If You Say You’re Not a Scammer, Does That Make it True?

What’s on the iPod: Hospital by Counting Crows

Yesterday was a sprint for which I felt seriously out of shape. I knew I’d be busy when I returned from California, but I didn’t realize just how busy. By noon I’d finished a blog post, sat in on a team conference call, reviewed one set of client edits, interviewed someone for an article, and reviewed a second set of client edits. Lunch was a blur.

I was able too to get through my pile of emails. Since synching my phone to my email account, I’ve been able to review emails while I’m out of the office, but there were a few that had to be reread and responded to. One in particular won’t be getting my response. It’s a note that’s been circulating among the freelancers I know.

It started out kind of spammy. “Hi, I’ve been visiting your site often to get valuable information.”

That could be true…IF my blog were linked to my site. It’s not. My site? It’s my resume and portfolio, not informational.

Then came the “I need your help” request. And that’s where the person lost me.

This may or may not be a legitimate need, and a legitimate situation in which someone needs help, but to ask a complete stranger for help is a bit odd. To ask for money in lieu of help — beyond odd and right into scam.

Here’s why this person won’t get my direct response:

No interaction. “Hi” is not my name. You don’t know me and didn’t bother to take the time to learn my name. Go away.

Asking for favors. My friends rarely ask for favors. When they do, I leap to help them. When someone I’ve never met or heard of asks, I won’t help. That’s leech-like behavior and I’m not promoting it. If you had asked me how to find work or where you might find clients that pay more, I’d be helping you out because you’re intent on building a career, not looking for a handout.

Expecting instant trust. You don’t care enough about building a relationship first before you ask — I don’t care what your story is. You haven’t earned trust or shown any reason for me to care.

Name dropping. This one made the mistake of naming two people who have backed this particular person’s fundraising efforts — one of whom I’m quite close to. The “backed by” statement was way out of line. The one “backer” quoted said “Yea, I don’t know who the devil it is.”

“I’m not a scammer or anything.” No? Then why are you behaving like one?

The story on the person’s website may be true. There may be a divorce and a dire financial situation. However, I have friends who have been through separation/divorce (and so have I), and I know there are any number of ways in which the left-behind spouse can get money, or hey, a job. And again, I don’t know you, so how do you expect me to believe your story is real?

This may be a legitimate person with a real problem, but the way it’s being handled, it’s not building any confidence that the story is true. I have seen the name around before, but I’m not convinced in the tale’s accuracy. I will give advice – not money. That’s all you should be asking for anyway.

How do you identify legitimate versus a scam? When do you help and how?

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  • Cathy Miller September 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    LOL (and in relief) that somehow I have been missed by this sad (?) soul. She seems to be doing the writer route. Sometimes it's good to be off radar. 🙂

    I just received an email from a client's personal email address. She is currently vacationing in California, but lo and behold, the email says she and her family were mugged in United Arab Emirates and had all their cash and credit cards stolen. Not to worry, they have their tickets back home but need help settling their hotel bill.

    Don't you just hate when they route California trips through U.A.E.?

    Granted, some are not so obvious, but always pay attention to your gut or little inner voice. Verify before doing anything if you think it's real.

    Scammers are the sum of the earth.

  • Lori September 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Cathy, that's hilarious, and all too common. We had an email not long ago from one of the monks in our meditation group. Same thing. Lost his credit cards and had no money. The last part I believe (they take a vow of poverty), but the first part? Yea, they don't carry credit cards. When my husband wrote back and asked what the problem was exactly, the response was "Just help me!"

    Big, wildly waving red flag.

  • Allie September 18, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    I haven't been spammed like that, but I have had people e-mail me requests to guest post on my blog purely in order to increase their Google backlinks. One even wanted me to provide them a topic to write! If they had looked through my blog at all, they would see I've never accepted a single guest post and they would know what topics I'm interested in covering! I'm all for helping other people grow their business, but not at the expense of my own.
    It's a shame that people aren't willing to do any research before sending blind requests.

  • Cathy Miller September 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    And that was supposed to be scum of the earth-I hope scammers aren't the SUM of the earth. LOL!!

    Allie-those "guest bloggers" are spammers in the most annoying fashion!

  • Paula September 18, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    I guess my spam filters (e-mail and for the blog) do a good job of screening out the spam (so much so that sometimes legitimate e-mails wind up in my spam folder). Phone calls? I get those all the time.

    Yesterday I got one from some vaguely named police-related beneficent fund. First, local news has been full of reports about such scams. Second, when I said I wasn't donating the guy said I'd donated last year. Excuse me? He wouldn't back down in saying how "generous" I was last year, and that it would be great if I could donate again, even just a little. No matter how many times I said I'd never donated to them before, he was insistent that I had. Huge red flag. Another red flag? If I were a past donor, don't you think he would have known my first name – or at least the initial?

    The only donations I've made in the past couple of years have been in clothes, winter coats, shoes or non-perishable food items I've given to local clothing and food drives. Oh, I also texted in a Red Cross donation after the Japanese tsunami because I have dear friends in Japan.

    My guess is he was trying to get me to agree to "donate" so he could ask me to confirm some credit card information or a bank routing number. After the third or forth time I told him there was no way on earth I had ever donated to them before, he launched into phase two of his pitch and I hung up.

    By phone or e-mail, scammers are seldom as slick as they think they are.

  • Lori September 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Paula, I wouldn't be so sure. I ran across one once who was so slick he was like Clark Griswald flying down that hill in Christmas Vacation. In less than five minutes, he had told me his story and, without even asking, had found a way to get me to volunteer my time writing a release for him. He wore sincerity in his voice and was way too good at it. Turns out he's a career scam artist who knows which buttons to push and when to back off and just let it happen.

    Made me doubt nearly everyone after him.

  • Paula September 18, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    I suppose there are a few masters of manipulation out there. But most of the spammer/phishing types don't have that snake oily quality.

  • Lori September 18, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Allie, I get a lot of those, too. Tiring, aren't they?

  • Anne Wayman September 18, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    The sad truth also is that if someone weren't responding to spam it would go away… but it pays and pays and pays.

  • Wade Finnegan September 18, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Lori, I'm pretty sure we got the exact same email. The boldness of some people really blows me away.

  • Lori September 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Wade, we probably did. I get that sometimes life kicks us and we need a hand up, but don't ask people you don't know! Ask friends, family, colleagues with whom you've communicated.