Okay, here’s a fun one. I have nothing but my suspicions at this point but I think someone has created a fake profile for a real company to solicit fraudulent services. If so, this represents a new level of depravity.
With that said, let me make this very clear, Parkes + Macdonald Production Image Nation is a VERY REAL production company that was started and managed by VERY REAL movie producers Walter F Parkes and Laurie Macdonald. This is a duo that has a very well documented history with some of the most popular films over the last 30 years. Their skills have helped to develop companies like Dreamworks and other major studios. I am in NO WAY trying to insinuate that P+M (Parkes + Macdonald) are in any way fictitious or even involved with the email I received. After doing some research, I strongly feel that someone else is potentially trying to use their names and likenesses, probably without their knowledge, to solicit funds from me for services not actually offered by P+M.
So what had led me to draw this conclusion? Let’s examine the details.
- The email I received from Anthony was the usual basic text and image marketing email offering to turn my book into a screenplay for the low price of $999 with a guarantee of getting a movie deal in 6 months or my money back. Given my previous experiences with similar offers, this email reeked.
- The email contained a website for the production company. I pulled up the website and began reviewing the website. It was a very basic website that looked designed to promote the company’s history while encouraging people with ideas for movies to contact them. That was it. A simple history of the company and the founders but that was it. The website seemed very odd for a production company with such a rich history and impact on the film industry. Similarly, for a company that has generated over $6 billion in revenue (reportedly according to the website) the idea of begging for ideas from Indie authors like me seems a bit unexpected. This group with their history should not be begging for content but others should be begging them to look at their pitches.
- The website did have a basic Contact page. There was no address on the website, only a city and state (Santa Monica, CA). I thought that a bit odd and something of a yellow flag. Addresses can easily be verified with modern services like Apple Maps and Google Maps so the lack of an address made me question the website’s authenticity. There was a phone number on the page too but we’ll get to that shortly.
- With the website in question, I turned my attention to social media. I did find a Facebook profile under the name Parkes Macdonald Production that shared a logo from the website but that was largely where the similarities ended. The profile was created in October 2022 but had no posts and no followers.
- The Facebook profile listed a website address but the address was different than the website in the email solicitation received from Anthony. As a web developer, I know that is possible, and even common, for a company to have multiple website domains that all point to the same website. Web aliases and redirects are commonly used for a variety of reasons so the different value on the profile wasn’t a complete shock or red flag. However, when I clicked on the link to go the profile’s address the domain didn’t work. If the profile and the website belong to the same group then one would expect the website on the profile to be a valid, working link.
- And here is where the phone numbers come into play. The website had a very different phone number listed compared to the Facebook profile. This raised some questions for me. The discrepancy on the websites already had me questioning things and now the difference in phone numbers really made me take pause. I used a free reverse phone number lookup tool to search for both phone numbers to see what could be found. The phone number on the website tracked back to a landline number belonging to a company called Veloworx which deals with bicycles and not a production company. The phone number on the Facebook profile tracked back to a Skype VOIP number belonging to an online gift retail shop and not a production company. This means that I found 2 different online presences reportedly for this production company but information on these profiles could NOT be successfully tracked back to the company the profiles claimed to represent.
- Next, because I had found that Walter F Parkes and Laurie Macdonald are real people, I thought I’d check them out on LinkedIn. Laurie has no profile but interestingly, Walter F Parkes associated with Parkes and Macdonald Production had 2 profiles with the same name and profile picture on the service. One was several years old and the other was created roughly the same time as the Facebook profile (October 2022). It gave the impression of being a fake profile created by someone wanting to pose as Walter F Parkes, similar to how people spoof real Facebook accounts for nefarious purposes.
- I did a Whois lookup on the website from the email. The website domain name given in the email was created 1 day before I received the email from Anthony. I find it odd that a company that has been around for nearly 2 decades just so happens to launch a generic website a mere day before soliciting me for services they want me to purchase.
- I took the street address from the Facebook profile and plugged it into Apple Maps and Google Maps. The address came back to an actual building and the entry returned the name Parkes-Macdonald C-O NKSF, which seems consistent with the company name that is known to exist but still. The map entry also included a phone number. This was a different number than the website and the Facebook page making 3 different phone numbers I found for this group. When I applied the same reverse lookup to this number as the others, it comes back to a group with a name consistent with the P+M group and the profile states it is a film production company. Perhaps this is the real phone number for this group? Either way, it seems that the information in Anthony’s email is less likely to be legitimate given that all the information in his email fails to track back to anything verifiably related to P+M. My only concerns with this address is that when I access Google’s Street View of the building, there was nothing on the building’s exterior to confirm if the address was the home of P+M.
There are too many things in my research that scream out to me that there is something funny with Anthony’s offer. The lack of an address on the website is minor but when paired with a phone number on the website that tracks back to someone else and then the added fact that the domain was created within 24 hours of the email to me just smells fishy. Then the “recent” Facebook profile that is empty but contains conflicting details to the website, that also can’t be verified, suggests that the Facebook profile was the first attempt to spoof this company but in the past 12 months they were forced to create a new website so they left the FB profile behind hoping to distance theirselves from whatever forced them to start over. Then the duplicate profiles on LinkedIn for Walter just adds to it all. There are too many discrepancies for me to believe at this point that Anthony’s email is authentic and it gives too many similarities to spoofing.
UPDATE 10/24/2023: I found a real phone number for P+M and reached out to them. The news of someone using their name to sell such services was a shock and concern. I’m not sure what action they may take to protect their brand from such actions of others but at least they found out about it now. God speed.