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What would you do for this check? I’m photographer Dave Koch, and this is the story of how my real estate photography business was recently targeted by a fake check scammer.
I was recently hired to shoot six properties of varying sizes. It was my standard rate for MLS shoots, so while it is a big job, it was nothing I was going to make a ton of money on. All well and good… but let’s go back to the beginning, where all good stories start.
The Initial Client Request
My first contact with Tony Montego was on April 1st, 2022…. And that should have told me something right there. It was a short and to-the-point email that simply said: “I need your Photography service in Salt Lake City”. The email was from “WENDY’S PROPERTIES, LLC <[email protected]>”
Abrupt to be sure, but I have gotten other, similar terse emails that have turned out to be good jobs. I replied the same day with:
“Thanks for your email. What can we do for you?”
To which Tony replied with a much longer email detailing his needs.
Tony tells me he needs 6 properties shot, all in the Salt Lake Valley. He provides addresses and square footage totals for each — that helps a LOT! He goes on to say he wants 30 to 40 images of each location, covering both interior and exterior. Best of all, his dates are open, so I can pick and choose when to shoot. All he wants is a quote.
Well, this is good for me — I have something to fill in on slack days, and I have no rush getting them. This is not unusual; I have done jobs like this for builders before… and I love doing them because of the flexibility.
I get my quote out, based on his specified square footage estimates that evening. The next day, he replies that he is going to need “before and after” images, so he is doubling my estimate, and he asks if that is okay. Then he asks me to create an “invoice payment request via QuickBooks” for that amount.
I do not use QuickBooks, so I reply that I cannot do this. He then asks for my name and address to send a check. I tell him I only need half down as a deposit, but he insists on paying in full. Again, unusual, but not unheard of.
The Check Arrives
The next thing I know, a check is delivered to my office for the full amount. Again, unusual but not unheard of.
But then Tony emails me this not 10 minutes after the delivery: “The check delivered to your front door, did you receive it?”
Now my spidey sense starts tickling…. Was this guy just watching super closely…? Or maybe he just got an email notification. Regardless, I’m starting to think this is weird. But I respond yes, I have it in hand. Then I get this:
“Friday, may be after the check clears, you can make a deposit via your mobile bank app or ATM today”
And now I am convinced it’s a scam. I don’t know how or why… But this ain’t right.
Red Flags Everywhere
Now I look at the check, and I see that the Wendy’s logo does not look right. And it’s printed differently than the rest of the check. And the return address on the shipping label is not Dave Thomas Boulevard.
I look back over things, and I realize none of his emails have a signature bar, with “Senior VP of Acquisitions” or anything like that… No signatures at all.
But the biggest red flag was the Gmail address. Anyone working for Wendy’s would surely use a Wendys.com email address, or something very similar. NOT a Gmail address!
I Google Wendy’s Properties, and there indeed is such an entity. But Googling “Tony Montego” is much more fun — I suggest you do it. Someone has created a Tony Montego Nigerian Scammer page on LinkedIn, that’s a hoot. But there’s enough there to know this is a scam.
I would just like the community to know about this scam… and scams in general. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Check out return email addresses. Ask questions. Protect yourself. And don’t trust Tony!
I have no doubt that Wendy’s has NOTHING to do with this, so I mean no slight against them, it is just a scammer who has chosen them to run his scam with. But there is no doubt this is a scam.
Be safe out there!
About the author: Dave Koch is a working real estate and commercial photographer based in Utah. 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 stepping out on his own, Dave spent fifteen years as a professional photojournalist across California, Arizona, and Utah. For fun, Dave enjoys spending his free time exploring the length and breadth of his adopted home state of Utah with his wife and daughter. You guessed it: taking pictures. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.