Scams, Cons, and Things to Watch Out For

Saturday, June 13, 2020
From Pixabay

Writers always have to beware of scams and cons. But when times are tough scammers get more aggressive. Here are four scams that seek out unwary writers.

The Overpayment Scam

The other day I got a message from someone who said they needed a writer.

“My name is Lynn, an academic consultant. I have a speech distorting condition called Apraxia. I got your contact information online, and I need your service. Can you write an article on a specific topic for an upcoming workshop? The article, printed as a handbook, will be given to the attendees of the workshop. I have a title for the article and an outline to guide you. Please contact me for more information.”

Alarms went off. Why did I need to know this person had Apraxia? If this person got my contact info online, why not e-mail me vs using the form on my website? I don’t write white papers so unless this was an article about an area I specialize in . . . why contact me?

When I googled the message, I found a blog post on overpayment scams. The scammer agrees to pay half your fee up front. The check comes on the weekend but isn’t for half the fee. It is for the whole fee. They e-mail and ask you to hurry up and deposit it. When you do, they contact you with regrets and ask that you repay the excess. They send you a counterfeit check on a fake account so the deposit will not go through. But when you repay them, from your legit account, they get your money. Sneaky!

Fake Agents

Friday I also caught word that a fake agent is contacting people and offering representation. Given the fact that these people have not contacted Mr. Fake Agent, I hope that they are suspicious. If an agent you don’t know contacts you, do your research before responding unless of course your response is ‘no thank you.’

Sometimes bogus agents request payment up front. They may say that they need the money to make copies or pay postage. I’m surprised this one still works given how many submissions are electronic. Why do they need stamp money? Besides, a legit agent get paid when you get paid.

Bogus Book Doctors and Editing Services

This one highlights why you should research agents and publishers before making contact. Apparently some fake agents and editors will praise the project they are rejecting. It is so original or almost ready. It just needs a bit more polish.  
Then they offer their services as a book doctor or recommend a specific book doctor or editing service. There is nothing wrong with telling a writer their work isn’t ready for publication but when an agent or publisher recommends a specific fee-based service? Get suspicious.

Equipment fees
I’ve not seen this one personally but I found warnings in several articles. Apparently, when you apply for a job, you are told that you’ve got it but first you need to pay an ‘equipment fee.’ I have no idea what type of equipment this might involve but they collect your money and then . . . silence.

Whether you write white papers, fiction, or essays, your work, time and effort are precious. Don’t let someone take advantage of you.

Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 25 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins  July 6th, 2020) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins July 6, 2010). 


Angela Mackintosh said...

Sue: These are incredible! Thank you for listing them here. I can't believe that overpayment scam has moved into the writing industry. I've experienced the same thing when selling a car on Craigslist.

I think with anything related to the publishing industry nowadays we need to check references from people we trust. I definitely recommend Victoria Strauss's Writer Beware blog:

Renee Roberson said...

These are important reminders. I do remember hearing someone talk recently about the equipment fee scam. She bought a gift card to pay for something related to a freelance gig and then realized after the fact that the scammer wasn't legitimate. So she lost whatever she had purchased on that card because she gave them the code to redeem it. From what I could tell, the communication had been pretty solid with the potential "employer" and they said all the right things, so it's good to let other writers know what to be wary of.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--I was a victim to the kind of scam Renee wrote about... but it was supposedly from a friend. (Their account got hacked.) According to the email, they were out of town, and they needed a gift card for their nephew's birthday. I could not get a hold of them, they travel a lot and they DO have a nephew... so I got a $100 gift card and gave them the code. Later, they asked for another. By that time, I realized I had been taken, so when the 2nd request came along, I asked, "How much would you like it for? A million? A billion?" I didn't hear from them again.

I felt fortunate it was only for $100... and I never let the friend know what happened.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Writer Beware is a great resource. Thank you!

Renee and Sioux,
Ah. I didn't think of the gift card scam as an equipment fee scam. That makes sense.

Thank you all for your additions. Gotta keep our fellow writers safe.


Cathy C. Hall said...

So many scams out there! Thank you for alerting everyone with these, Sue.

Renee Roberson said...

I almost fell for that gift card scam once so it's understandable. When I was working at the theatre company, I had an e-mail come in one afternoon from our former board president. The first e-mail said, "Are you at your desk? I need some help." I said, "Sure! What do you need?" Then he asked for me to go to drugstore and buy a certain type of gift card I had never heard of (found out later it's used for video gaming) and that's when I got suspicious. I clicked on his e-mail address and realized it was a fake that had his name attached to it. I started messing with the hacker at that point, and they stopped e-mailing me. But I can easily see how they could get someone under the right set of circumstances like yours.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

We need all the help that we can get. I had never heard of an overpayment scam before I got that email.

Terri Reid said...

I just want to thank you for your blog. I JUST received one of those emails requesting my help in writing an article. I thought it was weird and I started Googling the information in the email - and found your article. Thanks so much!!! Terri Reid

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

What a relief that you were suspicious! And thank you for the kind words. So good to know that we've helped someone out.

Vanessa Barneveld said...

Thanks so much for posting this! I *just* received an almost identical Overpayment Scam email (below). Googling "speech distorting condition" led me to you.

My name is Mary, an academic consultant and event organizer. I have a speech distorting condition so corresponding will be via email and text messaging. I got your contact details online and I need your expertise on this project. Can you write an article on a specific topic for an upcoming workshop? The article is to be given as pamphlet to the attendees of the workshop. I have a title for the article and have drafted an outline to guide you. Get back to me for more details.
Warm regards

My spidey senses perked up, because my first thought was, "My expertise? What expertise?" ;)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

So glad your spidey sense came to the rescue. I know what you mean. I kept thinking "What does this have to do with children's nonfiction?"

So glad you found this helpful! Hope you will keep reading us.

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