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Scam Or Not? Who Knows! Anyway, I Apologize

ask a writing questionLast week I received an email from a woman whose name seemed vaguely familiar.

It was actually a reply to my newsletter.

The sender claimed to read my blog often and then told a story about unexpected marital problems, unpaid bills and the threat of the turn off of electricity if she didn’t get a payment made. The sender asked for two things:

That I send a donation, and, that I put a link to her fundraising page in my next newsletter.

I’ve been broke and the story sounded real to me. Without much thought I replied telling her ‘no’ I wouldn’t add a link to my newsletter or site.

I also sent her a small donation.

There probably was an option to send it anonymously through the site she referred me to, but if it’s there I missed it.

I got an email from a couple of people I know asking if I knew the woman and replied that I didn’t.

The next email that came in explained that my name was listed as one of her backers.

I tweeted that I in no way endorsed her fund raising efforts and emailed her asking her to take my name off the site. Which she did.

I’ve gotten a few subsequent emails suggesting the woman has used my name and one other writer’s name in more email solicitations.


I love the net as most of you know, but this is a perfect example of… well, a possible scam that I inadvertently both supported and at least briefly seemed to lend my name to.

The biggest problem of course is that I have no way of verifying the truth of this woman’s story. And even if I did it’s not the sort of thing I’d promote widely. That’s not the purpose of this blog.

The other problem, of course, was my carelessness. I could have looked to see if I could donate anonymously and been sure my name wouldn’t be misused – or at least made it less likely.

So if you got an email claiming I endorsed any individual’s plea for financial aid, I apologize.

I guess I’m chuckling a bit too. I truly hadn’t realized my name carried that sort of influence.

How do you decide to give to?


{ 16 comments… add one }
  • I don’t give to strangers or even acquaintances. I give to friends whom I’ve come to know, trust, and love. And to reputable charities.

    I would have been much more supportive had this email come in asking for help in getting the business going. I didn’t respond because I felt it was simply a plea for cash, not a person taking an active role in building a career.

    And we think alike, Anne. I have a similar post up today. 🙂
    Lori recently posted..If You Say You’re Not a Scammer, Does That Make it True?My Profile

    • Yes, although if I give to someone and it turns out to be a scam it doesn’t hurt me at all. Not really.

  • I never respond to any requests for money from people I don’t know. Charities? Only if I approach them myself. If they initiate contact, then no. Of course, it helps that I don’t have any money. 😛
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Figure skating dresses aren’t just for skinnies!My Profile

  • I’m so glad I read this! I just received the same e-mail. You’ll be happy to know, Anne, that she didn’t mention your name or the names of any other writers. Although she did say that her fundraiser “has been backed by some famous names in the freelance world.”

    If this is for real, why is she risking her reputation with potential clients and freelance associates?

    We are a paying market, so if she was a true subscriber of our publication, wouldn’t she ask us for some freelance work instead? I would feel more sympathetic to her plight if she was willing to work and build a relationship. Even if the writing wasn’t a fit, we have many other paying jobs on the site–like administrative duties, research, etc. And all those pay more than what she’s made so far on her fundraising site, and probably take as much time as researching and e-mailing people in the industry.
    Angela Mackintosh recently posted..Flash Fiction Contest Announcement: Fall 2012My Profile

    • It’s so hard to know for sure… and someplace I think I did see an offer of hers to write articles or something… I know nothing about her… does she drive? Have a car? Know how to type well? All sorts of things. When this started I ended up wondering how I could check someone out in an instance like this… I didn’t even google her come to think about it.

  • jorgekafkazar

    These bulk solicitations have a long history. A century or two ago, they were called “begging letters.” They were cleverly written, mass-produced, hand-written, tear-jerking notes sent to people who were known for their wealth, kindness, and/or credulousness. Now, the miracle of modern spam lets scammers send out the same thing with much less effort.

    I’ve occasionally contributed to people on the street whom I suspected I might be enabling thereby. But if they’re being enabled, I only have a dollar or two at risk; they have their sobriety and life/freedom/sanity at risk. Their problem, not mine to assess. On the Internet? Never. Stepchat.com got hit by one of these people about 4 years ago and a few users sent money, sight unseen. Someone on-scene checked out the story (not sure how) and it was a complete fabrication.

    Even if it’s someone you know, you could get taken. Another scam is to hack someone’s email, then spam their entire contact list saying something like, “I’m in Oxford, and my wallet has been stolen. I need $300 to cover my hotel bill and bus fare to London to replace my credit cards and passport. Can you help me?”

    Be skeptical.

    • I normally am, Jorge… not sure why this one got by me if indeed it was a scam.

  • Hi Anne,

    I usually delete those types of emails and or send them to my spam folder for further investigation.

    I have a list of reputable charities that I support and donate to when I can. And I won’t sign a petition without investigating it either. Most people are courteous and provide a brochure or pamphlet about the cause. I like to know the ‘ins and out’s of an organization and cause before I donate or sign my name on a petition.
    Amandah recently posted..Sink Your Teeth into Better Content Writing with the Vampires from True BloodMy Profile

    • I normally would have said no – not sure now why I didn’t. I guess it just proves “even I can maybe be scammed.” Still don’t know for sure if this was a scam or not.

  • Should I be offended that I didn’t receive it? LOL! Maybe she didn’t want to receive my email back for donations to my 3-Day Walk for the Cure. 😀

    Oh, Anne, I forgot to tell you – a generous donor put me over the $2,300 minimum I needed to participate in the Walk. We’re doing lunch in November!!
    Cathy Miller recently posted..Creating a Better Professional BioMy Profile

    • Cathy! Congratulations… that’s great. Lunch in November for sure.

  • I got that letter, too, Anne, but she must have already deleted your name by the time I checked because it wasn’t there. That made me think it was a scam so I ignored the email.
    Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..4 Top Secrets of Prolific Content CreatorsMy Profile

    • I wish I had a magic scam detector… still not sure one way or the other about this one.

  • Hi Anne,

    I received the same email with your name and another writer’s mentioned as her backer. I find it difficult to assist her because I don’t know who she is, but I feel for her because of her situation. I find it a bit odd to ask someone they’ve never made a connection with on any level to do what she has asked.

    You’re well-known in the writing community so it’s not surprising she used your name to add credibility to herself.

    I don’t think what she’s saying is untrue, but I’m a bit put off by her approach.

    Thanks for blogging about this.

  • OMG, I got that letter too!

    I assumed it was spam and deleted it. Now I’m glad I did. Glad you shared this!
    Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing recently posted..5 Reasons Why Your Letter of Introduction Isn’t Getting You Writing GigsMy Profile

    • Apparently she sent it to every writer with a website out there.

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