If you’re a fan of British TV shows, you’ve probably heard of (or maybe even subscribed to) Acorn TV, a streaming service that offers a wide variety of commercial-free UK-made mysteries, dramas, comedies, and documentaries.
Scammers have heard of it too.
The scam begins with a DM on Twitter from someone describing themselves as a “headhunter” for Acorn TV. Here are some of their profiles:
Tom Handy’s profile has been removed, as has Kate Lyne’s. Deborah O’Toole is still around, but has changed her handle: she’s now @writers4ever21. Her Twitter stream consists mainly of memes and faux-inspirational aphorisms.
The “headhunter” tells you that your bio looks cool and asks if you’re open to writing opportunities. If you say yes, you get something like this:
Here’s someone else who was solicited and got suspicious right away:
Next step, if you say you’re interested: a “texting interview” on Telegram. Here’s Fake Acorn’s Telegram handle:
You’ll be texting with “Louis McCall” (scare quotes because it’s pretty clear that he is as fictitious as the unfortunately named Tom Handy), Senior Vice President of Human Resources, who will ask you some generic questions about yourself and your writing and then tell you that you need to meet with “someone else from the team” the next day. “Someone else” turns out to be “Melissa Rea”, Operations Officer. Melissa provides you with a job description:
If you were very green, you might be thrilled. $5,000 a month! For writing stories! That’s the point, of course: it’s a honey trap. The whole thing is wildly implausible–why would an established streaming service be recruiting random writers on Twitter? And paying such an improbably large amount of money? And conducting interviews by text on Telegram? Not to mention, if Acorn TV really were recruiting freelancers, wouldn’t it be more likely to do so via its production arm, Acorn Media Enterprises?
Note also the telltale lapses on the job description: the lack of a company logo, the spelling oopsie on the street address (AMC Networks International, the division of AMC Networks that owns Acorn TV, has offices at 111 Salusbury Road), and the English-language errors (they’re small but they’re there–for instance, on page 2, “you are entitled to an annual bonus $5,000.00”).
So where does the scam lead? The authors who’ve contacted me have all smelled a rat and pulled out of the conversations early (whereupon the scammers deleted the Telegram interactions–no, not suspicious at all). So I don’t know for sure. But this thread from Alessia P., who was solicited by the Kate Lyne profile in 2021 for a slightly different iteration of the scam (described here by a writer whose name, weirdly, seems to have been appropriated by the scammers for one of their fake profiles), provides a hint:
#WritingCommunity – ⚠️SCAM REPORT⚠️ #writers colleagues, it is my duty to communicate the following to you. Don’t believe ANY MESSAGES or offers of a freelance writer job via Twitter from @ catlyHR11__ (Kate Lyne). After days of careful analysis that I have personally done..1/3 pic.twitter.com/SKkI21dzVe— Alessia P. #WritingCommunity (@AlessyBil) July 1, 2021
The tweet includes a screenshot from the letter Alessia sent to the company supposedly being recruited for, detailing the scam. Among the things the scammers apparently asked for: a passport and identity card.
The scam is also soliciting as Stan, an Australian streaming service similar to Netflix. Kate Lyne again:
🚨SCAM Alert! @🚨— Love Is the Answer💙 (@Bonnie_Morris_) June 17, 2022
This person @sourceall4us claims to be a “recruiter” looking for writers for @StanAustralia They tell you to interview on Telegram. The whole thing is a scam! Beware! #scam #WritingCommunity #employment #Amwriting #writers pic.twitter.com/lUKFy6NxFf
I’ll update this post if I find out more. In the meantime, be wary of sudden solicitations in your DMs. And for more on bait-and-switch scams like this one, see my recent blog post.