If you are a freelance cameraman, the chances are that you have invested a significant amount of money in your kit, and if you lose it, your livelihood is at risk. Sadly, there are huge numbers of predators out there who would dearly love to take your equipment and sell it for a few quid, and they really don’t care if they destroy you in the process, so BE VERY CAREFUL.
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If you are dubious about a potential client, we may be able to check him or her out beforehand: Contact the Xhire Administrator for advice. If you are renting kit from a broadcast hire company, ask them to check out your client, as they have more resources than you do.
Consider the following two possible scenarios:
You reply to an ad on a legitimate website for freelance cameraman. You speak to Mr Dodgy, who seems highly plausible, and tells you that he is doing a 3 day shoot and hires you to do the filming on very advantageous terms. He tells you that he has been ‘let down’ by somebody else, and he needs you the same day! You pack up your kit and meet him in a railway arch in Deptford.
Suddenly, a white van pulls up and several men with baseball bats invite you to give them your kit, in exchange for not engaging in serious amounts of Clockwork Orange style gratuitous violence. You naturally comply, and, hey presto, your beloved kit is gone. Mr Dodgy stops answering his mobile phone and disappears.
The police are helpful, but it all happens so quickly that you are unable to provide a good description, and in any case, the thieves leave the country later that day, so there is absolutely no chance of getting your kit back.
You reply to an ad on a legitimate website for a freelance cameraman. When you reply, you speak to a Mr Dodgy who tells you that he doesn’t need a cameraman, but he would like to rent your kit, as he has been let down by a broadcast hire company, and offers you a very good price for a weekend rental. Everything seems ok, including the email domain: (aljazeerabroadcast.com, for example) and, as you could do with some cash, you agree. You deliver the kit to a prestigious hotel, where Mr Dodgy meets you and transfers the kit to a van.
You then find that Mr Dodgy stops answering his phone, and when you check with the hotel, it appears that the person had a reservation but cancelled it.
You call the Police, and they tell you that they will not get involved as it is a ‘civil matter’, and suggest that you call Action Fraud. The fact that the Police refuse to assist you surprises you, as you thought that they were supposed to fight crime, but that is the way it is, and nothing you can do will change it.
You have now lost your kit and will have to get more to stay in business.
Don’t become a victim: Defend yourself. Here are some guidelines, provided by Performance, an insurance brokerage, which outline a few simple ways you can prevent having your kit stolen.
Best advice: DON’T DO IT! Is it really worth gambling £20 000 worth of kit for £400 in rental? Most people who try to rent kit from freelance cameramen are thieves. There is a 50% chance that you will lose your equipment. You would be far better off referring enquiries to a friendly rental company which is well equipped to defend itself against theft, and asking for a commission on the deal if it goes through successfully.
Please follow this advice from Performance Insurance:
Theft of high value items is on the increase.
We have become aware of an alarming trend where bogus Production Companies (or third parties) are engaging the services of a freelancer and asking them to hire equipment for a fictitious production. The freelancer is then subsequently robbed of the equipment, which is obviously distressing and puts their safety at risk.
In order to protect the equipment you are using, and more importantly your personnel, we would ask you to consider the following questions:
1. Has someone asked you to hire this equipment on their behalf, or for their project?
2. If so, have you worked with this person/company before, or have you carried out checks to confirm their identity (e.g. references from someone else you know that has worked for them or by some other means)?
3. Have you met this person face to face, or visited their premises?
4. Have you seen their previous work?
5. Have you checked the location of the project independently, and confirmed that the project is booked to take place?
6. Have you met other members of the cast or crew and confirmed their identities?
7. Do you have a geographical land-line for the third party (i.e. not an automated answering service)
8. Do you have a company email address for the third party (i.e not hotmail or googlemail, etc) and have you typed the bit after the @ sign into your browser to check out the associated website? Do the contact details on that site correspond with the information you have?
9. If the Production Company is a limited company, is it listed at Companies House and has it been in existence for a number of years? You can check this information by clicking this link www.companieshouse.gov.uk
At Performance, we take the safety of our clients very seriously, and we would urge you to take all reasonable steps to safeguard both yourself and the equipment on hire.
Answering these questions honestly does not preclude you from obtaining insurance, but will assist us in helping you work safely, and will also help others avoid similar scams.