Manitoba musicians targeted in apparent cheque-cashing scam

​Multiple Winnipeg musicians have been targeted by an apparent cheque-cashing scam promising thousands of dollars for a gig.

Manitoba Music warns local artists about emails promising gigs worth thousands of dollars

Raine Hamilton, a Winnipeg musician, said she was targeted by a cheque-cashing email scam recently, promising thousands of dollars for a gig. (Mike Latschislaw)

Multiple Winnipeg musicians have been targeted by an apparent cheque-cashing scam promising thousands of dollars for a gig.

The musicians got emails or Facebook messages requesting a performance, but were later told they'd get a cheque for more than their fee and would have to pass on the extra cash to an event planner.

"So far I've heard from 20 other Winnipeg artists who were also contacted by the same person or alias from the same email address for the same gig. This person is offering a really high-paying, really attractive gig to artists," said Raine Hamilton, a local musician who said she received the emails recently.

Hamilton said the person behind the emails offered to pay her thousands of dollars to play a family reunion on a Monday afternoon, but when the individual said he could only issue one cheque for her and the event planner, she stopped replying.

Recently, another local musician received a cheque worth about $12,000 from the individual and attempted to cash it, but it never cleared.

Local photographers say they've also been targeted by the emails.

'An effective potential scam'

"It seems like somebody who is trying to do a pretty standard kind of email-based, spam-based cheque-cashing scam has figured out that targeting this at musicians and photographers and people that work in the event world could be a way to trick people into doing this convoluted cheque scheme," said Manitoba Music executive director Sean McManus.
Sean McManus, executive director of Manitoba Music, said it’s the first time he’s seen the email-based cheque scam aimed at musicians. (CBC)

He said it's the first time he's seen the email-based cheque scam aimed at musicians, and Manitoba Music is now actively warning members about the emails.

"For most artists and freelancers in the event world, their contact info is out there. They want people to be contacting them for gigs, and that's what makes something like this, at least initially, such an effective potential scam," said McManus.

"What could be better than seeing something that says, 'Hey, we want to hire you for a gig' or something as a musician?"

The Winnipeg Police Service said they are unable to investigate the potential fraud because email scams may be out of their jurisdiction. Instead, they said the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre would handle the investigations.

Hamilton last heard from the person offering the supposed gig on Tuesday, and said she planned to report what happened to the fraud centre on Wednesday.

All over Canada

McManus said he's now seen posts warning musicians about the potential scam from all over Canada.

"I've seen some [posts] from B.C. this morning," said McManus. "Thankfully, these days, our business is pretty transparent … it's pretty easy to spot something that's outside of the norm."

Still, he said, musicians often do unconventional shows and performances, and if they're doing their booking on their own they might not realize initially they are being scammed.

"I have never really seen anything like this that specifically targets musicians around the idea of a special event, and hopefully it's not something we'll see replicated," he said.

McManus said local musicians can always contact Manitoba Music about standard business practices in the industry if they aren't sure about an inquiry.