Always be the Honey Badger. Never be the Cobra.

by Amy on September 15, 2011

Happy Thursday, glorious readers!

Field of wild daisies captured on film
I thought I’d bring a little levity to the end of your week. Much like everyone else on the planet, photographers often find their inboxes loaded with spam. We also are the target of some scams. One of the most common ones involves a fake inquiry, often from a suspicious overseas IP address that doesn’t match up with the sender’s location. The goal of the scammer is to either obtain your banking information to access your account, or to send you a fake international money order. They will “accidentally” give you more than they intended, and ask for a prompt wired refund. By the time your bank lets you know their money order was a fake, they are long gone with your money. Because these scam emails are so obvious, I usually delete them and go on my merry way. But this morning, I was feeling a little snarky. Let me share with you what I believe to be some of my finest work. Disclaimer: I do not advocate corresponding with obvious spammers or people who may be looking to scam you. If you do, make sure you are smart about protecting yourself and your online accounts and never share any personal information in the exchanges.

First up, the scam email from my new friend Dr. Rafael:

Subject: Enqiry About Your Service!!!!!
Message: Hello,

Good day to you.I and my family (my wife with 2kids)will be on holiday trip at your city on November 1st and i will like to know more info about your service and sessions.

Kindly let me know your charges and details if you offer Family and Children Portraits,Urban and Studio Session.

And i will like to know your session availability of any of this date 7,8,9,10 and 11th of November or you can just let me know your own that i will book ahead before coming.

Can our 2yrs old Shih Tzu pet be included in our photoshoot and will it attract extra cost?

Await your reply.
Dr Rafael William

Which brings us to my response. Rather hilarious, if I do say so myself. And I do.

Greetings Dr. William!

I would be delighted to offer urban family portraits for your family, children and shih tzu. I have some really fabulous ideas brewing. Can you all walk like Egyptians? This will be critical. If not, there will be an additional $250 fee for dance lessons so that I can teach you.

Since your Shih Tzu is only 2yrs old, there would be an extra fee of $500. It probably doesn’t really know how to sit and stay yet, and that yap yap bark makes it hard for me to work. If you could find a 5yrs old Shih Tzu that looks like your dog that we could use in the photos instead, I can waive the fee. Or I have a poodle that could be a stand in. If we put a wig on him, I don’t think you would even notice the difference.

I will like to learn your feelings on this so that we can arrange for the deposits.

With Bangles in my heart,
Amy Harkness

Enjoy! And if anyone wants to do a Walk Like an Egyptian themed session, I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse! And I’ll throw in the wig wearing poodle for free.

Update! Update! Some are asking if I got any response back. I did. The final correspondence (sadly, Rafael has not gotten back to me since) is below:

From the dear Dr.:

Thanks so much for your quik response and acceptance of the pet.Am very much happy to read about your availability and the session charges,Kindly calculate the total amount for 2 urban session(9th and 10th) for the selected date and any additional charges that may incur or you can let me know your own arrangement.

Kindly get back to me with the following details so i can instruct my associate to make half or full advance payment IMMEDIATELY.

1: Your Full Name to be on the payment
2: Your Address and zip code
3: Your cell phone number

Again I will like to have an idea on printing price for the listed size below:

Hope to read back from you soon.
Best Regard
Await your reply.

I got back to him right away because I just can’t wait for the Shih Tzu session!

Fantastic, Rafael!

I’m guessing you are going for the full Walk Like an Egyptian/Shih Tzu package? That will be a total of $1,050. Also, the prints that you have mentioned will be $500. In addition, I require an Internet Fraud Fake Money Wiring Scam fee of $3,942.15. Please use the contact information below for payment:

FBI – Chicago Branch
2111 W. Roosevelt Road
Chicago, IL 60608
Phone: (312) 421-6700

Pyramidly yours,

You’ll noticed I pulled out my evil alter ego Harkness for these emails. She’s nothing but trouble.

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jen carver September 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Hi i’m a photographer in Pittsburgh..and got the same exact email this morning.. i figured and didnt respond either..! love your response though!!

Amy Beth September 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Hi Jen! Thanks for stopping by! I usually delete them, but I was having a rough morning and just couldn’t help but respond. It made me laugh and made my morning a bit better, and I’m glad it’s bringing some giggles to others, too! πŸ™‚

Rebecca Yale September 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I just got the same email! Crazy this scam is popping up all over the internet!

