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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 status 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.
- Keep up with current scams – The Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center posts the latest online violations in their press releases. These articles can help you avoid some of the most advanced and clever schemes to date.
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.
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