Photo by Lens CAP Productions
For most of you, October is an exciting month, right? Engagement season is right around the corner and (29% of couples get engaged from November to January, according to our Real Weddings Study) so if you have the right marketing channels set up (ahem!), you're pretty much guaranteed to get a big influx of new leads in the next few months.
But with all the inbound inquiries, we have heard of some unwelcome ones as well. We're talking about the sad reality that wedding businesses -- just like other small businesses -- are a target to online hackers and scammers. The truth is, as long as your contact information appears anywhere online, you need to be hyper aware of common fraud.
Minneapolis based attorney Wynne Reece, Esq. launched "The Creative's Counsel", a branch of her law firm that works specifically with creatives and entrepreneurs in need of legal counsel. She understands that scammers create a tricky situation for event pros when vetting new clients. "When our clients are skeptical [of an inquiry], we often advise that they respond with something along the the following lines, in order to protect their business while leaving the door open to secure new clients: 'We do offer various pricing options depending on the specifics, so we would love to set up a meeting to discuss, if you are interested. We would be happy to show you some examples of what we’ve done too,'" recommends Reece.
Scammers can make navigating the waters of booking new clients even more complicated. Here are three red flags to watch out for this engagement season.
1. They're overeager to book you.
There is usually a natural flow from an inquiry to a booking. And it usually doesn’t happen in one phone call, or one email exchange. Steve Lux, Vice President of Client Services for byDesign Films, who says he's been the target of at least 2-3 scams every month, says that the first red flag for him is when an inquiry comes in and the client is a little too eager to book. Often scammers don't want to spend too much time talking with him or his team, he says. They're usually much more interested in trying to put down a payment and hook us than they are to make a thoughtful purchase.
Also Good to Know: Never mistake genuine excitement for suspicious activity, and accidentally write off a client who is excited to work with you! (Let's face it, there are some fantastic couples who actually do just want to book you quickly.) Just be cautious of inquiries where the client doesn't seem interested in learning more about your work, or understanding exactly what each of your packages entails.
2. They request to pay by check.
With the convenience and track-ability of credit cards, it’s becoming less and less common for a client to request to pay their balance via check. In fact, according to our payment study with PayPal, 89% of couples prefer the convenience of paying vendors electronically and 44% actually wish that they were able to make all their vendor payments on their phones! Lux says that a request to pay by check is another red flag for him. "Scammers will tell our team that they have lost their credit card, or that it has been stolen and that they prefer to pay by check," he says.
Also Good to Know: Just like the tip above, you can't completely dismiss a client just because they request to pay you by check. Steve estimated that as few as three percent of his clients actually pay by check, and of course in some cases, a wedding planner will pay you on behalf of the couple. One thing you can do to protect yourself with checks however is to cash them as soon as you receive them. Then write down a detailed receipt with the requested payment method. Keep that all on file should anything come up.
3. It all leads back to the dollars.
At the end of the day, the goal of scammers is to con you into giving them money. Lux has received phone calls from scammers claiming that they overpaid him and that they will need the extra money to be sent back to them or to one of their vendors. Whatever the story is, it's important to protect yourself and your business. Keeping meticulous files is absolutely the key to ensuring this never happens to you.
Also Good To Know: One trick that Lux has used in the past when faced with this overpayment scenario is to recommend to the client that they cancel the check and put a stop payment with their bank. Then, let the client know that you will tear up the check if (and when) you receive it and that they can then send another check for the correct amount.
Anyone else have stories of scammers? Tell us in the comments below and share!
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