Family Duped By Online Scammers After Losing All Income

Beeswax and Bottletops

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My cousin Lil Tulloch has always been one of the most charismatic and talented members of our family.

With her fabulous sense of self and infectious personality, ever since I was a kid, I have always looked up to her.

As entertainment editor, I have been tasked with shedding a light on small businesses within the industry that not only inspires but have suffered a loss due to the global coronavirus pandemic, and of course, Lil came to mind. But it was a post on her Facebook account the other day, which saw my heartbreak.

Lil, her husband George Le Couteur and their three-year-old son, Harpo, had been scammed by an online company, which took $1600 of their earnings as well as acquiring personal information.

I chatted with Lil to talk about how her small business — a circus production house called Beeswax and Bottlecaps — had been affected during this unprecedented time and also, about their unfair and unsettling experience with online scammers.

Beeswax and Bottletops
Lil Tulloch and George Le Couteur. Julian Orbach

Anita Lyons: Lil, what has happened to you has been absolutely awful, but before we talk about it, tell me about Beeswax and Bottlecaps.

Lil Tulloch: We run a circus production house called Beeswax and Bottlecaps. Both of us are circus performers ourselves but have been expanding into an ever-growing agency providing circus shows for stage, councils, large scale corporate events and international tours.

We take the most enjoyment being on stage as a duo where we love vaudeville, comedy and clowning, often with our son Harpo (who is three), who joins the stage with us as The Gagliardies.

As is the way in the entertainment industry we branch out jumping on numerous creative endeavours, but we also take great joy in providing work opportunities for other Australian circus performers and collaborating with some amazingly skilled artists.

AL: What are some of your major wins from the last year?

LT: We have previously seen a rapid jump in our business with regular return events and 2020 was going to be a huge year.

Previous engagements have included contracts at Adelaide Fringe for the last three years, our long-standing contract with Circus Quirkus, touring the whole of New Zealand and our business expanding to large council events such as the Real Fest, Elvis Festival in Parkes, Inner West Summer Fest and Floriade, Perth City Winterfest, Parramatta Winterlight and Adelaide City Christmas. Last year we didn’t stay in one place for longer than 10 days!

AL: You’re an incredibly talented performer, but why do you love what you do?

LT: My partner George is at his happiest bringing laughter to people’s faces. I must admit, it is one of my favourite things as well. His comedy is fun for all ages and his excitement drives him on to create some of the most wonderfully quirky ideas.

I have been a member of the circus community for close to 20 years and I am incredibly protective of it. I want to see it flourish, evolve and adapt with the times.

As I sit on the administration side of our business, I hope to provide opportunities for up and coming artists and to see people excel in an industry that accepts all shapes and sizes.

I have learnt from some amazing mentors and I want to continue to spread what I have learnt. We used to run a circus space in Marrickville that was all about providing a fun safe space where politics were left at the door.

AL: Being in the gig economy, I can imagine that you’ve been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. How has it affected you both?

LT: We were looking to have the best year we have ever had in 2020. With confirmed contracts both here and in New Zealand. We were about to launch several new acts, revamp our website and take our business to a larger audience — it has been creeping up after a tough slog over the last few years and we were ready for a restructure.

We have lost every booking for the foreseeable future, the restrictions on groups of people and the dangers that could eventuate meant this was inevitable. As we are firmly based in live theatre and outdoor events we are unable to do what we love.

Right now, regardless of the business, it is the best decision to keep everyone safe and well, but it is financially incredibly scary. We wanted to pay our contractors for any cancelled gigs and have been able to do this thankfully as everyone is in a tough situation.

Beeswax and Bottlecaps
George, Lil and Harpo performing. Johannes Reinhardt

AL: How has this financially impacted you?

LT: We have gone from earning upwards of $3000 on a good week, to nothing. We also would contract multiple performers which we, of course, can no longer do.

We have been trying to look at the bright side, using this stopgap as the first time to recalibrate, build the online presence and do everything we can to be ready to go when restrictions ease. We were the frontline of cancellations, even losing work before the crowd restrictions and I am treating this as a sign that hopefully, we will be some of the first to spring back.

“We have gone from earning upwards of $3000 on a good week, to nothing.”

One thing we hoped to do (as we will be in one place) was to buy a puppy! Unfortunately, we ended up being scammed by an online seller, losing all of our final disposable income and now struggling to manage an identity fraud crisis that has happened at the worst possible time.

The finances are one thing, the emotional experience has been pretty devastating. Having to tell your three-year-old that they aren’t getting a puppy is possibly the worst conversation! It has been truly amazing the community response, and support has been a godsend.

AL: That must be terrible. I am so sorry you’re going through that and during such a tough time. Can you tell me more about it?

LT: For the first time, we have been geographically sturdy and as our 3-year-old is an only child we thought this may be the best time to bring a puppy into our lives.

Unfortunately, we ended up being the victims of an online scam that took our money ($1600) as well as acquiring enough of our personal information in the process (passports, driver’s licences) for us to have spent the last three days trying to secure all our personal and business accounts.

This would be frustrating at any time but it is incredibly difficult to cancel all forms of ID when every service is inundated helping others — it has now jeopardised our attempts with Centrelink and our ID security.

We were genuinely gobsmacked and overwhelmed that someone could use the virus as a tactic to get more money and information out of us.

In contrast, what has been genuinely overwhelming is the response we had when we shared our story on Facebook.

Bring bored, quarantined artists together and they will do everything in their power to support us, track down the fraudster, prank call him to clog up his lines so he is unable to fraud anybody else! I have not experienced such generosity as I have in the last few days.

Since the puppy experience, I have had connections with long lost friends, offers of financial support that we can’t possibly take and virtual puppy playdates. It has been so utterly overwhelming and humbling and an amazing reminder that we aren’t alone, we are all in this together. We all have to look after each other so we can weather this scary storm.

“We were genuinely gobsmacked and overwhelmed that someone could use the virus as a tactic to get more money and information out of us.”

Please check all pet sites before purchasing — avoid thecavoodland.com — and check if the phone number or website has been alerted to pet scamming or scamming websites.

AL: How can we help support your business?

LT: Jump onto our Facebook page or Instagram page and follow us and if you feel like watching a show when we broadcast, we would love it!

We will advertise upcoming get fit classes (for a nominal fee, anyone can give it a go) and will be doing our best to continue to create art.

We will also be sharing the multiple shows that our circus friends have made accessible online to watch. If you have spare finances and can support these causes you will be feeding artists who will continue to create.

To find out more about Beeswax and Bottlecaps.

Visit them on Instagram and Facebook.

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