People have lots of preferred ways to screen clients before a booking, here are some that you can use:
- Using phone number, email, website username and car registration checkers (see number checking section below)
- Avoid making a booking without having spoken to the customer over the phone.
- Not making a booking if a withheld number is used.
- Not accepting bookings from people you have blocked.
- For those people who choose to have just email or text contact it is always still useful to run a number check (see below) for both in calls and out calls. Some workers who are okay booking via email or text only still make sure they explain their boundaries and many do not give their full address until the client is on their street. Whilst it’s important to respect how different workers screen and keep themselves safe, some sex workers who advised on this document, would think twice before making an out call booking just by text or email.
- Googling clients to find out more about them including using professional networking sites and searching social media.
- Check the IP address of whoever is contacting you. Be aware people can try and find your IP address. It is best to know what info they can get about you and so you can decide if you want to prevent this by employing methods which hide your IP.
- Some sex workers charge deposits and see this as helpful in reducing the risk of timewasting or potentially difficult bookings.
Number and Email Checking
- When you have the number of a client/prospective client, run it through google. This can bring up all sorts of helpful info on who your prospective client might be.
- Use number check applications linked to sex industry warning schemes (such as NUM and Ugly Mugs Ireland) and generic online and phone number ID and blocking applications.
- Check any phone number, email address, against the Ugly Mugs databases.
- Use email checkers – National Ugly Mugs (NUM) and Ugly Mugs Ireland have these and some other features (e.g. website username or car registration checkers).
- Some workers use apps such as TruCaller and WhoCaller where you can see if there is any identifying information linked to that person or if there is a nuisance call warning.
- Create and check your own personal ugly mugs/‘bad clients’ list. Once you have identified a potentially problem client, save this number in your phone or email address to your contacts. Some people find it useful to categorise clients who they are not keen on by saving them under warnings in their address book, e.g. ‘Timewaster or TW’, ‘Do Not See’, ‘See only if very quiet’, ‘See only when desperate’. Quiet times do exist, so being able to differentiate between callers who you would happily see again, you would never see again and who you might see at a stretch, can be particularly useful.
- For clients you definitely don’t want to see it is a much better tactic to simply ignore them – try not to retaliate or tell them you’ve already sussed them out. This may alert them, and they may change their number.
- Join a private sex worker group or sex worker forum where numbers of problem individuals are shared.
- You can also check WhatsApp, where you can sometimes see their picture.
- We know it is time consuming and sometimes you’re in a rush but checking with at least two of the above examples doubles your safety.
Warning Schemes, Alerts and Ugly Mugs
Ugly Mug is a term used by some in the sex industry to describe a ‘bad’ or dangerous (or potentially dangerous) client or another problem individual. It is also used for clients and others who are committing fraud such as paying with counterfeit money. There are warning schemes and forums you can use to warn others and arm yourself with information.
- Checking sex work forums/ugly mugs schemes/advertising platforms to see if the potential customer has any warnings or negative feedback is an important part of screening.
- Sign up to and use free safety warning schemes and forums where warnings are shared. Through these you can keep up to date with local and national warnings about ‘ugly mugs’ and in some cases also timewasters. See the what’s a crime and the reporting sections for further information about your options to make a report to a third-party scheme for sex workers or to the police if you choose to. Here are links to some key warning schemes:
- National Ugly Mugs (NUM) https://www.uglymugs.org offers SMS alerts to your phone or to email and offers a number checker and email checker.
- Ugly Mugs Ireland https://uglymugs.ie/ offers alerts, and you can check phone number, email address, website username or car registration against the database.
- SAAFE forum has a ‘Warnings & Wasters Board’ and through this you can link with other sex workers in your area: https://saafe.info/main/index.php
- Good Escort https://www.goodescort.co.uk/ is a free, escort and masseur only advice and support forum for male, gay and bisexual escorts serving the male to male market. Amongst many other things, members can share info about problem clients, time wasters and scams. SleepyBoy lists dangerous clients and timewasters; it can be accessed by sex workers advertising on the site.
- As we mentioned in number and email checking, you might want to join or create a private online sex work community group. These use different platforms or apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook/Twitter/SKYPE to forms groups where sex workers can share information.
- Use more than one scheme, although time consuming, you are broadening your chances of protecting your safety.
- Reading reviews left by clients themselves is a safety precaution some sex workers use because it can give an indication of the client’s expectations of a meeting and of their attitude to sex workers and the booking.
- Some sex workers watch/read/browse the local news or police most wanted information online to keep aware.
On the Phone
- Always trust your gut instinct: don’t make the booking if something doesn’t sound right.
- Check clients have read your profile to avoid timewasters. For example, do they know your name, are they asking for information that is available on your profile such as prices, services available?
- Most workers will not answer withheld or pay phone numbers.
- Be particularly wary of detailed outfit/roleplay requests; some of these callers may be entertaining themselves while on the phone and have no intention of taking it further.
Payments, Safety and Spotting a Scam
- Many sex workers insist on cash payment. Always get the money up front with clients before ‘anything’ happens. Some clients may say they ‘don’t usually’ pay until the end, be clear it’s your professional practice to take payment at the beginning.
- During a booking it can be helpful to keep the money out of sight to avoid any attempted robberies or wandering hands. If you tour, look for a place with a safe or frequently deposit the money into a bank to decrease any chances of a robbery.
- Some sex workers take credit card details or a deposit into an account so there is a ‘digital footprint’ related to bank details.
- Some card processing companies do not accept accounts or close accounts if they discover the person is a sex worker. Consider this when choosing your payment options.
- Some sex workers and clients use peer to peer money transfer apps for anonymous, fast money transfers, however many of these apps do not encourage payments for adult services so it is always worth checking the terms and conditions.
- Some workers told us the use ‘crypto currencies’, there are many out there including for adult services. Some people like these because they can see if the payment has gone through. But they are anonymous, so you might want also to run extra screening and identity checks when booking your client’s appointment.
- Credits on advertising platforms: much like deposits credits used on advertising platforms can be exchanged for money via cheque or bank transfer. While there is often a small admin fee to withdraw these credits, this can be another good way of checking the legitimacy of a booking and keeping an online record of where and when bookings are taking place.
- Some sex workers accept Amazon or other gift voucher as deposits. Some clients also prefer this option as well because it remains anonymous to both the client and the provider, similarly some escorts will have items on their wish lists of the same value as their deposit and request these in place of a monetary deposit.
- Be wary of ‘too good to be true’ offers: some people target new sex workers hoping to exploit their lack of experience. A valuable mantra to hold on to, despite the temptation of large amounts of money, is ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.’ Even experienced workers have been scammed or taken advantage of when lured in by offers of huge amounts of money, being lavished with luxury gifts, holidays, etc.
Instinct and Gut Feeling
Trust your instincts pre-booking and at all stages: if you think someone sounds dodgy, like they’re making the call to get kicks, or if you feel your boundaries are being pushed or you feel in any way uncomfortable, end the call, and don’t take the booking. Instincts can be invaluable in this line of work and are often undervalued.
In Call Screening
- Have a sneaky peak – try to make arrangements so you are able to see the client arrive. This may be at a landmark you can see which you have asked the client to go to.
- If doing in calls at home or a work apartment install a peep hole and CCTV system. Many cameras can now be connected to your mobile phone and purchased at a reasonable price.
- Check there is not more than one person – some people can hide out of view of CCTV.
- Check the customer is not drunk or high.
- Stay vigilant, be aware of theft –look out for travelling hands, people seeming to ‘scope out’ the property on arrival, e.g. looking around at the room/flat (sometimes followed by leaving, ‘look and walk’)
- Always get the money up front.