As you might imagine, given Writer Beware’s mission, I get a certain amount of hate from the people and companies I warn about here and on social media.
Sometimes they email me. Sometimes they harass and/or dox me on social media (one guy repeatedly tweeted my home address and urged people to come kick my door in). Sometimes they attack my books with one-star reviews and ratings. Sometimes they decorate my blog posts with meanie comments making various false claims about me and Writer Beware. Sometimes they accuse me of malfeasance on sites like Ripoff Report and PissedConsumer.com. On occasion they’ve contacted my publisher or SFWA to “report” me. There’s even been the odd death threat (warning: sensitive content). Although sometimes it’s just a wish.
Then there was The Write Agenda, which devoted several years and an entire website to attempting to discredit me, the late Ann Crispin, and other anti-scam activists–including, just to name a few, trying to get me booted from SFWA, trying to get me disqualified for an award, and packaging a legal complaint into a series of “books” with scurrilous versions of my own titles (there’s considerable evidence to indicate that this hate site was a project of a prolific agency/publishing scam that Writer Beware spent a lot of time warning about in the early aughts). And speaking of legal complaints, I, SFWA, and Writer Beware staff have been sued three times by individuals or companies we outed (respectively won, dismissed due to the plaintiff’s lack of cooperation, and settled at the plaintiff’s request).
I don’t mean to complain (really). When you’re badmouthed by the bad guys, it tells you that you’re succeeding. A little while ago I was amused to learn that included in the training manuals of one of the scores of Philippines-based publishing/marketing/fake literary agency scams is a section about the problem of “bad blogs”–namely, Writer Beware–in which I’m described as “a troll type” who seeks “attention and potential monetary gain” (I am a volunteer and Writer Beware charges no fees and does not accept advertising). In response to questions, the scammer’s sales reps are instructed to say that I/Writer Beware own “several vanity publishing and marketing agencies” and “simply don’t want competition” and that we are being sued (we aren’t).
This particular fraudster isn’t the only scam of this type that deflects authors’ concerns with such falsehoods: in the documentation authors share with me, I often see these same claims parroted by scammer sales reps.
Anyway. All of this is context for the latest scammer shenanigan I want to tell you about.
If you read here regularly, you’ll know that I’ve written a lot of posts about the impersonation scams that are becoming increasingly common. Well, an enterprising scammer recently decided to turn the tables…by impersonating me.
A few weeks ago, several writers passed this email on to me. Most correctly identified it as fake, but a couple weren’t sure and wanted to check.
The firstname.lastname@example.org email address, of course, is bogus, and the scammer has added “literary agent” to my resume (which I am not, even though people sometimes mistakenly believe I am). And for added authenticity, a photo of me! Swiped from my personal Facebook page. (I’m sure the scammer would have preferred something unflattering, but I rarely post photos of myself–this post should make it clear why–so they didn’t have a lot to choose from.)
Obviously I would not want anyone to be defrauded in my name, so I enlisted a couple of the writers to write back to see what would happen. After a week with no replies, it seemed pretty clear that–as I’d half-suspected, especially given the stupidity of the fake email address –the email was a trolling attempt and not a bona fide scheme to scam.
Trolling doesn’t deliver the emotional satisfaction the troll craves unless the trollee knows they’re being trolled, though. And the scammer did want me to know. A few days later, this arrived at my personal email address:
Apart from slight variations in wording, the first three paragraphs are the same. But note the new subject line (woof) and the added final paragraph, with the familiar canard about me running Writer Beware to make money and do down my competitors.
Just to be DOUBLE SUPER SURE I got the point, the same email landed in my Inbox minutes later, sent not just to me but to dozens of other addresses that the scammer either forgot to conceal or didn’t care that I knew about. And when one of the addressees asked a question, the scammer definitely wanted me to see how “I” responded:
Oooh, a hit! To really rub my nose in it, this arrived the following day.
So who’s the angry scammer? I can’t pinpoint a name (though I have some suspicions). But there’s only one group of fraudsters who regularly accuse me of “competing” with them. Also, take a look at the time stamps on the scammer’s response to the writer’s question, above. The scammer received the writer’s question on July 13. But the scammer’s response–which appears to have been sent within moments–arrived in my Inbox on July 12. What country is 12 hours ahead of the USA? The Philippines.
It’s all pretty childish. But I don’t want a fake Writer Beware email address floating around, or for anyone to be ripped off in my name if the scammer decides to create some bogus Victoria Strauss “services”–so I filed an abuse report with Gmail. Gmail doesn’t respond or notify you if they take action, so I don’t know if they closed down the account (my guess is no since that’s usually what happens with harassment on the big platforms). But I haven’t gotten anything since the final “Dog” email.
If that changes, you can be sure I’ll let you know!