Spot a Scam - Scam "Tail Makers" in the Mermaid Industry
In the 10 years I have been in the community, I have been contacted a lot about scam tail makers. I have seen first hand outright thieves in the mer-community, and recently I have seen an uptake in this due to popularity. This blog will serve as a share-able reference of how to spot a scam, and what to do if you have been scammed.
Things to Consider Before You Send Money
The first thing you should do is check the Mernetwork’s list of tail makers, up-and-coming tail makers, and known scammers. Mernetwork has requirements a company must meet before being able to be on the list. You’ll also find reviews and discussion and see how other people have faired with this person. You do not need an account to view the list.
You can view the list at this link: https://mernetwork.com/index/content.php?133-mermaid-tailmakers
Discussion on tail makers can be found here: https://mernetwork.com/index/forumdisplay.php?18-Tailmaker-Discussions
Blacklist of Tailmakers: https://mernetwork.com/index/showthread.php?10347-&%239888;-Tailmaker-BLACKLIST-&%239888;
A tricky thing you’ll have to consider is taking a chance on a new tail maker. New tail makers will often create tails at cost so they can cover their materials and still gain experience and knowledge. You enter into an agreement with them where you understand your product may not be perfect. This has the potential to go both ways. For instance, I did this. That new tail maker? Merbella’s studios. Who are now one of the top recognized tail makers in the world! However, it can also backfire. I accepted a free tail from someone who wanted me to give promotion. I did the best I could with what they sent me, but then that person went on to take money from people and not make tails! They became a thief. So it backfired on me.
This is one of the areas that makes it difficult for mers on a budget!
Another thing to consider is that you do get what you pay for. If someone is offering you a full platinum silicone tail for ridiculously low price… it’s not going to be legit. Comparatively, people try to “mark up” tails to make money on them. You decide what it’s worth to pay, but many buy sell groups are now requiring proof of purchase to prove the original price of a tail.
Material quality is one way mers have been scammed. Tail makers advertise one thing but use another. It’s important you study photos and videos of tails the person has already made carefully. For instance, silicone caulking can be safe when used appropriately and cured fully. It often has a vinegary smell. But alex plus- a latex mix is toxic and can be absorbed into your blood. Medical grade silicone is always the best.
You should always keep a record of every conversation and discussion over your item that you have with a tail maker. If you decide to talk to them by phone, follow it up with an email that states what was discussed for your records. Always keep record of everything.
If your tail maker has created a term of service, you should read it thoroughly and hold them to it. If they have not, you should come up with your own contract. You can find many templates online. Even if the person does scam you, this will at least provide you with the needed evidence to take action against them.
Another important note is that your tail maker should actually invoice you if using sites like Paypal. If you send money as a "gift" you wont get buyer's protection.
Signs of a Scam
The biggest sign of a scam is simply that the tail maker doesn’t deliver at all, or under-delivers. Yes, we understand that things get delayed. But there have been tail makers in the past who have flat out taken money and run off with it.
These include Adam Martyn - who lured people in with his professional website, and SPFX youtube, stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the likes of Hannah Fraser and Mermaid Melissa among many others.
Fishbutts – who made tails out of subpar quality items, but for a reasonable price, and eventually took on more tails than they could handle and took off with the money with many mers waiting on tails
Mermaid Creations – similar situation, though the owner eventually after years managed to pay some people back.
Not all tail makers will flat out take your money, but they will intentionally under-deliver. This is often because they’ve spent the money you’ve sent and then take too much time to earn enough to cover your materials, so something gets thrown together.
Another scam is websites popping up using photos of other mers existing tails to lure you into thinking they made them. If it seems too good to be true, do a reserve image search using a website like tineye.com or google image search to see if the image pops up elsewhere on the web.
Perhaps the biggest sign of a scam is lack of communication. Some well-known tail makers don’t have time to reply to every email or message, but they make that clear up front and still have excellent deliverables. But if you’re working with a “new” person there is no reason why you should be waiting months for a reply.
Using paypal or your credit card offers buyer’s protection, but one way that scammers try to get around this is dragging out your tail making process so that the protection expires. This is also an issue if you make multiple payments. Your tail shouldn’t take any longer than the buyer’s protection unless you have some sort of legal contract you can use as back up.
Scammers will often use threats, bullying, blackmail and intimidation to coerce you into staying quiet. No reputable tail maker will do this to you. If you start getting this behaviour, it’s time to get out – now!
What to Do if You've Been Scammed
As previously mentioned buyer’s protection expires and scammers know this, but you aren’t alone if this protection has worn off and you find yourself out money and no tail!
Many companies such as paypal and etsy will still protect you (and your credit card too) if you provide them with enough evidence. All of your financial statements related to the purchase, any contracts/terms of service, and communications will help. It helps to call these companies directly. For instance, rather than disputing every payment on paypal, you can call and have them consolidate into one so you can dispute the whole amount. Visa and Mastercard have fraud protection. They can reverse charges and flag the other person’s account for investigation. It doesn’t hurt to ask, even if you think they won’t be able to help. Don’t give up before you try. Don’t worry if the situation is “messy” they deal with this stuff for a living.
If you are scammed DO NOT BE QUIET. Do not be scared of the person. You are not slandering them or participating in libel. Speak up on mermaid groups and on the mernetwork. You may gain more evidence to use in your case against them to prove they have a track record if others come forward with proof.
Fraud is illegal. So don’t feel like you’re overdoing it by filing a police report. You may not get anything back, but it all helps to keep the person accountable and prevent them from doing it to someone else.
You can also report to the BBB, and if they’re using external pages like Shopify or Etsy or Paypal to run their business, you can also report to them to have their sites taken down.
Being scammed sucks, and it has happened to many of us on a big and small scale. It’s not always mermaid tails, sometimes people run fraud schemes to make money off smaller items. Never be scared to speak up. The community may not always be able to help you get money back, but we are here to support you. It's never drama to talk about being the victim of a crime. Good luck!
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