Saturday, September 20, 2008

Direct Publisher Scams and Frauds

Well folks, I ran into another interesting fraud just yesterday. I was applying for work through one of the job boards I frequent and got an offer about an hour after I finished sending in my applications.

Roughly an hour after sending an email is a good time for a con artist to send a reply. Most scam mailers are set to respond immediately after getting an email and these can be easily disregarded out of hand. But by waiting an hour the scammer gets within the time range of an actual employer and usually the most lucrative of the lot, a harried editor with a deadline hanging of his head. This means he’ll hire quickly and accept any standard of work as long as it has the right tone and takes up space. This is the best type of employer for a quick buck to a writer, so the scammer does a decent job of setting up the mark’s expectations.

When I scanned the email I realized it for what it was. First of all, there was far too much verbiage for a real job offer. A real employer typically gives one or two paragraphs the most, the majority of which entails what the employer expects of the writer. If any assurances are given or pay is mentioned, you should be a little suspicious, though this is not necessarily proof of a scam in and of itself.

Another fault the scammer made was the tone of the letter. It was far too positive and upbeat. Writers are by nature a skeptical and cynical lot. If the tone had indicated that the job was thankless dog’s work, then it might’ve seemed more legitimate.

Certain keywords should also be watched out for. Assurances such as “This is legitimate” or “this is not a scam” should be taken as strong indicators of a conscience trying to justify one’s actions. This means that there is definitely something wrong.

The biggest indicator that I saw was the USE OF CAPS and exclamation points!!! Real employers never do that. Twelve year olds flaming one another on forums do that. Car salesman and bad homemade advertisements do that. Spammers do that. Employers, by dint of being the ones with money and available work in a poor economy, will never be short of employees. The legitimate or decent paying positions need never resort to this tactic.

Despite all this the job itself was well described and not so over-the-top as to be immediately dismissed. Four hours of solid work at the computer each day. Flexible hours but had to be accurate and reliable, as well as html and basic computer function savvy. The pay was a little too high at $20 an hour to seem legitimate, but not so high for even the gullible to turn away from.

When in this situation the best thought to keep in one’s mind is “Where’s the money?” Getting free work out of an employee is typically not enough for someone to set up an employment fraud, so there has to be some way for the employee to get money out of you. I found it in smaller type at the bottom of the message. Upon employment the employee would be under a probationary period where pay would be withheld for a given period. The reason they gave for this is that this job is just one of many that the parent company lists in its patent “Secret Little Black Book” of telecommuting job leads, available for a one time payment of $19.99

If the employee liked the job up to that point they would be required to buy a copy of the book by mail order. Then and only then does the employer promise payment, which I highly doubt would ever occur. What’s worse, if you were gullible enough to pay with a credit or debit card, you might find that information was stolen and used to run up a huge bill before the end of the day.

My suspicions were confirmed when I went to their parent website, which made no mention of any job and only sold the book. A picture of the book was the site’s centerpiece, badly photoshopped I might add. Now why on earth would a site dedicated to selling a “revolutionary” piece of literature containing hundreds of leads on good telecommuting jobs not have a copy of said book of hand to post, instead making do with a badly digitized version?

I deleted the message of course, only to receive a follow-up mailer today offering the book to me outright for $19.99. Bottom line, this is an old mail fraud with a modern twist. It comes off trying to look like a legitimate job offer. I’ve no doubt a fair amount of work was put into it in order to make the mark feel as if she/he’s actually employed in a real job for the first week or two. One may even feel as if the viewpoint I espouse is overly harsh and cynical, and should give people the benefit of the doubt, this job offer being a case in point. Unfortunately this mindset of mine is one that has been learned through many bad experiences.

I once felt that everyone deserved a chance and should be offered that chance. I went out of my way to help people I considered friends as well as those I was only passingly acquainted with every helping hand I possibly could. In that time not one person truly deserved the chance for self or financial improvement that my presence and support might’ve given. Every time I was taken for every penny I had, losing many thousands of dollars I’d earned working minimum wage jobs as well as hundreds of man hours, weeks if not months of my life being stung along that I will never get back.

I write this in the hopes that I can help prevent somebody out there from experiencing the same loss and sadness which I did. Sadly it seems some people can’t just take someone else’s word for it, and must experience the hurt for themselves. If that’s the person you are, a so called optimist, then by all means apply to this job, order this book and prove me wrong. I would dearly like to be able to trust someone again.

The question is will I be able to take your word for it?

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