire you for other gigs once they hear you play. I have yet to hear back from any of those industry insiders.

    2. Similar to the above except “If you play this show for free, we will hire you for more shows if our customers like you”. Some venues survive for years on this one because they never actually pay anyone.

    You really want to investigate these “opportunities” very carefully. I usually just turn them down flat. I’m not saying I would never play for free but I need to identify a significant return on my time and effort.

    Reply
  9. Chris Lanier August 28, 2016

    Other Scam Tips
    1. The IRS never calls you. Messages purporting to be from an Agent claiming you have been ordered to appear before a Federal Magistrate, etc., and demanding you call back immediately are a total scam. Do not call back. If the IRS (a scam itself) really wants to reach you, it will write. This probably originates in Nigeria, from which many scams come. I and friends of mine who are U.S. Magistrates and Assistant U.S. Attorneys get this call too.
    2. Microsoft is calling to assist you in fixing a problem they have noticed with your Windows computer (That most musicians are going to use Macs is the first clue that this is fraudulent) and they would like to remotely access your computer. Never let anyone do so unless you call for service after you noticed a problem. The fact that they can barely speak English is another clue; while most support these days is from India or the likes, they can pretty well communicate. These scammers can’t.
    3. You’ve won a big prize . . .if you will only send us $$$ for taxes, shipping, etc. Some scammers use this on elderly folks and the most brazen even gave away cars (OK, cheapo $10k to $15k cars) though the amounts they were stealing more than covered the cost of their throwaway cars. They stole $4 million + from elderly folks across the country before going to Club Fed.
    4. We calling to confirm a shipment of copier toner . . . . (that’s worth $40.00 but for which we are billing you $200.00). They call at lunch to offices when the regular secretary is out and an unknowing assistant is answering the phone. They record the call and try to intimidate the boss into paying. Don’t pay. Tell them the assistant had no authority and go ahead and sue. You’ll never hear from them again.
    5. We’re calling from the Fire & Police Union ….will you donate to buy 10 tickets to the circus for poor kids (what a guilt trip this one is . . .you think you are helping poor kids and will have a decal for your car that will get you out of speeding tickets) . . . donating $1 million to the Clinton Foundation might get you a gig at the UN . . . .
    6. Sounds harsh but I don’t give or donate to anyone calling for any reason on the telephone, sending an e-mail, text message, or snail mail solicitation . . . . I simply don’t believe them. How do you really know they are with the Little Sisters of the Lame? These days anyone can get a phone number or relay it or an e-mail to fake the ID. I represented some folks who engaged in some of the above behavior once upon a time and give me a good old robber, meth maker, or armed career criminal any day of the week over a telemarketer . . . . Telemarketers have no remorse; they are professional liars (akin to politicians, except worse).
    I don’t donate to anybody or anything unless I personally know who is managing it, what they do, how they help people or critters, what % of the money goes for overhead and what % to the beneficiaries, and where I can physically take the check.

    Political causes? Same thing. I bet they are all pretty much operating out of a handful of buildings on K Street in D.C. and most of the money goes to their salaries and Bentleys. It would not surprise me if the Left and the Right regularly meet for lunch to decide what issues they are going to throw at each other to generate fundraising for both. I’ve held and sponsored receptions for pols, run county headquarters for Presidential candidates and even played at receptions for Senators, Congressmen, Judges, Governors, and a Presidential candidate . . .but I knew them and knew that what they were doing was real. Just don’t fall for the anonymous.

    I’m an attorney for my day job and music is my hobby.

    Reply
    • Ted The Fiddler March 14, 2017

      Yep.

      Reply
  10. Dean Spyropoulos March 13, 2017

    I’ve had two of the “Pay you an extra thousand on my credit card and wire me back the difference”, once by email and once by text.

    So now I ask for a photo of both sides of the credit card and their ID, and like magic, the conversation ends.

    Reply
  11. Chef JoAnna March 13, 2017

    I have been dealing with this kind of scam for 10 years.

    http://chefjoanna.blogspot.com/2007/05/shame-on-you-bishop-ben-okafor.html?m=1

    Reply
  12. Paula Roberts March 13, 2017

    While I do appreciate this blog, many of my potential clients use hotmail or gmail as their personal address. A private client wanting to book a performer does not have to be a business as such. Also (I am English and a stickler for good language) if I only dealt with people with good spelling and grammar, I am not sure how much business I would ever be doing!

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett March 14, 2017

      I agree, Paula. Many of your clients will use a personal email address. However, scammers can also pose as a “talent buyer” or “promoter” or another representative of a company, and that is something you’ll want to verify. Like Lisa mentioned in her comment, we’ve seen recent scams from individuals who claim that they’re affiliated with a business or event in order to collect a commission. If you’re seeing a request like this coming from someone with a gmail or hotmail email address, you’ll want to ask for more information linking them to the company they’re associated with. As for proper language and spelling in their message, it’s not an isolated factor in determining whether someone is attempting to scam you. Not everyone is a stickler for grammar like you and me! But if the message you’ve received is riddled with errors AND they’re requesting personal information or funds, you’ll want to look further into it. These red flags are simply common tactics used by scammers and meant to inform our community. Not every red flag will lead to a scam, but it’s a good idea to be cautious when you’ve encountered a suspicious message.

      Reply
  13. Lisa Haley March 13, 2017

    Dear GigSalad:
    Thank you so much for your info on “booking scams.”
    I know of another large scam which started this past year:
    – “Promoter” emails you, says you’ve been selected for a festival, in UK or Europe
    – The web address given for the festival is legitimate
    – BUT the promoter who contacted you is NOT the promoter for the event!
    – Promoter asks you to pay him a commission in order to be “accepted”
    Several large festivals now have disclaimers on their websites, stating they have no affiliation with those promoters.

    We are a GRAMMY nominated Americana/Cajun/Zydeco band, national touring act.
    I have many articles on various “music biz scams” which we send to young musicians.

    Reply
  14. DONALD KOTTAS March 17, 2017

    excellent tips , thanks for all the advice

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett March 20, 2017

      I’m so glad we could help! Thanks for reading, Donald!

      Reply
  15. Lynne Edwards October 30, 2017

    I’ve run into something new: An online radio station that is owned by a booking agent or connected to an online radio station. They use people they call “Managers” who don’t have any professional credentials to scrub the internet to find artists who may have recordings online. The so called “managers” talk them into sending them a CD to promote them on this radio station; they also get a call from this booking agency. Is this something that’s for real now in the music business? I thought it was weird to get an email from some stranger claiming to represent this online radio station. When I investigated it I found out this is a podcast station through Spreaker that is promoted on Facebook. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Tessie Barnett November 1, 2017

      Hi Lynne,

      I’m familiar with the idea of online podcasts, and I know more apps and websites are popping up on the web claiming to help struggling artists make money with their music. Some of these may be legitimate and some may not. I think it would be wise to do a little research on the podcast. It’s especially helpful to read any online reviews you can find. Find out as much as you can and remember not to give out personal information, rights to your songs, or money up front until you know more.

      Reply

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