Autographed Photo Scam? Hypotheses please.

A buddy of mine is in a very local indie band. They have no hopes/intentions of persuing a serious career in music. It’s something the guys have been doing for fun since high school.

They got a request for an autographed photo from some “sick guy in the hospital”. It was a really inspiring, heart-wrenching plea. But the guy is in another province where they have never played, and they thought it was weird and scammy. Checking a few indie-music message boards, a few other musicians have had similar experiences. Someone in a different state, requesting an autographed photo with some kind of heartfelt sob story. Most people agreed it sounded like a scam, so the requests were ignored.

Now with things like Myspace, general internet marketing, and indie compilation CDs it’s possible that someone heard of my buddies, or these other artists. But everyone thinks it’s pretty unlikely and it positively reeks of “scamminess”.

But I’m wondering what the scammers could get out of it? Trying to get a signature for identity theft? Plausible, except that a lot of musicians don’t use their real names professionally.

How useful is an autographed photo of Johnny Bravo who is really Greg Brady? Or what could someone do with an autograph like: “Love and rock, XOXO…Venom Kitty!”…? Or even if Kathy Jones signs her photo “Kathy Jones”, would it be useful to scammers, considering her “official” signature that she uses for banking is “Katherine Jones-Smith”…?

We all think it’s a scam, but what kind of scam is it?

I can think of several things I could do with an autographed photo of a band, be they ever so un-famous.

  1. Show it to someone I was trying to impress and say, “Yeah, this is the band I manage/used to play in/founded.” Some people (read: girls) are impressed by this sort of thing.

  2. Show it to someone I was trying to borrow/scam money from and say, “Yeah, this is the band I was telling you about; they only need $2500 for a CD demo pressing, and believe me, they’re going places, you’ll see a 200% return on your investment…”

  3. Show it to my mother and say, “See? I told you I was a roadie for a real band” in order to explain the many “lost weekends”.

  4. Show it to my boss, ditto.

  5. Post it on my web page. “This is my band. That’s me, the lead singer.”

I know nothing about signature collecting, but as I understand it there’s a large community of people who’s goal in life is to collect as many famous persons’ signatures as they can. I suppose it’s possible that these are collectors (or someone wanting to sell to collectors) that hope that if the band does hit it big they can have an early and rare signature from that band.

Maybe for the one time, but there were almost a dozen other musicians that mentioned something similar (and a similar scam vibe from the sob story letter). And it was never a band photo they wanted, it was an autographed photo of ONE musician. Some of the musicians who were solicited for a photo are girls, and I don’t think I’d be impressing somem chick if I showed her a photo and said “Yeah, I used to manage this chick.” They probably think it was my ex-girlfriend.

In that case, wouldn’t you be better off with an unsigned 8x10 glossy? Once autographed, it looks like you’re a fanboy who wrote in and got a picture. It would be far, FAR easier to just download a copy of the band’s press kit from their website (complete with photos), and then modify it digitally.

You don’t need an autograph for that. Hell you can snag any press photo off of Myspace and invent your own fictitious band, it would be easier than working with something autographed which would encourage the mark to corroborate the story. If you were a scammer, you don’t want the mark to contact the band and ask if they work with you.

Again, you don’t want a signed photo for that. Your mom, boss, or girlfirend might Google them and send an e-mail “Hey, does Duck Duck ever work for you?”

And all the musicians who responded that they’d gotten the request were all very unknown artists who only played locally in their communities. They hardly come across as “real bands”. (My buddies would laugh and laugh if anyone thought they were on the cusp of fame.)

Okay, but if anyone Googled the name in the autograph and got to the real band site, they lie would unravel. (Although Mustard Guy from Fark had to send a cease-and-desist letter to some weirdo who had a site and claimed to be Mustard Guy.)

I thought of that too, but then I figured if that was the case, there would be a vast number of musicians chiming in on the message boards reporting similar requests. And considering the thousands upon thousands of bands you see on Myspace, such an endeavor would be so hit-and-miss it would hardly be worth the effort.

They now have a document with your signature on it.

Which they can then copy onto a check or other item that requires one.

Please review the OP. The “signatures” mean little when so few people use their actual full names. How is an autograph that says “Venom Kitty” or “DJ Snazzypants” going to help someone forge a check for Jane Smith’s or Rob Jone’s bank account?

None of the musicians (or actors for that matter) that I know actually use their own full names because they are either too dorky or too long. Example/ My buddy’s autograph would be Danny True because Daniel Trujillo get’s mispronounced and otherwise screwed up in press releases. An actor I know has a hyphenated last name, but she uses her mother’s maiden name which sounds more “Hollywood”.

Hmmmm, and local indie bands would perhaps be less likely to use stage names for their musicians, so their signatures would be more worthwhile than more famous artists?

I wonder if the scam could also involve collecting enough signatures and photographs to find one who also coincidentally looks like the scammer, so the scammer could right away or with hair color changes pass a short objective assessment of the scammee’s appearance (i.e. race, hair color/length, height?)

