Scammers have gotten truly clever, personal and diabolical.
I consider myself fairly savvy and never thought I would fall for a phishing money trap over email, but I came very close this week.
I was personally targeted by a professional scammer who must have hacked into the email of a well-known, international tattoo artist with whom I have corresponded in the past.
The scammer emailed me posing as the tattoo artist. They called me by name and started out by apologizing for taking so long to get back to me, then asked if I would like to schedule a tattoo appointment for this year.
They knew all the right things to say. I had been waiting years for this email. I was immediately hooked – I was beyond ecstatic to hear from my dream tattoo artist!
The scammer used a custom email address made to look like this artist’s email address. They knew the kinds of questions a tattoo artist would ask. The scammer had clearly read my past correspondence with the artist, so they were able to jump right into an email conversation with me as if they were the artist.
I was made more gullible by my fervent, heartfelt desire for this to actually be true. I was soooo excited to hear back from my dream artist and beyond elated to book an appointment with them for later this year! It was a literal dream come true.
As the email correspondence continued, I sent a message to E, Z, my brother and a close friend to let them know how pumped I was about this. And yes, embarrassingly, I even posted on my tattoo-focused Instagram account about my excitement.
I didn’t have a single doubt in my mind until the scam artist sent me their Paypal information so I could send the required deposit of $500 to lock in my appointment. When I saw the Paypal account provided, it raised a red flag.
I immediately looked back at past correspondence with the real artist to see if that was her Paypal account, and it was not. Back in 2021, the artist had sent me her Paypal account and it was not this one. Also, back in 2019, I had purchased a few stickers from her using Paypal, and again it was not this account.
That’s when I took a closer look at the Gmail address the scam artist was using; at that point, my blood ran cold. I hadn’t noticed before, but there was one letter missing from this Gmail address. This was very likely not my dream tattoo artist after all, but rather a scammer.
As one final step of confirmation, I googled the Paypal email address the scammer provided. Only one result came up: a scam alert posted on the app formerly known as Twitter outing this person as a professional scammer (shown above).
All this time, I had been emailing not with my dream tattoo artist, but with a very clever scammer… and they came THIS close to almost getting $500 out of me.
I emailed the real tattoo artist our entire correspondence and let her know someone is posing as her and trying to scam clients and potential clients out of hundreds of dollars; I haven’t heard back yet.
I am so very happy to be the one that got away.
I also feel mad, disappointed and even violated. It makes me angry that I got so excited, hopeful and overjoyed about hearing from this artist only to almost get robbed by a liar, cheat and thief. I’m sad for all the people who might fall for this scam – after all, I’m the Tattoo Doula and I almost did!
The only thing that makes me feel a little better is imagining the scammer’s disappointment when they realize their trap didn’t work. I truly hope that others can foil this scammer, too.
Tattoo artists need to be aware that scammers are running these schemes. Collectors need to be aware that this can happen so they make absolutely sure they’re sending that big tattoo deposit to the right place!
That’s why I’m blogging about it – so hopefully others will learn from my (almost) mistake and be super, extra careful anytime you’re sending money via Paypal. Make sure everything checks out perfectly! And listen to your gut. Take an extra minute or two to pause, think through everything and do a Google search or two.
You’ll be glad you did – I know I am.