Rebecca Yale September 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I just read your response and absolutely love it! I just responded to him so we’ll see what happens….

Chelsey September 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I thought it was very suspicious! Glad he’ll be in Minneapolis and Chicago at the same time, a modern day wizard!

Molly M Keyser September 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm

” If you could find a 5yrs old Shih Tzu that looks like your dog that we could use in the photos instead, I can waive the fee.” and “Pyramidly yours, Harkness” – OUTSTANDING! hahahahahh

Jaime Hazan September 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Thanks for the heads up on this email – got the same one. I was going to charge additional for a yappy French Poodle! Oh well..:)

Lissa September 15, 2011 at 3:11 pm

OK, I am seriously ROFL!!! Thank you for this. I received this same email this morning, I am in Wisconsin.

Amy Beth September 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm

It seems pretty widespread across the country, which makes me wonder if a photography related vendor or forum had their email list stolen. Or worse, sold it. Oh well. This got caught in my spam folder, I just couldn’t resist pulling it out and having a good laugh. πŸ™‚ I’ll go back to deleting tomorrow. πŸ˜‰

Stephanie September 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Thank you so much for posting this Amy. I just received the same email and thought it a little funny that someone would find me in Canada all of the way from Egypt. So glad I googled his name and found your post!

Megan September 15, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Ha! I received the same email this morning too. Perfect response!
-in Massachusetts

Jacquie Bounds September 15, 2011 at 4:33 pm

That’s hysterical! I got the exact same email from Dr. William today, so I did a google search of the phone number to see what came up – and that’s how I found your blog post. How funny that you got a response! I love it!

Andrea September 15, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I imagine a scammer in Egypt shaking his fist at the sky, yelling “HAAAAAAARKNEEEEESS!!!!!”

meredith zinner September 15, 2011 at 7:03 pm

i got the same one out here in Brooklyn!
but you were so much smarter! i LOVE how you handled it!!!
having a shih tzu i totally fell for it … but thankfully only initially!!!

Roxanne Tillotson September 15, 2011 at 8:09 pm

HA ! I am a photographer near New Orleans La and he was coming to my city too ! Got the same email and the same response back today ! Good response Amy !

Amy September 15, 2011 at 9:07 pm

OMG…I got this email too…LOVE THIS!! (There’s a thread discussing it here, which is also how I found your post:…_your_thoughts)

Marisa September 15, 2011 at 9:28 pm

I’m in Thailand and just received an email from this guy as well, and suspected it was a scam. Your “Walk Like An Egyptian” proposal being critical to the photo shoot almost made me pee my pants! And the whole dog part! You’re a genius. Love your photos too!

ronnie September 15, 2011 at 9:34 pm

ha! I got it too πŸ™‚ So I googled it to see the funny stuff, because I knew it’d be out there, thanks for being the funny in my day today!

Megan September 15, 2011 at 10:14 pm

I received this phony email this morning too… I did a google search and found this blogpost. I am loving this response!

Katrina Elena September 16, 2011 at 8:37 am

Thanks for posting. I got the same email and love the way you handled it!

Ivan Martinez September 16, 2011 at 9:02 am

Love your response. It is hilarious

I just got the same e-mail yesterday and decided to Google Dr Rafael Williams Egypt and found post.


Leila September 16, 2011 at 9:35 am

What a laugh. Received the same email yesterday for a trip to NYC. Thought it looked dubious – hence my search in google! Abashedly, I did just work up a reply just now asking for more details… Thanks for sharing your witty response. πŸ™‚

Teresa September 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Your repy rocked. Just got it too, and was like no way but just had to search and uncover the mystery, then found your reply. Big thanks to your alter ego…..

Jeanna Crossen September 16, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I’m a photographer from SW Indiana…I received this email as well. Damm, this guy is gonna be all over the place when he arrives in the US! Thanks for the heads up!

Lori September 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Ms. Amy Beth

This was priceless, I too received this plea for a photo shoot in Greensboro NC of all places! Thank goodness the BS..antenna went up, a shame I would have loved to have seen the dog!


Kris September 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Not only in the US, he will be the same day in Antwerp, Belgium !
I mailed him he has it for free, special action because he was my thousandth customer this month … so, no info needed for payment.

Kerry September 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Got the same email in Santa Fe, NM! This guy really gets around…

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