Wed. May 25th, 2022

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When Alexandra Sullivan was contacted on social media this week and asked if she would accept a commission to write a birthday song for a little boy, she was moved.

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“I thought this was adorable,” the Ottawa singer-songwriter said, referring to the suggestion she received Monday morning via Instagram.

“As someone who often gets messages from strangers with music-related options, I kindly agreed and was thrilled,” says Sullivan, 28.

But during the day’s interactions, this stranger’s plan became more fishy.

Sullivan and a person apparently named Heather Colemann went back and forth discussing details that could be included in the song, reportedly for Colemann’s son Solomon, who would turn five on December 17th. “, Colemann wrote. Sullivan agreed to $ 200 in advance and then $ 100 upon delivery of the song.

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OTTAWA - Singer-songwriter Alexandra Sullivan.
OTTAWA – Singer-songwriter Alexandra Sullivan. Photo by Errol McGihon /Errol McGihon

When an e-check arrived from Colemann, Sullivan paid for it via his mobile app. “No problem, it went straight through,” Sullivan said. But the payment, apparently from an Edmonton car dealer, was $ 2,000 instead of $ 200. Colemann claimed there had been a bug in her end and suggested Sullivan could send her the excess back, not through an email transfer, but via PayPal or another third-party app.

Sullivan almost went through with the refund. But first, her suspicions led her to search the Internet for “Instagram birthday song scams.” She found a news report from Nashville, Tenn., Which described how a singer-songwriter there had lost $ 1,500 in the fall to an almost identical scam in which the generous check from the happy parent subsequently jumped off.

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Sorry, this video could not be loaded.

“Same name for the kid and all,” Sullivan says.

She sent a message to Colemann: “This is a scam. I’m calling my bank right now.” And with that, Colemann deleted his online presence, Sullivan says.

Sullivan turned social media against the scam and warned his friends and fans about what had happened. She quickly found out she was just one of a myriad of singer-songwriters targeted by scammers when she quickly contacted four more singer-songwriters in Ontario who had similarly been contacted via their Instagram pages.

Screenshots from London, Ontario, folk-pop singer-songwriter Katherine Fischer showing off her Instagram chat with a scammer who wanted her to compose a song.
Screenshots from London, Ontario, folk-pop singer-songwriter Katherine Fischer showing off her Instagram chat with a scammer who wanted her to compose a song. jpg

Like Sullivan, Katherine Fischer, a 24-year-old singer-songwriter in London, was contacted on Monday. Her potential client, “Donald,” was talking about her son, who loved the animated show PJ Masks and Spider-Man (so did the boy Sullivan was told about). Fischer asked for a 50 percent deposit via email, but never responded.

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It just makes me so frustrated that people target musicians who are already having a hard time, ”adds Fischer. She had hoped to play 100 shows by 2020, but then the pandemic wiped out her concerts.

OTTAWA - Singer-songwriter Caitlin Roe.
OTTAWA – Singer-songwriter Caitlin Roe. Photo by Errol McGihon /Errol McGihon

Caitlin Roe, a 23-year-old Ottawa singer-songwriter who does not know Sullivan, had been hit about three weeks ago by a scammer who used a similar script. “Veronika Miguel” wrote: “willing to pay you $ 150 off [sic] it’s not stiff. “Roe smelled a rat and said no.” They said ‘thank you’ and that was it, “Roe says.

Kingston singer-songwriter Erika Lamon, 27, was contacted in August to write a birthday song for a seven-year-old boy. “I’m willing to pay $ 500 if it’s not hard,” the scammer wrote. Lamon asked to move the communication from Instagram to email. “This is where he just stopped,” she says. “ There was probably something wrong, so I didn’t push it anymore. “

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John Muirhead, a 24-year-old singer-songwriter in Georgetown, On. and a nominated Canadian Folk Music Award, went so far as to write a birthday song when he was contacted in August.

“It seemed very legitimate,” Muirhead says. “There were many details involved.”

The scammer suggested sending Muirhead a “virtual check” that the musician could print out and take to his bank. But after Muirhead asked his bank and was told that the virtual check would not be accepted, he suggested other options for payment. “Then they just stopped answering me,” Muirhead says.

In fact, Muirhead received another scam on Wednesday. “ They have just changed their name and a couple of the child’s interests, ”he laughs.

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“I If anyone has a legitimate case, I have a song ready: ‘ Happy birthday, James. “

The Ottawa Police Service and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center both say they were unaware of this particular scam against singer-songwriters.

But the police in Ottawa Sgt. Chantal Arsenault said scams involving fraudulent checks are very common, usually targeting business owners or people selling goods on social media.

“Fraud in itself is always the same,” Arsenault says. “A check is sent by mail or e-mail, and the amount is always much greater than the desired price.

“The fraudster will claim that they made a mistake or that the extra money must be transferred to someone else to cover the shipping costs of the goods. Once the money is transferred, the check eventually returns as NSF (insufficient funds).

Arsenault says people should not accept checks from someone they have not met in person. They should also not succumb to pressure to send money before confirming that a check is valid, which can take up to two weeks.

“Above all, if the amount is greater than requested, it is a scam.”

phum@postmedia.com

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