I read a lovely series about scams by Anne R Allen a while back. I’m grateful that I haven’t succumbed to the emotional terrorism used in most of these scams. Perhaps because I mostly think that everyone is up to no good?
Okay, now you think I’m all dark and twisty.
And maybe I am. If you follow me on any of my social media networks and I cannot find out anything about you – or if it looks like you want something from me – I’m not going to follow you back. And if I followed you and you solicit something from me via a direct message, I immediately unfollow you. The point of social media is to have a lot of friends who don’t really want any commitment except an occasional read/like/retweet/comment when you have the time. Right? Oh, it’s okay to have “real” friends on social media – it’s all about the support one can get from virtual strangers who feel like friends. But the trouble comes when they want something from you.
- An email/DM/whatever telling you that they’re in a foreign country, have lost everything they need to get home and they need your help. Call me heartless, but after only exchanging a few emails with this person I’m not about to turn my life around to go and save them. I’m not Clark Kent.
- Someone sending you a DM/tweet/whatever with the face of a cute puppy/kitten/other enslaved animal asking you for money to save this animal from certain death. Again, call me heartless. We all die. Don’t try to emotionally blackmail me. I have three fur children who use up all the possible emotional blackmail I’m susceptible to in a day. And I’m a writer: all of the rest of my emotions go into my writing. Bad luck. Try someone else.
- An immediate DM telling me (no asking involved, minion) to retweet pinned tweet/write a review on Amazon/like Facebook page (with quid pro quo, Clarisse) because I followed them on social media. Uhm, no. One, I’m not in some weird cannibal movie or part of the Borg Collective or Cylons or whatever. Two, I’m not on Facebook (more on that later). And three: I’ll tweet and retweet whatever I like whether or not it seems like I’m super-stalking someone and weirdly ignoring them from one week to the next, thank you very much. Oh, and four: coercing/paying for reviews on Amazon can get you banned for life. [See Anne’s post Disappearing Amazon Reviews.]
- A tweet/DM/email/whatever telling you about this awesome competition that you just have to enter. For free. What’s the catch? For the most part, these awesome competitions are only open to US residents. And that little nugget is buried so deep in their Ts&Cs page that you’ve already tweeted the link and told all your friends (yeah, this has happened to me a couple of times). That’s not the really bad ones; they’re almost good. The bad ones want you to send them your entire manuscript – and then never reply (whenever anyone wants my baby and gives a vague answer as to when I’ll hear from them, I immediately see them as the enemy). Then there’s the ugly: the competitions that want you to post your manuscript online for free (obviously a scam to get more traffic on their sites – to install malware/spyware/I-want-your-identity-ware – and the worst part: your book is now seen as published and will never get traditionally published. Ever.). (Read my post about navigating writing contests for more on how to spot scams.)
- You’ve won this competition. Now give me your email address, twitter handle, other social media profiles and all of your passwords via this awesome bit of malware/spyware/I-want-your-identity-ware I just installed on your lovely computer when you opened this email/DM/whatever, dumbass. Never. Trust. Free. Stuff. Okay? Whenever I get an email/SMS/DM/whatever that tells me I won something (unless, of course, it’s a writing competition I entered and the email came through the same channels that I entered through) I immediately press DELETE. You can usually tell that it’s a scam through the bad English they use. I’m a second language user myself, and when I tell you that the English on most scams are atrocious, believe me. Then there’s the other side of the spectrum: messages reading like they’ve been written with a thesaurus at hand. Still, they’ll be bumpy and difficult to read. DELETE.
- An unknown number/from a province not your own/whatever calls and when you answer they hang up. One, I never answer a number that’s not saved on my phone. Two, my voice message clearly tells you that if it’s important you should leave a message or SMS me. We’ve had quite a few telephone scams a while back – once you answer, they milk you. And, of course, there’s the telemarketers that somehow get your number and try to push your blood pressure through the roof… their numbers are added to the “reject list” on my phone.
- A gorgeous Viking warrior friended you on social media and wants to meet for drinks. Really? Do I look like I’m into Vikings? BLOCK. A gorgeous Vampire friended you on social media and wants to meet for drinks. Really? Vampires are so last year. BLOCK. Thor, aka Chris Hemsworth, friended you on social media and wants to meet for drinks. Really? When? What should I wear? Okay, you’ve obviously been catfished. Chris Hemsworth is happily married as far as I know. And to further burst your bubble, why on earth would Thor want to meet you for drinks based solely on that weird pic you have on Twitter and the vague description that’s all about your writing? But he and I have exchanged quite a few messages before he asked me out. We have plenty in common. Aw, you’re making my heart bleed. No. Why? Really? You didn’t go to high school? Do I really have to spell it out for you? One, Thor asked you out and I already explained that it wasn’t really Thor. Two, what did the two of you talk about in those messages? I’m serious: you already know it isn’t Thor, yet you’re harbouring the delusion that he’s the one who asked you out. Did this guy understand things that no-one else is understanding? Oh, I see. He was so sweet and understanding and… That’s how Meryl Streep’s character in Mama Mia! got pregnant. He’s not like that. Again, you did go to high school, right? Three, did you sound needy, clingy, or otherwise like an easy mark? Though this could be about you-know-what, it could be that he just wants your money. I know women who’ve been stupid enough to give away their personal details online to Prince Charming only to be blackmailed – usually death threats if money isn’t paid. And with this guy knowing where you live… Just another reason I’m not on Facebook – the place where most of these scams occur. Really, I’d rather take my chances with Gaston.
- Great opportunity for freelance writers. Only pay x dollars to get boatloads of money working from home. Yeah, writers all swim through their money converted to gold and kept in a giant safe á la Scrooge McDuck. Why would I need to buy these tools to write if I already know how to write? Besides, there are listings for freelance work if you’re really interested. And communities you can join to be safe as a freelancer. For the most part scams like these are after your credit card details. Writer, beware.
- Social media DMs giving links to free books. Unfortunately there are quite a few that install malware/spyware/I-want-your-identity-ware. And to be honest, who has the time to read all these free books? I’m still struggling through my TBR and most of them are books that I actually want to read.
- Comments/DMs with shortened links to author’s website. The newest spam on my blog – I’m so glad I have a spam filter Akismet that protects me from all this – is horrible references to sex and porn with links to pornography sites. Really? I thought I’m pretty much covered in my author pic… I know that romance writers who use their risqué covers as their author pics have problems with this sort of spam. And if you show skin in your profile pic you also get this sort of spam. Or if you followed someone who shows a lot of skin in their avatar you’re likely to get a DM with a “thank you” and a link to a porn site… Gross. I think I need to wash my hands. And disinfect my workstation. Eww.
The lesson here? Don’t click on shortened links. Don’t send anyone Direct Messages unless you know them – and no, following me isn’t knowing me so please stop sending me DMs. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t share any personal information. Ever. And if something sounds too good to be true is generally is. Really, I’d love to run off with Thor but that isn’t gonna happen. (Though Chris Hemsworth is gorgeous, Thor is fictional 😉 and thus running off with him is just too good to be true.)
I have to add that not all bad English is spam (though the spam filter sure thinks so) or scams. Sometimes that’s just a glimpse at the bleak truth of what happens at public schools. Use your own judgement. Um, unless you really think that Thor wants to go on a date with you…
So, dear readers: have you been caught with a slap riem (“slack rope” – been deceived) as we say in Afrikaans? Are you okay after that experience? Any scams you’d like to add to this list?