As a voice over artist, you are constantly looking for your next job opportunity. Unfortunately, you will eventually encounter scammers who will try to steal from you — steal your time, or even steal your money!
I wanted to show you an example of a scam that was attempted on me, and I wanted to point out the red flags that you should look out for when you receive unexpected communications. This particular scam is actually an old one, but it is obviously still making the rounds since I just received it.
I use my voice over email address often, and it is posted on my website, and occasionally elsewhere. If I worked strictly off pay-to-play (P2P) sites or other VO marketplace sites, I might not have been exposed to this type of scam. It does not bother me, however, since my mail service has pretty good spam filtering, and I am alert to this type of scam. By the end of this post, you should be ready and able to dodge these scams with ease.
It starts off with a rather innocent query to my VO email.
David Howell email@example.com
This is David. I got your contact from your website and I am writing to inquire of your service as a voice actor. Voice over actor needed for a commercial game host show advert project. I would appreciate it if you could get back to me if you are available and interested.
i look forward to hearing from you
Thank you for your time.
OK, from a communication standpoint, this is fairly minimal. No real introduction as to who they are. Ad agencies and the like will also be using corporate emails (not Gmail) and will be signing with their corporate credentials (“John Doe, Perfection Ad Agency”) or the like. However, some clientele such as those who might hire through Fiverr will not really be an agency — they will just be individuals who need something voiced.
I decided to be polite and enquire about the project.
Yes, I am interested and available.
Please, do tell me more about the project, and how I could be of assistance. Does your team have a script prepared already?
Their answer came pretty quickly, within a day. This was not an instantaneous answer, which would have tipped me off that it was a bot. However, numerous clues in their response told me it was a scam!
It is an $850 voice over (Assignment) for you and it’s in English. A new corporate client of mine wants to create their online website.This assignment is a copyrighted script that will be provided. We have specialists and Contract Studio Engineers who will bring real perfection to the job. It’s a two days project and wouldn’t take more than 45 minutes to record for each day.
The job and the recording will be held at a rented studio close to your location, so you don’t have to worry about traveling, the name and address of the studio will be forwarded to you before the date of the recording.
We are creating a marketing video to be distributed through web and social media. The overall video is approximately 20 minutes in length with the game show host part being about 8 Mins also. The voicemust be smooth, friendly, fun and entertaining.
Sample Script:(This is an idea of what to be expected)
(VO) Uh, I’m no rocket scientist but I’d say…traffic congestion.
(VO) Well, I’m no rocket scientist but that’s a no brainer. Mass Transit is the better option.
Expectations: You need to be in a good mental and emotional state of mind. Basically this is all that is required of you, Kindly, get in touch with me as soon as possible if you will take the job. More details will be provided to you and we can continue from there. I will appreciate your prompt response.
Let me know if you will take the job to commence with the next arrangement and also send a voice demo or reel. Please I’d like you to check your email on a regular basis, I might have updates for you. Thank you
There were numerous red flags in there. Did you catch them all?
They started the entire conversation with money. Virtually all clients delay that until the end, or even wait for you to ask. This is a scam tactic to grab your attention. It is big enough to be interesting, and not so outlandish as the million-dollar Nigerian Prince scams. They also do not specify currency. Did you know there are more than 20 currencies called dollar and that use the $ symbol? This would significantly affect my payout!
They capitalize words to grab your attention, to make it seem very professional. Assignment. Contract Studio Engineers.
Job location — They tease you by saying “rented studio close to your location”. It is interesting because I do not actually state on my website where I live. How can they even be confident I have a studio within a hundred kilometers? This type of arrangement can be done in the industry, however, you need to really be a “known quantity” for them to farm out the work to a studio unknown to them.
Job description — Again with the capitalization (8 Mins). Also, the idea of a 20-minute game show, where the host is speaking for 1/3 of the show? Possible, but seems excessive. But since we are on the topic of game show, what type of game show has an off-camera host??
Script — Seems odd. Seems more like contestant lines than game for the show host. But I am not the client here, so I’ll shut up about the script.
Expectations — This is actually the common theme from past iterations of this scam. They always contain the phrase: “You need to be in a good mental and emotional state of mind.”
The spelling and grammar are on point. Some inconsistencies such as missing spaces and odd capitalization and missing hyphens, but within the range of human typing skills.
I already knew this was a scam, but decided to check out how they would actually hook you. I wanted to figure out their angle. I sent them the following brief reply.
Yes, I am interested, and the project sounds interesting.
Just to be clear, you are offering $850 USD for:
2 recording sessions (~45 mins each day), local travel only
Approx 8 mins for my VO role
Off-camera recording only
Approx 20 minute total video length
My VO demos are available on my website, or if you prefer a wider selection, you can browse the demos I have posted on [blah blah]
So here I should point out that I did not email them any demos. I simply pointed them to where they could see some. Important to remember for their response…
Hello Michael, I received your sample and email indicating your interest in the project. I would not be able to send you the script because my client has copyrighted it and confidentiality is of utmost importance. Therefore the script shall be released a day before the project. I hope you understand?
As part of my working policy and ethics, I receive part payment from any client before I proceed with any job and balance you immediately after the job, this is to identify a serious client and ascertain the job. So I will get in touch with our client and part payment will be mailed to you, until you receive and confirm payment before the recording will hold. Your total pay for the job is going to be $850 as discussed. Part payment of $400 will be mailed to you first and you get the balance on the final day of the recording. I hope you understand?
Do Send me your payment details for issuing a check as to which our client is to mail out your part payment to you in the details below: Full name: Complete Mailing address : Phone number Cell Preferably:
After you confirm the part payment which should serve as transportation and mobilisation. Get in touch with your required details as soon as you can. The venue of the Recording shall be communicated to you once I get all the details. Concerning the date of the recording, you have the opportunity to choose the two most convenient days for the recording between July 20th to 25th and do indicate it in your next reply.
And here is where they try to hook you.
You will notice they received my sample, which I did not even send! This indicates their response is really a “form letter” they repeat with each new “victim”.
They go on to talk about copyrighting the script. This is not the correct way of stating this. They should have been talking about the script being confidential instead. But let’s move on.
Now when they start talking about money, it is obvious how old this scam really is. They are talking about mailing cheques around! With very few exceptions, all transactions are electronic nowadays. It is interesting to note that the actual amount they are quoting is within the guidelines for the work being requested, however again, it is odd they jump to a fixed amount without any semblance of negotiation. They want to make the payout lucrative enough that you will accept on the spot.
They are asking for my name, address, and cell phone. Name and address are understandable, but cell number?
Now we get some poor language. "…payment which should serve as transportation and mobilization." This is a badly worded attempt to say you can use the money to transport yourself to the recording studio, and is enough for you to start the project.
The dates they chose are odd as well. They straddle a weekend. Most studios would be closed on the weekend. This is yet another indicator that this is a form email and they just changed the month to be “current”. In the original incarnation of this scam, those dates would have been a Monday to Friday span.
Either way, I decided to end it there. I sent them a polite message saying thanks, but you can contract me through such-and-such P2P website and I would accept a lower payout to account for the site’s fees. Of course, I never heard back from them.
In hindsight, I should have strung them on a bit longer to see the rest of the scam. I should have given a fake name, address, and plausible phone number. Maybe next time!
There you have it. The inner working of a scam, and how to see the possible red flags. I hope you learned something new from this one! As always, stay dedicated to VO!