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.