I hate that I'm sitting down to write yet another blog post of this nature.
But, here we are.
But, here we are.
As humiliating as this is, I feel like it's important for me to share the details of my experience and how I was scammed in the hopes that it will prevent the same thing from happening to someone else.
In mid February, I was contacted by a man by the name of ADAM HERSHKOWITZ who claimed to be the owner of a legitimate PR/marketing/production studio in Manhattan. He said he was working on a digital campaign with Reader's Digest for the launch of their new publication called "Fresh Home." He even attached a copy of the campaigns "sell sheet" to the email.
The situation was presented as a seemingly straight-forward press opportunity at the time. (Although admittedly I was a bit confused as to why a DIY home improvement magazine would be interested in my jewelry specifically… I mean art jewelry made out of Barbie dolls meets home decorating? hmmm) I pressed him for more information, which he was more than willing to provide.
He was very convincing. He pitched the idea and although it still seemed a bit odd - he sold me on the concept, saying things like "Fresh Home is about reaching a younger, hipper audience, we want everything in the photo shoot to reflect that boldness, including the jewelry."
After a lot of back and forth emails, phone calls and "urgency" expressed on his part, I finally agreed to lend him my one-of-a-kind Orange Blossoms Neckpiece for the photo shoot. I drew up a contract permitting a one week loan out and informed him I would need his signature and that there would be a fee for each additional day the necklace was not returned to me after the end of contract date. He had no problem signing he said, "whatever terms I deemed fit." (of course he had no problem agreeing to my terms, come to find out, he never had any intention of honoring them in the first place.)
I was in the midst of my crazy Paris deadline, so unfortunately I did not do quite as much research as I should have about ADAM HERSHKOWITZ and his "company" before eventually agreeing to meet him in Union Square in Manhattan for a drop off, in person, of the necklace.
A week and three days passed. He has not responded to my phone calls, emails, text messages, or pages. His voicemail inbox is "full and cannot accept any more phone calls."
Much research and investigation later, it turns out I'm not the only one whom he has stolen from in this manner. ADAM HERSHKOWITZ in no way represents Reader's Digest/Fresh Home or the Marketing firm he's falsifying his involvement with. Though they are both well aware of his fraudulent activity. 5-6 others have come forward about being contacted by ADAM HERSHKOWITZ. Police reports have been filed. He is being pursued, thankfully. I'm filing a police report as well and intend to see this through as much as possible.
Looking back and re-hashing the details over and over, I realize there were many RED FLAGS I chose to overlook with ADAM HERSHKOWITZ.
He walked up, all 5 feet 2 inches of him, looking like a scruffy college kid in frayed jeans, a puffy brown down jacket, skull cap and torn t-shirt with beet red toes in flip-flops. Absolutely nothing about this guy spelled "Professionalism" in person. And yet, I still foolishly chose to hand over my one-of-a-kind, handmade necklace, to give him the benefit of the doubt, in good faith that it was all good, and I would get some nice press out of it. "I had him sign that contract after all," I assured myself. HA.THE RED FLAGS:• He used a gmail account for his email instead of a professional business email address. (I use gmail too, and now I get why people always say it's more professional to use your company name email program)
• His persistence and urgency to receive the jewelry - to an annoying degree.
• His unwillingness to pay for the shipping to - most product placement/press interests will send a courier service for pickup and drop off.
• If he was the owner of this big deal company, why was he doing all the leg work himself? Wouldn't he have a team? Calling all the contributors himself, setting up/art directing the shoot himself, meeting me to pick up the piece himself (instead of sending an assistant) etc.
• He claimed he was going to be styling and art directing the shoot himself, and yet he couldn't provide me with any details as to what it was going to look like ie: what the model's clothes would be in relation to the necklace I was providing, etc.
…and the number one red flag I should have paid attention to, the one where my gut was really telling me "don't trust this guy…"
• He was wearing flip. flops. Dead of winter, in 20º weather. dude's wearing flip-flops. His toes looked like they were going to fall off.
I have one less necklace, but more than that was stolen. I feel betrayed and humiliated and foolish for falling for this. I try so hard to cultivate solid business practices, cover all my bases and handle myself as professionally as possible. The problem perhaps, is that I am a trusting person. The biggest lesson I've learned from this experience is that I ALWAYS NEED TO TRUST MY INSTINCTS first and foremost, and that it's ok to say no. Even if it feels just a little bit off, there will always be other opportunities. No one - no press opp - nothing, is worth feeling that uncomfortable for.
I hope you all can learn from this and avoid this type of situation. Here's what lending out your jewelry or artwork should look like (sans flip-flops of course) and if you think of anything else to add to the list, please leave a comment…
WHAT TO DO:• Do thorough research before you loan anyone anything, no matter who they are/ claim to be.
• Get a physical business card of the contact.
• Get references and follow through with contacting them.
• Always have them sign a Borrower's contract! (I am thankful that at least I have that - which he signed - for further legal action.)
• Get a valid credit card and charge it! Put it in your contract that charging a credit card for the full retail value of the work on loan is required up front and will be refunded once the piece is returned in perfect condition. If it's a valid business, they will have a business credit card and the charge shouldn't be a problem. This protection is worth the processing fees.
In the event this necklace turns up and you happen to see it, I would be forever grateful if you would please contact me. Thanks for reading.
**UPDATE: Adam Hershkowitz has finally been caught and my necklace has been recovered by the police! For further details click here.**