I’m just back from a librarians’ conference. At the conference were dozens of authors signing copies of their latest book, and giving copies of those books away for nothing, or selling them very cheaply. Do all these authors have to worry about potential identity theft?

(And wouldn’t the scammers need numbers identifying the signer’s bank account before they can start creating cheques?)

But as far as I can tell, the performing arts industry, even at the hobbiest level, is rife with people who use variations of their legal names. It would be ridiculously hit-and-miss.

Signatures and autographs aren’t necessarily the same either. Hell, even I use a totally different signature on my artwork than I do on legal documents. My artwork signature is visually more spiffy-looking than my dull-as-dirt, honest to Spaghetti Monster, legal signature.

Example/ One says Duncan S. DeCat, the other says D. Sylvester DeCat because the latter is swoopy and looks cool on my artwork. :cool:

Also a lot of artists have to modify their names to avoid confusion with other artists. One of the reasons the aforementioned actor I know uses her mom’s maiden name is also because there is another actor by the same name in the same union and it causes confusion for casting agents.

I agree. Most of the indie artist I know (including actors and visual artists) don’t even use their home address for arty stuff. They use a P.O. Box. So collecting enough data to use for identity theft or fraud seems far fetched.

Seriously though. The email sob story requesting an autographed picture just screamed “SCAM SCAM SCAM.” It was way too personal and feel-sorry-for-me toned. Too similar to the others, even though they were all a little different (like a targeted campaign).

The other artists that said they got similar messages, but they weren’t identical. The address where the photo was to be sent was different and the artists themselves had established web presences, but weren’t anywhere in the same location, (some were in San Francisco, others in NYC, LA, Toronto etc.) and for the most part are really small potatoes (no one emerging, no one who had obvious money). But everyone said they got the same “scam” vibe.

Musicians get so many bullshit “A&R rep” and pay-to-play scams, that by the time the get-rich-quick scammers solicit them to be on a “compilation CD” (that of course the artist shell out for), the musicians tend to be good at spotting the BS.

But if it’s some kind of scam, I can’t see how it would work.

…Come to think of it, I’m not sure there is a solid factual answer to this because I can’t find any scam documented despite lots of Googling (nearest I found were scams involving the sale of fake autographs). I will see if a firendly mod wll move this to In My Humble Opinion in search of hypotheses…

Send the guy an email that says a autograph will be in the mail soon… and oh, by the way, how did you hear about us? We have a local following but not many fans in the XXXX area.

I think you’re reading too much into it.

If the artist is really worried about it, just sign it with a first name or have someone else sign it. :smiley:

They did actually and the response was plausible but still unlikely. (One of the friend of a friend things).

I thought so too, but with a bunch of other people saying “Hey yeah, we got a weird message like that too!..” I was curious to know if there could be a scam and how it would work.

He could sign it with his usual autograph if he was so inclined. It bears no resemblance to his actual signature. It’s one of those “Dave Jones” vs. “Dave Jonesaristotlandophocles” type of situations.

There is a big hole in this, although i can’t quite put my finger on it (through it?)… With the easy availibility of band photos and such materials on their web and fan sites, if a person is intent on a scam, it is an easy matter to down load and print a photograph, and “magic marker” an autograph onto it - afterall, these are largely unknown indie bands we are talking about. So why go through all the trouble of getting an authentic signature?

The only possible reason I can think of is that possibly some people are “mining” indie bands with the hope of getting a signature before some one/group makes it into the “bigtime”, as a previous poster has already noted.

Obviously, if a person has a “scammy” intention, it should be no problem to them to fake the band’s signatures, especially if they are (as previously noted) “Nom de Band” and do not represent their actual, legal signatures. All in all, it seems pretty pointless, and I chalk it up to just another e-mail" “Support poor dying Bobby” variation.

For years I had a Donny Osmond album that, in magic marker, said "Seven, I’m a little bit Rock n Roll. Love ya man. Donny.

Me: Hey, did you guys ever see my autographed Donny Osmond Album?
Friends: No way?!? REALLY?!?
Me: Neat huh?
Friends: Yeah man. That rocks.
Me: My old roommate Jeff signed it for me.
Friends: Ha. That’s almost cooler then if Donny signed it himself.

I think this is the most likely explanation - I expect the sob story is just tacked on to try to ensure a better response rate.

My fiancee’s hypothesis: It’s a writing exercise. She knew someone in college who, as an exercise in persuasive writing, would write to really famous people to see if they could get a real response rather than the signed 8x10 glossy and, bubble-jet-signed form letter from the publicts’s office. And she did get a few actual response letter from some of them.

My first thought would be some socially awkward, obsessed fan who just really wanted the autograph. Local music scenes often attract misfits and eccentrics. I know a few guys in smalltime local bands and even on that level, there are fans who skirt the line between ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘creepily fixated.’

My BiL did something like this about 10 years ago just for the hell of it and got some pretty interesting personal responses back. I think his favourite was from Scotty Moore (played guitar for Elvis). I need to check with him and see who he got responses from. He mostly focussed on 60s/70s semi-famous musicians where he was most likely to get a response from.

Even with the large crapshoot my vote goes with grabbing the autographs in the hope they become famous.