Who woulda thunk it—we humble editors apparently are red meat to a certain type of scammer. Yes, friends, we are worthy: several versions of a scam targeting editors have been making the rounds. The messages claim to find us through ACES and other organizations.
These scams do not appear to be after our money (ha!), but are probably attempts at identity theft. They pretend to offer work in editing and related services with major companies (Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Penguin Random House, Grifols, STADA, etc.). Red flags include: the message is from a Gmail account address (although some have used names of people who do work for the company), and the offer requires interviews via Google Hangouts or Telegram.
If one hits your inbox, just delete it. If you’ve responded to one of these, do not engage any longer. Block the email address to which you responded and change your email password.
Other common scams are so badly written that they’re obviously not worth a response—but not every potential client’s first language is English, so don’t automatically assume that every clumsily written message is from a scammer. Unfortunately, legitimate clients could be affected by jerks who attempt to scam editors with phony offers hiding attempts at financial or identity theft.
Be aware that editors are also being targeted by the classic overpayment scam. These cons have been going on since before email and online shopping began, from small and large online purchases to home rentals and more. Even though I’ve known about these as long as they have been around, I almost fell for one that seemed to be a legitimate writing assignment—until a check for more than twice the agreed-upon fee arrived (via FedEx, no less, on a Saturday), from an account in the name of someone other than the supposed client.
Regardless of the sender, relevance of assignment to your editing services, amount of offer, etc.: if you ever get a check or money order for more than an agreed-upon amount, don’t use it—or at least call the bank of the supposed owner of the account before depositing it to your account; your own bank might not be able to act. Money orders might be easier to verify, but call the supposed issuer before trying to deposit one.
Increasingly common scams are blackmail attempts claiming to have access to your email program, internet accounts, or computer camera, and threatening to release embarrassing photos, videos, or social media posts if you don’t pay a ransom, usually via bitcoin or by buying gift cards. These can come as email messages or ransomware that holds your computer hostage. If you get an email with such a threat, delete it and change your password. If someone gets control of your computer, there might be no alternative but to pay the ransom.
Much of the protection against scams comes down to networking with colleagues about such trends and being cautious about how we conduct our editing businesses. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. As one of my favorite Hill Street Blues characters used to say, “Let’s be careful out there.”
Editors Beware: You’re Being Targeted was originally published in Tracking Changes (Fall 2020 edition). Members receive a PDF of the quarterly Tracking Changes newsletter by email.
(Adapted from the author’s recent posts to the An American Editor blog and EFA discussion list, and articles in the EFA newsletter.)
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