Photography jobs

My photography business was targeted by a fake check scam

What would you do for this check? I’m photographer Dave Koch, and here’s the story of how my real estate photography business was recently targeted by a fake check scammer.

I was recently hired to photograph six properties of varying sizes. It was my standard rate for MLS shoots, so while it’s a big job, it wasn’t anything I was going to make a ton of money on. That’s all well and good… but let’s go back to the beginning, where all good stories begin.

The initial customer request

My first contact with Tony Montego dates back to April 1, 2022…. And that should have told me something right there. It was a short, direct email that simply said, “I need your photography service in Salt Lake City.” The email was from “WENDY’S PROPERTIES, LLC

Suddenly, of course, but I received other similar terse emails that turned out to be good jobs. I responded the same day with:

“Thank you for your email. What can we do for you?”

To which Tony responded with a much longer email detailing his needs.

Tony tells me he needs 6 properties knocked down, all in the Salt Lake Valley. It provides addresses and square footage totals for each – that helps A LOT! He goes on to say that he wants 30-40 images of each location, covering both interiors and exteriors. Best of all, her dates are open, so I can choose when to shoot. All he wants is a quote.

Well, that’s good for me – I have something to fill on my days off, and I’m in no rush to get it. This is not unusual; I’ve done jobs like this for builders before…and I love doing them because of the flexibility.

I get my quote, based on his specified square footage estimates that night. The next day, he replies that he’s going to need “before and after” pictures, so he doubles my estimate, and he asks if you’re okay. Then it asks me to create an “Invoice Payment Request via QuickBooks” for that amount.

I don’t use QuickBooks, so I reply that I can’t. He then asks me for my name and address to send a check. I tell him that I only need half as a deposit, but he insists on paying in full. Again, unusual, but not unheard of.

The check arrives

Next thing I know, a check is delivered to my office for the full amount. Again, unusual but not unprecedented.

The envelope that arrived via USPS.
The contents of the envelope.

But then Tony sends me this email less than 10 minutes after delivery: “Check delivered to your front door, did you receive it?”

Now my playful sense is starting to tickle…. Was this guy just watching very closely…? Or maybe he just got an email notification. Anyway, I’m starting to think it’s weird. But I answer yes, I have it in hand. Then I get this:

“Friday, maybe after the check has cashed, you can make a deposit through your mobile banking app or ATM today”

And now I’m convinced it’s a scam. I don’t know how or why… But it’s not good.

Red flags everywhere

Now I look at the check and see that the Wendy’s logo is not correct. And it’s printed differently than the rest of the check. And the return address on the shipping label is not Dave Thomas Boulevard.

The Wendy’s logo didn’t look right…

I look back and realize that none of his emails have a signature bar, with “Senior VP of Acquisitions” or something like that… No signature at all.

But the biggest red flag was the Gmail address. Anyone working for Wendy’s would surely use a email address, or something very similar. NOT a Gmail address!

I Google Wendy’s Properties, and there is indeed such an entity. But googling “Tony Montego” is much more fun – I suggest you do. Someone made a Tony Montego Nigerian Scammer page on LinkedIn, this is a hoot. But there are enough people to know it’s a scam.

I just want the community to know about this scam…and scams in general. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Check return email addresses. To ask questions. Protect yourself. And don’t trust Tony!

I have no doubt that Wendy’s has NOTHING to do with it, so I don’t want to say anything against them, it’s just a scam artist who chose them to run his scam. But there is no doubt that this is a scam.

Be safe there!

About the Author: Dave Koch is a Utah-based real estate and commercial photographer. With over a decade of experience in the field, Dave has been recognized by his peers with the Best of State award twice for his commercial photography. Before going it alone, Dave spent fifteen years as a professional photojournalist in California, Arizona and Utah. For fun, Dave enjoys spending his free time exploring the length and breadth of his adopted state of Utah with his wife and daughter. You guessed it: take pictures. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook and Instagram.