A scam goes around the Instagram influencers and photographers community, and it's so elaborate that you can understand why people have fallen for it.
Someone claiming to be Wendi Deng Murdoch, the ex-wife of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, searches thousands of dollars at hundreds of influencers and improvident photographers on Instagram.
The scam starts when "Wendi" contacts the photographer via e-mail with the domain name dengmurdoch.com, claiming to be impressed by their work, and that they have received their contact information from someone from renowned in the industry.
In the case of two photographers who told their story, Wendi got their contact information from Pilar Guzmán, editor-in-chief of Conde Nast Traveler.
Wendi asks the photographer if she wants to photograph her in Jakarta, Indonesia. She even holds a telephone meeting to discuss the project for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
"There is even a conversation where she put me on hold and I could hear her pretending to talk to her nanny in the background of a tutoring project for one of her The act was so real, "said Carley Rudd, involved in The Scam in early January, explained in a blog post.
Wendi and her so-called New York-based assistant Aaron Gersh tell the photographer to book their own flights to Jakarta, but promise to reimburse the costs once the project is over.
A fake, but detailed non-disclosure agreement is even sent. The photographer travels to Jakarta, and it is there that the problem begins.
For Rudd, Gersh told her that she had to pay $ 1,400 in cash for an accelerated photography license, promising again to pay back the money, along with fake telegraphic transfer receipts. She was skeptical but obliged.
"I was alarmed by their disorganization and the price seemed high, but I knew it had happened at the last minute and I had needed permits from international photographers in the past," he said. wrote Rudd.
The same request, though of $ 1,100, was made to Henry Wu and Zornitsa Shahanska, who run a blog called This Life of Travel. They also saw red flags during their trip last November, but they persisted.
"Aaron called us one last time to apologize and ask us to pay a photo permit or" bribe "fee to a local government party for bribery," Wu wrote on the website.
The photographers were taken care of by a driver who helped them recover the money exchanged for the Indonesian rupiah. They were instructed to hand over the money to the driver.
In the case of Rudd's driver, he made a long detour to the hotel, finally stopping at a gas station, claiming that the tires needed to be checked.
At the gas station, he handed the money in a plastic bag to someone who was carrying a backpack behind the car.He never checked the pressure of the car. air and got back in the car, "wrote Rudd.
"We tried to chat and ask about the route and ETA at our hotel but he spoke very little English."
The photographers go to the hotel, but Wendi and her assistant keep moving away from it when it comes to filming in the coming days, or paying more for "permit" fees.
In the case of Wu and Shahanska, they met a German photographer in a Chinese temple, who said that Wendi had also asked him to carry out the same project. They finally understood that it was a scam.
Rudi and her husband were asked by Wendi and her assistant to split up during a photo shoot in Jakarta's Chinatown, which she found odd.
She said no and never heard of fraudsters again. A call on Wendi's phone number was sent to a British accent voicemail.
The Hollywood journalist claims that the so-called Wendi is the same hijacker as Hollywood producers and makeup artists posing as industry insiders, which he reported in a cover story last year.
This case is the subject of a long-standing investigation by K2 Intelligence, a firm of corporate investigators, that would also have attracted the FBI's attention.
"There is an important element of social engineering going on with these victims," said Snežana Gebauer, head of investigations and litigation at K2 Intelligence, in a statement released in November.
"They know everything about the personal lives of their victims and use the necessary pressure points.They also use publicly available information about the leaders they imitate."
Mashable has contacted the FBI and K2 Intelligence for further comment.