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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

scams

Scammers and Trolls Are Alive and Well Today

My day got off to a rocky start with an e-mail and then a follow-up phone call from my credit card company, who had just identified a couple of fraudulent charges on my account. "Good Morning! Had breakfast yet? No? Well, first, you'd better take care of this."  How's that for an appetite spoiler?

The card in question was a "Rewards" card that I have only used for online shopping (such as Amazon) or for on-going monthly charges (like the fees for my website.)  It seems that several weeks ago, I answered a survey that purported to be from one of those major companies whose account I recognized. To show their "thanks" they then offered me one of several gifts--including a product I used regularly.  So I made my choice, after which they informed me that they were required to charge for the mailing expenses, but that they would charge that to my account at the company sponsoring the survey. I thought it was tacky but agreed, since it was only a small amount.

That was my mistake -- the equivalent of answering that telephone survey that asks "Can you hear me all right?" When you say "yes," they record the answer and use it as acceptance for some other deal. Same process here, i gather, because this month, the "survey rewards" company charged my credit card for a $99.00 monthly membership fee. Fortunately the credit card company recognized what was going on.  I ended up cancelling that card entirely, since the number and details were already in the hands of crooks. The credit card people took care of demanding refunds from the scammers (which they say have already come in) and notifying the various credit bureaus that the incident should not reflect on my credit.

Still, I have spend the entire morning contacting all the companies with whom I have used that card -- removing it from my accounts and adding a new, less-identifiable card to replace it. Sigh! I've also learned which companies are easy to work with (Apple, NYT, iTunes, Vistaprint, Amazon) and which ones are impossible (Verizon, I'm lookin' at you!) 

So be warned once again. Those surveys with their "free gifts" may end up costing more that you planned.

Who's Been Following You and What Do They Want?

One of the topics I'll want to address in the second edition of "The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese" has to do with getting to understand your audience. Not everyone will be interested in your book, no matter how good it is, and you can waste a lot of time pitching to people who simply aren't interested.
 
Social Media sites have a wide variety of devotees, and it's wise to be selective about which followers to accept.  Here's an example that happened to me recently.  I received an announcement about a new follower on Twitter. The username was "The Love of Sex," and the description announced that the site has 4 followers. Yes, that's right -- four! Does anything about that sound suspicious to you?
 
All right. Maybe it's a brand new user. But if you were opening a Twitter account to appeal to those who love sex, would you choose as one of your very first followers a old retired and widowed professor who lives with four cats? 
 
If "the Love of Sex" wants to read about my books, I can't easily forbid it, but I'm certainly not going to reciprocate and follow her back. I certainly will not add her to the mailing list for my newsletter. I doubt we have anything in common. I'm willing to bet this was a variation on an old phishing technique, and that a day or so from now, "The Love of Sex" will no longer appear on my followers list, because she was not really looking for a good historical novel to fill her lonely hours.
 
Lesson to be learned: Not everyone who follows you is looking for what you have to offer.

 

Who Believes This Stuff?

Who Believes This Stuff?
 
For the past week I’ve been keeping track of unbelievable offers arriving in my mailbox.  They’re not rated as spam (YET!) by my reputable mail server, although it manages to find fifty to sixty others a day that it automatically removes for me.  No, these appear to be genuine offers from talented and wise sources – until you read the small print.
 
I received ten offers from printing companies , all of whom seem to think I need business cards, brochures, posters, billboards, newsletters, and postcards to advertise my latest book. OK, I’ve used some of those products in the past, but when a company insists you buy at least 500 business cards at a time, how many times do they expect you to have to re-order?
 
I also received three offers to let me access new collections of genealogical records – free all during the current holiday weekend. Obviously they think their target audience includes lots of people with no place to go and nothing to do while others are partying.  Still, the offer sounds generous, doesn’t it? This was one offer I actually checked out.  It promised to provide wills from millions of people in all 50 states. Did it? Well, I found a couple of listings from my family tree, but that’s all there was – just a listing.  A will exists for John Smith of Anytown.  Can I see it? Well, here’s a picture of the listing.  Now you have to travel to Anytown and have the County Clerk try to find #584938720-138.


Another promises to help readers de-clutter and organize their lives with worksheets.  They’ll even send you the first 17 worksheets for free.  They arrive, fresh and colorful, as downloads you can print off as needed.  For the most part, these worksheets have an interesting title at the top --: “Things To Do,” “Chores,” “Box Contents,” and “Closets” – followed by a page of blank lines. If you want more information, you’ll have to pay to take the whole course.
 
Others are “free” video courses.  Turn up your sound and watch while we tell  you how to:
·             Market Your Book for Free
·             Create Content Everyone Needs
·             Create Your Own Webinar
·             Write a Blog by Filling in the Blanks
·             Automate Your Book to Audio

Every one of then spends over an hour talking about other people’s success stories. And at the end, you’re told to accomplish your goal by ordering an expensive book, a course, or a private coaching session.
 
Here’s the worst one I found this week. The seller is a college drop-out who claims to have written several best-selling books before he was old enough to drink. And he offers to teach you:
·             How to develop an idea for your book in thirty minutes.
·             How to write that book in two hours.
·             Write, publish, and market your book in three easy steps.
·             Go from “no idea” to published author in ninety days.
·             How to write a best-seller, even if you are bad at writing and can’t type.
·             Earn a six-figure income instantly