Large Banner Ad
Small Banner Ad

April 28, 2013

Don't-Fall-for-It Emails

Reuel S. Amdur

More by this author...

"A sucker is born every minute." - P.T. Barnum

Out of the blue, I received a somewhat awkwardly worded seven-page text for editing.  The author, Thomas John, was apparently not a native English-speaker.  And to my pleasant surprise the text was on drug abuse, a subject that I have some familiarity with as I am a social worker by profession.  I responded by editing a paragraph as a sample and stating my fee, demanding half up front.

Substance abuse treatment is controversial, to say the least, so I told John in my reply that my approach is one of harm reduction.  That means that I recognize that there are people who are not, at least now, prepared to quit. 

I support programs that make their abuse less dangerous, while providing an accepting atmosphere where they may then move to more active treatment.  The Vancouver safe injection site is an example of this approach.  It was interesting that John did not respond to this position one way or the other.

The text submitted showed a certain level of knowledge about the subject, even though encumbered by awkwardness. For example, “Seek help when loved one is important to choose as treatment program to meet the needs of the individual.”

However, it did not seem to lean toward the harm reduction approach.  The failure to pick up on my stated position was one warning sign.

Communication with John was rather unbalanced.  I tried to focus on the substance of the task while he kept getting back to when the job would be done.  I was smelling a rat. 

Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) answered my e-mail query by warning me that the John letter was a fraud, that they had had other inquiries about it.  I then sent him a message asking him to call me to discuss certain features of the assignment.  That was the last I heard from John.  Apparently, John A drafted the text and John B was given the job of engaging the suckers, and John B did not seem capable of dealing with substantive issues.

Not long after, I received another editing request.  Jason Dickson sent a text that was similarly garbled, this one on physical maturation and sexuality of teens.  Again, the text contained considerable detail, indicating once more that someone had put a lot of effort into putting the document together and baiting the trap.  While knowing that I was dealing with another fraudulent effort, I played along.

My conditions again were for half down before I began the work.  In response, I was informed that payment was in the mail, but an error had been made.  The amount sent was too large.  Would I please take my cut and forward the difference to Mark Foe by Western Union to an address in Athens.  Shortly after, the postman delivered four American Express travelers cheques, each for 500 euros.  PWAC cautioned, “The cheques are counterfeit.”  I forwarded PWAC’s e-mail to Dickson. 

So what are the lessons for the writer, to avoid being trapped by such a scam? 

In the first place, if you are told that your client has sent too much money “by mistake” and you are asked to return the excess, it is a fraud.  In fact, if a client asks for you to send money for whatever reason, it is a fraud.  You should be receiving money, not sending it.  And if you receive any communications from Thomas John, Mark Foe, or Jason Dickson, Dickins, or a name similar, click the delete button.

  • Think green before you print
  • Respond to the editor
  • Email
  • Delicious
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • StumbleUpon
Subscribe to the E-bulletin

M. Elmasry

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel