A distressed sex worker being scammed online

National Ugly Mugs: 7 common scams that all sex workers should know about

Whether you’re new to sex work or have years of experience, being vigilant against the ever-present risk of scams is key to keeping your business operating successfully and securely.

But what are some of the most common scams out there, and what are the telltale signs?

Thankfully, help is at hand. We sat down with the team at National Ugly Mugs to find out how you can spot, avoid and report scams.

Spotting scams: An interview with NUM

Here at National Ugly Mugs, we take incident reports from sex workers all over the UK. We anonymise those reports and, with permission, share the details with our members in that area so they can be extra vigilant and hopefully avoid the perpetrator(s). We also have an email and number checker, so sex workers can type in someone’s contact details and see if they are linked to any of our reports and be forewarned that way. 

You can report anyone to National Ugly Mugs – clients, managers, photographers, security personnel, filming crew members, coworkers or other sex workers. This list is not exhaustive. We take reports about anyone who has harmed a sex worker of any kind. Our mission is to end violence towards sex workers, and in the meantime, we’re working to make sex work safer. 

There are several common scams sex workers face particularly online that we wanted to share with you. The NUM R&D team, who are all industry experts, put together an hour-long webinar with everything you need to know about moving your sex work online during COVID which you can find here.

Alternatively, watch the four-minute version of the video below to learn more about common scams we’re aware of. 


A distressed sex worker being scammed online

Top tips to avoid scams

1. If they’re asking you for something first, you should be suspicious 

The most common of these are fake “sugar daddy” accounts promising to send you lots of money for no reason – all you have to do is send their accountant a £50 fee and then they can start paying you. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.


2.  Don’t send “verification” photos of ANYTHING if you are already age verified on a site. Don’t do fan signs. Don’t send any content without being PAID first 

Some clients will ask for ‘proof’ that you are the person in your photos. They’ll ask you to ‘verify’ by doing certain poses or holding up signs.

This firstly should be unnecessary because you’ll already be age verified by individual platforms (clipstores, fan sites, etc) who will ask for ID. If you’ve been approved as a seller on any adult store platform, that should be verification enough for a potential buyer. That should be the first thing you do when you move online.

But more importantly, these people may be using these ‘verification’ photos to ‘prove’ that they are YOU, and may attempt to re-sell your content without your permission by impersonating you.


3. “I get paid on Friday, can I pay you then?” 

This is more of an endless annoyance than a scam. It almost goes without saying but if someone wants your content, they have to pay for it first. You need to stand up for yourself. Don’t let clients try to pressure you or manipulate you into doing anything you’re not happy with. Remember, you are totally within your rights to say no.


Sex worker receiving payment before providing a service


4. Even if a client sends a screenshot of a payment, wait until YOU get the notification. It may take time

It’s easy to Photoshop a screenshot to say they’ve paid you. You always need to check yourself and make sure the payment has arrived. Sometimes clients will use this technique and then rush you to send content or start the session without checking to make sure the payment is legit. This way, you don’t realise the screenshot with the payment was fake until it’s too late. Don’t let them fool you; if they’re legit they won’t mind waiting a couple minutes until you can verify the payment.


5. People posing and giving you a referral code to use with empty promises

Be wary of people who make money from signing up other users to a platform (such as OnlyFans) who are offering promotion or business/marketing help in return for using their referral code. By signing up with their code, they earn a % of your earnings as a bonus from the site. 

Not all affiliate programs work like this, but if you’re looking for a new platform to use make sure you read their Terms of Service and FAQ section. See if they have a referral program, check the terms, or ask around to see what other models think. You don’t have to rush into anything. 

If someone promises you promotion in exchange for using their code, ask to see their statistics or ask for references from previous models who used their code. Ask for details. Again, if they can follow through on their promises they’ll have evidence to suggest that.


6. Beware of chargebacks 

Paypal & OnlyFans are especially notorious for this. Clients report charges to their card as ‘fraudulent’ & get refunded their money while still keeping the content they paid for. Consider researching chargeback protection on sites you sign up for, or otherwise just make sure you know which payment methods you might be vulnerable to chargebacks by using.


A collection of bank cards


7. “Photographers” (Or videographers) offering “free shoots” – always ask for references 

There have been reports of predators posing as photographers or other behind the scenes roles on porn shoots as an excuse to be ‘close to the action.’ Make sure you know someone at the shoot (or bring a friend or chaperone) before you arrive. Reputable adult industry professionals won’t mind you bringing protection so long as they don’t disturb the shoot. 

You should be clear about the “levels” you’re comfortable shooting. Some models don’t mind lingerie shoots, but draw the line when it comes to full nudity. Communicate with everyone involved with the shoot about what you’re hoping to do but also what you’re not willing to do. Everyone should feel welcome to set boundaries and have them respected. 


If you want to sign up to National Ugly Mugs, visit their website today.

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