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Writing Scams - How to Protect Yourself

Karolina Blaha-Black - All Rights Reserved

 

 

Writing scams are plentiful these days. It seems that every time the economy gets stagnant or slow, scammers figure out new ways to prey upon us, writers. Let me illustrate.

Several months ago I answered an ad on a freelance writing site. A Canadian-based company was looking for articles of different sorts to post on their web site, and the pay was about 30.00 for selected articles. I promptly replied to the ad, and sent in a submission. A few months later my article on organizing one’s writing research data appeared on their site as a feature story. I was glad at first, but as time went on a million questions started popping into my head.

 

  1. Why was my name misspelled on the byline? Professionals usually take care not to misspell one’s name if they want to attract customers.
     

  2. The company claimed to sell appliances, but I haven’t seen any such merchandise on their pages whatsoever. Why would an appliance company have a need for different types of unrelated articles? Why would they need articles at all?
     

  3. Why haven’t I received any type of a contract by mail, email, or at least verbally?

I decided to voice my complaints via email. A prompt response the next day assured me that they had fixed my misspelled name in the byline and that a contract is on the way. I sat back, satisfied with my dealings with them. Then I received a phone call a few days later.

"Caroline Blaha-Black?"

"Speaking."

"This is a financier from (fake name of Canadian company) and we want to pay you for your article," said a voice with a heavy accent on the other line.

The man proceeded to tell me that they want to pay me $1500.00 for my feature article, as posted on their site. My first reaction was disbelief. Who’d pay anybody so much for a 600-word how-to article? They weren’t a major publication, neither did they appear to be anybody important. I asked the man what happened to the original $30.00 fee, as promised on their ad.

"We liked your story so much, that we decided that it deserves more money," said the person with his barely-understandable accent. Those are words that every writer wants to hear, right? With some hesitation, I gave him my home address to send the payment to.

Sure enough, a few days later, a check from the Canadian company came for about $3000.00. I stared at it for a while, flabbergasted. The check looked real sure enough, but I resisted the urge to cash it right away and went to my bank instead to do some fact-checking. Of course, it was a fake.

So, how do you know that you’ve received a fake check?

  1. The amount of money on the check exceeds the money promised at the very beginning. Don’t feel tempted to cash it in! The scammers will usually ask you to tell them when you’ve cashed the check so that they can put a stop on it. Then they proceed to tell you that they sent you too much money by mistake, and to kindly return the rest of the money to them and keep your promised fee. Well, the good-hearted soul that you are, you do it. And guess what? You’re out $3000.00 in your bank account.

  2. See who is the check issued by. In my case it was a legitimate Canadian company whose name the scammers were using. Contact the company and ask them if they’re aware that such a check has been issued in your name.

  3. See if the name of the company on the check and the people who published your story are the same. If they’re not, a red flag should go up in your head.

  4. Take the check to your bank and ask questions. Bank officials can usually tell you if a check is fake or not, or at least give you some pointers as to what they think.

So, don’t let a vision of easy money cloud your judgment. When you receive a suspicious check, ask questions first.

 

About the author: Karolina Blaha-Black is a freelancer based in Denton, TX, USA. She writes mostly for smaller local publications, online and print. Out of the larger national publications she writes articles and book reviews for Sage Woman (women's spirituality magazine), The Beltane Papers, and New Witch Magazine. She is also a regular contributor to www.shebytches.com, a Canadian site for women to speak their mind. She loves feedback. Contact her by email at brindlecoat@hotmail.com.

 
 
 

         Last updated: February 19, 2007