Staying Safe From VO Scams
It’s easier than you think
It’s often said that the hardest part of doing voiceover work is getting voiceover work. And these days, one of the hardest parts about getting voiceover work seems to be steering clear of voiceover scammers.
Voiceover scams are like pesky mosquitoes at a summer picnic—they buzz around, trying to spoil your fun. But here’s the good news: safeguarding yourself from these shady schemes is as straightforward as remembering one single rule. But before diving into that golden rule, let’s unpack the basics of these scams and give you some tools to help outsmart the scammers.
Picture this: You’re a budding voiceover artist (or even an experienced one), and suddenly, you receive a message promising a golden opportunity. You’re thrilled. I mean…who wouldn’t be? However, behind the scenes, the truth is that this ‘golden opportunity’ isn’t about your vocal talents; it’s all about parting you from your hard-earned cash. The most common scam in the VO world is the “Overpayment Scam.” And unfortunately, it’s got nothing to do with voiceovers and everything to do with tricking you into sending money to the fraudsters. They work hard to make it seem like the money you’re sending them is rightfully theirs, and that there’s zero risk to you.
Of course, that’s far from the truth.
So let’s take a closer look at how this scam typically unfolds. You have a brief conversation with the scammer, who’s dangling what seems like a fairly lucrative voiceover gig in front of you. After you agree to the “booking,” they send you a check (which turns out to be fake). They might claim it’s a partial payment for the job or they might ask you to buy equipment for a session that doesn’t even exist. Of course, their check is accidentally (totally on purpose) written for more than they owe you. Next, they’ll urge you to send back the “Overpayment.” Sometimes, they’ll even ask you to send the “extra” amount to a third party or their “approved vendor” for equipment. But in reality, it’s all going back into the scammers’ pockets – often through wire transfers, money orders, or even store gift cards, making it nearly impossible to reclaim your funds.
They’ll pester you to inform them as soon as you receive the check, because now, they’re racing against the clock. They need you to send them their ill-gotten gains before your bank realizes that the check is fake. This could happen in just a few days or stretch out to a few weeks. Be aware that the check might clear your bank in a day or two, allowing you to withdraw the check amount, but that doesn’t mean that the check is necessarily legitimate.
At this stage, you’ll notice a glaring absence: there’s no more talk about the alleged voiceover session; all their conversation revolves around the “overpayment,” and getting you to send “their” money as quickly as possible..
The core of the Overpayment Scam is always the same: they give you too much money and find an excuse for you to send back or forward the surplus.
It’s the opening move in this scam that can be tougher to spot, because there are many different approaches. In our industry, the Overpayment Scam is often described as the Game Show Host scam or the Rocket Scientist scam. That’s because the script samples in their early emails or texts contain those phrases. This version often opens with a promise of work that can look like this: “I have a $850 voice over (Assignment) for you.”
Recently, newer versions have cropped up. Scammers might use the name of a reputable company and even mention real employees of that company in order to lend credibility to their pitch. However, since the scammers don’t actually work for the company, they’ll be using different email providers, like Gmail or Outlook.
Some scammers might invite you to “interview” for a job via messaging apps like Signal, Telegram, Skype, WhatsApp, or Zoom. (That’s not how voiceover works!)
If you pay close attention to their communication in these newer versions, you’ll spot even more red flags. They might mention things that don’t make sense for freelance voiceover work, like “generous paid time off” or promises of a “flexible vacation schedule.” You’ll also see overly simplistic job requirements, like asking you to confirm that you possess “confidence,” “strong breathing,” and the “ability to speak loudly and clearly so the audience easily understands the intention of the commercial.”
There are even non-sequiturs like offering you a “5-15 minute short commercial” but promising to pay “$650-$850 per finished hour.”
Many warnings about VO scams suggest that you watch out for broken English or the use of the word “kindly.” But these warnings aren’t necessarily accurate, because legitimate clients might speak English as a second language or genuinely use polite (and slightly outdated) language.
In another all-too-common VO scam that’s floating around these days, the perpetrators claim to be from CAA, the Creative Artists Agency talent agency (or another legitimate agency), offering a lucrative gig, usually without requesting an audition. They’ll even provide a contract and an NDA for you to sign before asking you to pay to “enlist” with them. Again, this simply isn’t how voiceover works. Yes, CAA, the Creative Artists Agency actually exists, representing some of the entertainment industry’s biggest names. However, they’re not likely to reach out to individual talent offering up gigs out of the blue.
According to their website, CAA doesn’t even have a voiceover division. But this scam is enough of a problem that they have this warning posted on their careers page: “Unscrupulous websites sometimes post CAA jobs on their site and mislead jobseekers into submitting resumes on that website, providing sensitive personal information (such as social security numbers) or paying fees as a condition of submitting an application to CAA or obtaining a job at CAA. These websites (or the individuals or entities posing as recruiters) are not affiliated with CAA and do not act on behalf of CAA. Always utilize the CAA Careers page to find available openings and whenever submitting a job application to CAA, and know that CAA will never ask for sensitive personal information or fees as part of your application.”
So, what to do? Well,very often, just a tiny bit of research can save you loads of misery. Plug the name of the company your contact claims to be working with into the search box in a few voiceover groups on Facebook. Chances are that other voice talent have received the same message, and you’ll have no problem confirming your suspicions.
And if you come across a new version of the scam, go ahead and post about it on your socials. Sunlight is the best disinfectant
But here’s the bottom line – the one simple rule that’s guaranteed to keep you safe from the Overpayment Scam: Never, EVER agree to send money to a client or on behalf of a client. In over three decades of voiceover work (yes, I started young), there has never been a situation where I needed to send money to a client or to anyone else on their behalf.
These scammers are all too happy to take advantage of talents’ desire to work. And it can be easy to be flattered into thinking that your voice is the answer to their needs. But don’t let your ego get ahead of your intelligence.
Stay vigilant out there, and break a leg (not the bank)! Your voiceover career deserves it.
For a full (and entertaining) step-by-step breakdown of the Voiceover Overpayment Scam, see: https://dougturkel.com/the-anatomy-of-a-voiceover-scam/