There's an old saying most folks have heard of, and I like a lot: "When you get served lemons, make lemonade". This blog is my cathartic lemonade.
I'm an artist and graphic designer. I have decades in advertising, and thought I had reached a high level of sophistication about my business; but now that belief has been permanently shaken.
Around two weeks ago two individuals emailed at about the same time. Each wanted me to bid on their very large online projects. Maybe they were looking to begin ramping up business as the quarantine started to dissolve; so pretty normal. They wrote in shaky English; but - hey - I figured they were immigrants who recently brought money and dreams to this country. The project details followed a similar thread - logo design and online catalogue for a bridal couture website that was not quite completed. The second project also consisted of a logo and catalogue to be converted to a flip book for an online website, also not quite ready. I now realize the non existent websites were a hint of trouble ahead. Each job, though similar to the other's thread, seemed reasonably different. In both cases a lot of money was involved - bait that had sugar plums dancing in my head. This was manna from Heaven for someone who was so deeply feeling the COVID-19 pinch. I got such a spurt of energy after that long stretch of idleness that I immediately started to research their projects. I spent agonizing hours writing up their bid quotes, making sure every detail in the pricing was fair and accounted for. Immediately upon receiving the bids each agreed to my terms. I thought - boy - they appreciate my talent, honesty and thoroughness! I quickly received the credit card info of one of them. That was texted and text was our means of communication. This client was urging me to hurry through with the payment because he stated that he was in hospital with lung cancer and wanted me to start work before his surgery. As any normal human would react I was distressed for him and assured him I would speed things up as fast as possible. He texted that If I took on some extra duties of an agent he'd had to fire he would add an extra $5000. I now realize that that was the final sweetener. It was a very subtle path I had never trodden before. I was his. He sent on his credit card info for advance payment. I tried several times, but couldn't process it through my merchant portal. Although I didn't know it at the time the card may have been stolen or fake, and that's why it didn't go through. My perceptions were so skewed by this time that I thought something was off with the portal. That's what saved me from disaster. I signed up for another merchant services portal, and was just about to put the first client's credit card through. That's when the second client texted willingness to put a down payment with their card, and requested "a little favor". He was in hospital with lung cancer and would give me a nice tip if I moved some money around for him. Only then it entered my fogged up brain that I was being scammed. I entered a description on Google of my situation, and right away an article came up called "Gone Phishin': What Graphic Designers Need to Know About a Weird Internet Scam Targeting Creatives" by Emily Gosling. I realized after reading it that my so-called clients were nothing but conmen who would have destroyed my life had they each succeeded in their plot. If I had accepted their payments the new account portal I was going to use would surely have gone after me for any breach. I would have sunk into abiding debt. My good credit, for which I pride myself, would have been in tatters. Sleeping well at night would have been a thing of the past.
The article I found online says that free-lace artists and designers (like me), who until recently were very small fish, have become so plentiful and omnipresent on social media and websites that they are now legitimate targets of scam artists. In other words, creatives are vulnerable to predation like never before. My feelings of alertness and paranoia have been heightened several levels. I think, in this case, that's now a necessary thing.
A sour lemon taste of disappointment has puckered my lips, but now I'm sipping a tasty lemonade after posting this blog on social media.