Toronto singers say they have been targets of recent online money scams

Singer and songwriter Shannon Dooks. Katherine Ward / Global News

COVID-19 has been a taxing year for artists, as performances have been shut down and streams of income significantly reduced.

As many industries pivoted to offering services online, musicians also made the leap.

Shannon Dooks is a singer and songwriter based in Toronto. Dooks said she was contacted online earlier this month by someone offering to pay her to write a song for a child’s upcoming birthday.

She said it was a gig she was happy to book.

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“We get a lot of work through social media,” Dooks said. “I felt like it was very legitimate, and that this person really had a son somewhere.”

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But when it came to the payment, things took a turn for the worse.

“I asked for an e-transfer, and he didn’t want to do that. So he emailed me a cheque, but he made it out to be $3,000 instead of 300,” Dooks said. “I paid him back the difference. Then the cheque bounced.”

Dooks said looking back she sees the red flags, but at the time she couldn’t imagine that she was being targeted.

“I was uncomfortable with his money being in my account and wanted to give it back to him and I just didn’t think it through.”

Another Toronto artist, Chelsey Bennett, also known as Seyblu, said she had a similar experience. Someone reached out online asking for a personalized song for a child’s birthday.

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“It seemed like such a cute reasonable offer, for a mother who can’t afford a big gift for a three-year-old,” Bennett said.

However, they insisted they pay with a cheque, and the cheque was made out for more than the established payment.

“She said I am so sorry, but this cheque has been made out for 1,500 and now you have to accept it and then give me the remainder,” Bennett said.

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The deal with Bennett fell through, however, Dooks is still out $2,500.

Toronto police say they are investigating the incidents, and want to remind people to be cautious about how they share personal information, accounts, or money when dealing with someone online.

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At this point, Dooks said unless the person is caught, she will likely never see that money again.

“I called my bank to see if there is anything I could do, but unfortunately [they said] I am 100 per cent responsible for the cheques that I receive and the money that I send,” said Dooks. “There is nothing that really can be done.”
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Dooks said she wanted to share her story so that other artists are aware of the dangers of doing business online. For now, she said some career plans are on hold until she can recoup the costs.

“That money was going to be funnelled back into my music career, and now I’m set back a little bit which is really disappointing and kind of heartbreaking,” Dooks said.

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