2 Comments

10-14-2014: Scam Alert: Is your writing identity at risk?

help-wanted-logo1This is disturbing on so many levels. When I think of identity theft, the first thing that comes to mind is credit card information and such. This sort of thing NEVER crossed my mind.

The Scam

Fellow writer Carol Tice of Make A Living Writing recently reported that someone has used her name, reputation, and image(!) to pose as her to get writing gigs. Then, adding to the sordid mess, subcontracted the work out on Elance! In other words, someone decided to pose as a writer with a recognizable name, get jobs they never intended to do, then farmed those jobs out to others and took their cut of the money. Even worse, if one of the writers hadn’t had communication issues with the scammer and decided to use contact information listed directly from Carol’s site, Carol would still be in the dark about it.

You can read Carol’s post about the identity theft in its entirety at the site. It’s truly horrifying the extent the scammer was willing to go and the amount of damage that could be done. (Check out the comment stream, too. Wow.)

Like Carol, I’ve never used Elance (or any other bidding site for that matter) mostly because writers tend to get a raw deal. If you see Barbara A. Tyler on any of those sites, rest assured it is NOT me.

What can you do to protect yourself?

♦  I strongly recommend that writers Google themselves on a regular basis. That can provide the first tip-off that someone is pretending to be you.

♦  Pay attention to any emails you get that seem off-kilter for whatever reason and investigate them like Carol did.

♦  From the flip side… if you get work through bidding sites (any bidding site, not just Elance) always, always, always do as much research as you can into the person hiring you. Double-check that contact information. If an email address or Skype account that doesn’t match up with one you know to be valid for the “real” person, it won’t hurt to reach out via the verifiable address to make sure the deal is on the honest side and you aren’t dealing with a pretender.

Pass it on!

Please share this post on your own blog, facebook, twitter, etc. The only way to prevent these things from happening is to make others aware of the problem. Let’s work together to keep other writers from falling for schemes like this one.

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2 comments on “10-14-2014: Scam Alert: Is your writing identity at risk?

  1. Thanks for spreading the word on this, Barbara! I DO have a Google alert on myself, but it still didn’t turn it up.

    I’d say my tip for detecting something like this is — make sure you’ve got a great reputation, and build a large network of people who know you. I was only alerted about this because my profile was high enough that people began to get suspicious and went looking for another email address for me to double-check. That’s how the fraud got busted.

    It’s very nefarious — they use some bogus name on their Elance profile, but then the contacts are a Skype address with my name in it, and they cite my writer site as their own, and use their photo.

    More aliases continue to be discovered, unfortunately.

    My hope is that the good that comes out of this is just that more writers learn to stay away from mass bidding platforms. Besides generally paying peanuts, they are apparently rife with scams.

    And there’s still no confirmation on whether any of the writers who wrote for “me” will end up getting paid. I’m told hourly-rate work usually isn’t guaranteed, and it appears from the listings I’ve been sent that that’s how these gigs were put forward, rather than per-piece.

    But I’m hoping Elance is going to do the right thing here.

  2. My pleasure! If it spares a single writer from getting caught up in a scheme like this it is worth it!

    You know, I have Google Alerts set for a bunch of topics that interest me, but for some reason it never occurred to me to set one for my name! That is such a great tip, and one I will be using–starting right now! Thanks for sharing it.

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