Dogging the Watchdog: In Which a Scammer Tries to Troll Me

Header image: WOOF in cartoon lettering on a cartoon explosion background (credit:  Kapitosh/

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 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.

Screenshot of email impersonating me, with "" address and an offer to "connect [you] with well-known traditional publishing houses" and "assist you in achieving your goals"

The 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:

Screenshot of second email impersonating me, with subject line "Writer Beware, The Watchdog and Dog Victoria Strauss" and added final paragraph falsely claiming that I have 10,000 subscribers to whom I charge fees and stating that I will "continue to bad-mouth my competitors"

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:

Screenshot of scammer's response to an author's question of how "Victoria Strauss" can advocate for each of her 10,000 subscribers: "Im [sic] not honest. What is important is I earn from them."

Oooh, a hit! To really rub my nose in it, this arrived the following day.

Screenshot of final email from "" address: no content other than my photo, with subject line "How are you Dog?"

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!


  1. Thank you Jennifer you are an angel and going through hell for us !!
    I can’t believe who they call her dog and insult her ?!

  2. I remember being asked to take down a comment at Absolute Write due to one of the lawsuits back in the day, which of course I did. I don’t understand how the scammers sleep at night. Or what these elaborate email campaigns are intended to accomplish.

  3. Thank you for your volunteer efforts. This site should be required reading for new authors.

    It’s always an indication to me that it’s not from U.S.A. when “Dog” is used as seemingly a definitive, hard hitting insult that gives a troll the win …

  4. Just saw your answer to the attack(s). For what its worth, my highest support (as a founding member of SFWA; not many of us left) for you and the vital work you do. I’m confident you won’t let such malicious people deter you. And above all, for unstinting time and unrewarded labor . . . THANKS! Joseph Green

  5. I can’t believe how much harassment and worse that you’ve endured over the years. Thanks so much for continuing your efforts to warn us of scams despite the risks to you. We appreciate you.

  6. I am starting to think the trustpilot “content integrity team” is part of the scam, after repeated back and forth with them over a one-star review i left. Yes, I have proof of the interactions with “amazon ***.com” one of these amazon publishing scams … which by the way have *fake* addresses on their webpages. But trustpilot is more interested in taking down true one-star reviews than taking down all the fake five star reviews. If trustpilot “content integrity team” only spent half their time investigating the fraudulent companies in the first place.

    I have formed the cynical view that trustpilot exists to facilitate these fraudsters, and they are not interested in taking action over verifiably fraudulent businesses. (One of the amazon*** scams has an address which is somebody’s random house in Wyoming, and another points to a non-existent address. cmon, its easy to check with google maps!).

    It doesn’t surprise me a whole lot about trustpilot.

    What really shocks me is that the Zon’s legal team has not sent cease and desist orders to shut down the webpages for trademark infringement.

    1. If businesses using Trustpilot see the issue with review falsification as primarily a PR issue, then they (and Trustpilot) will, no matter how they kid themselves, end up going through the motions and doing the bare minimum so that they can say publicly “Hey! We did something!”.
      They probably regard doing the extra work to ID false identities and poseurs as something like whack-a-mole.

      1. I am always telling people not to trust Trustpilot. It is positively swimming in fake four- and five-star reviews. Many of the scams I’ve written about here have glowing reviews from people who, if you check their review history, have left equally glowing reviews for other, similar scams. It is very easy to buy fake reviews online, and scam companies make energetic use of that.

  7. I tend to suggest Writer’s Beware to new writers so they have a one-stop spot to learn about unscrupulous people you have pointed out. Some even fuss in the comments of those posts.

    It sucks they badger you so much, they should get real jobs.

  8. The amount of time these lowlifes spend trying to cheat people is astounding. I had a similar thing happen to me when I dogged some catfish on FB groups by calling them out on each of their idiotic posts. They actually began to use my name! Like I wouldn’t notice and put a stop to that quickly. Just astounding!

  9. Maybe you should add the efforts of all the scammers to your CV. You know, as a badge of honor. Something along the lines of:

    “Hated by more unscrupulous scammers than any other watchdog!”

  10. Hi Victoria. Thanks for sharing the gory details about those fraud artists that “dog” you. IMO, it’s a medal of honor, never a stain upon your character. But, I know a little bit about how you feel.

    My first trade-published novel was a book about how young Jewish lovers fought to save each other throughout the Holocaust. Several anti-Semites on YouTube discovered my book trailer there and proceeded to trash me. Then, they went to Amazon and wrote terrible reviews of my book. I recognized their usernames and email addresses. I’m sure that didn’t help my Amazon ratings. A new edition of that book (“Jacob’s Courage”; Amsterdam Publishers; 2023) was recently released and I’m girding myself for a repeat of hate mail and bad reviews.

    People like us must work with a very thick skin. We must accept that some people will post negative comments about us that are in no way validated. I will never allow it to prevent me from writing another book about a similar subject.

    However, when someone posts your address on social media, with instructions to, “knock the door down,” a line has been crossed. Please know how sorry I am that you were so unjustly disparaged on a public forum. The same applies to people/organizations that sue you for reporting the truth.

    For decades, the two iconic locations on the Internet for truth about the publishing world have been Writer Beware and Editors & Predators. No web site has come close in terms of honesty and reliability (although Editors & Predators has suffered from losing their long-term creators, leaving a gap in publishing).

    Victoria, please never allow the trash publishers and agents to get to you. There are many, many times more authors like me who treasure your posts.

    All my best,


  11. I have always found you to be fair and honest. If you ever posted anything not completely true, once shown the mistaken idea, you are quick to post the complete truth.

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