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Scam Alerts: An Old Swindle Targets Editors

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By Dave Bricker —

A new variation on the Nigerian Dictator scam targets editors. Here’s how it works:

A not-very-articulate per­son asked me to edit an arti­cle. He sent a ten-page ramble that contained no paragraph breaks. I explained that editing this rough work would be slow and expen­sive, but he was intent on hiring me. He agreed to my price without negotiation and told me he’d send a check immediately.


The client’s ignorance of the editing process and lack of interest in the writing process suggested something was amiss. Prospective editing and book design clients want to discuss their work and how we’ll collaborate to improve it. This writer believed you send a draft out for “processing” and receive a polished article. Theoretically, you could end up with a publishable result this way, but you’d be missing out on the discussion and debate that turns mediocre writers into good ones and goods ones into great ones.

Hiring an editor to work on a rough draft is foolish. Why pay some­one to do what your spelling and gram­mar checker are already recommending? Professional editing is essential, but so is preparing your work for submission to an editor. Professional editing happens after you’ve taken a piece as far as you can by yourself with input from your smart friends and colleagues.

The client offered no details about word-count, point of publication, reader demographics, or the article’s general intentions. Even an amateur journalist would have explained that the article should support certain assertions, be accessible to readers of a particular background, and be fit for publication in a blog, magazine, or peer-reviewed journal.

In a relationship-based busi­ness like edit­ing or design, prospects always tell me, “I read your article about …” or “I saw the cover you did for so-and-so.” No references were offered.

The clincher was his intention to pay by check. That alone is not suspicious; I’ve happily accepted checks before, (usually from older clients who are afraid to pay electronically, and only after quite a bit of conversation). But when our discussion skipped over the traditional talking points and jumped straight to financial arrangements, I smelled a rat.

An email arrived the following day, telling me pay­ment was on its way, but that the check had “acci­den­tally” been writ­ten for too large an amount. Would I kind enough to send back a check for the difference?

Here’s how the scam works:

The scammer sends a phony check that looks real. It clears and your cash is “safely” in hand. You send the “refund.” Weeks later, your bank detects the fraud and withdraws the funds from your account. You’re screwed.

I offered to return the check and wait for a new one, but I explained I would not be writ­ing checks to any­one. My client vaporized.

Variations on the fake check scam abound. A few hundred dollars in administrative fees are all that’s required to access your share of the African dictator’s millions. Cashier’s checks are forged all the time. Our banking system is full of opportunities for thieves, but vigilance and common sense are all that’s required to protect yourself. Accepting PayPal or credit cards is easy and cheap. Accept checks only from established companies with Accounts Payable departments, and from people you’ve established are trustworthy. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it assuredly is.

Dave Bricker copyAbout the author: Dave Bricker is an author, book designer, and publishing coach from Miami, Florida. His top-ten blog about writing, publishing, and book design can be found at thewordlsgreatestbook.com. His PubML™web-based eBook platform and intuitive, visual ePublishing tools can be found at www.pubml.com.

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