May 02, 2012
When Writers Contribute to a Scammer's Success By Angela Hoy, WritersWeekly.com | printable version
I received an email this week from a writer I'll call "Susan."
She needed my advice about a "client" who owed her a few hundred dollars. He hired her last year to write an ebook for him.
SCAMMER CLUE #1 - Insultingly low pay
The pay was dreadful at $1 per 100 words. No kidding!! I couldn't believe somebody would agree to write a book for such an insulting amount of money.
SCAMMER CLUE #2 - False praise
She went on to say that he praised her for "not being money hungry." Uh huh... It's pretty likely he was actually picturing her with the word "sucker" written on her forehead.
SCAMMER CLUE #3 - Small initial teaser payment...but nothing more
She sent him the first phase of the project and he sent her the "first" (and only) payment - a measly $20. Of course, sending pocket change like this can give a writer a false sense of security. If he sent one payment, he's going to send more, right? It's a common ploy by scammers.
SCAMMER CLUE #4 - Gets behind on payments
She sent him phase 2 of the project. He asked for her Paypal info. but didn't send the payment...yet he kept communicating with her about the book.
SCAMMER CLUE #5 - Abruptly stops all communication
She sent him an invoice for the first half of the book. Not only did he not pay it, but he stopped communicating with her altogether.
SCAMMER CLUE #6 - Gives the "there's-been-a-death-in-the-family" excuse
Only when the writer stopped being nice in her correspondence did he respond - saying his niece had died. Boy, if we had a nickel for every time a scammer used the "there's-been-a-death-in-the-family" excuse...
SCAMMER CLUE #7 - Uses religion in their marketing materials
Many scammers pretend to be Christians or members of another religious group just to fool people into trusting them. It's so common that I no longer trust anyone at all who promotes their own faith in their marketing materials. I'm pretty sure God isn't happy about people using his name to turn a profit.
SCAMMER CLUE #8 - False promise of future payment to get the finalized project
Toward the end, he gave her a firm date for promised payment so she went ahead and sent him the book. The project was complete. Of course, she has still not been paid and I seriously doubt she'll ever get her money.
What mistakes did this writer make to contribute to the scammer's success?
MISTAKE #1 - Agreeing to work for insultingly low pay
The scammer was offering $1 per 100 words. To put that into perspective, at WritersWeekly we pay $40 for success stories of around 400 words and $60 for features of around 600 words. If we paid $1 per 100 words, we'd only be paying $4 for success stories and $6 for features. Again, beyond insulting.
MISTAKE #2 - Falling for false praise
Instead of being honored to be called "not money hungry", the writer should have been angry about the low rates she was offered. If one business person praises another one for working for insulting rates, the one being ripped off should feel further insulted, not honored.
MISTAKE #3 - Assuming a small, initial payment means more money will be forthcoming
Many writers fall for this trick. They think that just because the scammer paid them a few dollars that future payments will inevitably come along. This false sense of security makes the writer convince herself that it's okay to keep working on the project, and keep sending more completed material, even when all the other payments are past-due.
MISTAKE #4 - Not demanding payment before sending more pieces of the project
Even though the scammer was way behind on payments, she assumed he was good for it because he'd asked her for her Paypal info. So, she kept sending him more materials.
MISTAKE #5 - Kept working on the project even after communication had stopped
Some victims have worked so hard on a project that they just can't fathom they'll never get paid for it. They keep hoping and praying that the payment will eventually come so they keep on working even when the scammer has clearly already violated many terms of their agreement.
MISTAKE #6 - Falls for the scammer's sob story
Even if someone has a death in the family, a businessperson does not typically ignore their correspondence for weeks or months on end. The fact that the scammer only responded to her after she sent a semi-threatening email to him should have been a HUGE red flag.
MISTAKE #7 - Believing someone who calls themselves a "Christian" couldn't possible rip them off
"Susan" didn't mention anything about this but she did send me info. on the scammer and he uses the word "Ministry" in his business name. When I saw that, I cringed and it all made sense. Scammer!
MISTAKE #8 - Handed over the final product!
This was the biggest mistake of all. If you are working on long-term project, never, ever, ever hand over the final piece until you have secured the final payment. It's fine to deliver a project in installments provided you're also being paid in installments. If the client is behind on payment for installment #2, do NOT send installment #3 until you've received the missed payment. Also, do not start work on the next installment until you are paid everything that is owed for the previous installments. This will prevent the scammer from getting even more hours (weeks/months) of free labor out of you.
Due to "Susan's" mistakes above, she spent months writing an entire ebook for the scammer for only $20. He got quite a deal! Had "Susan" stood up for herself along the way, and stopped work pending receipt of the missed payments, she'd have not wasted months of her life working for free for a con-man.
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."
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