Editors beware: Scammers at large

Twice in the past few weeks, I have been contacted by someone looking for help with a document that raised the same series of red flags. I was alerted to the first of these email scams by my lovely Facebook community, because these scammers shamelessly and systematically target freelance editors. Thanks to my colleagues, then, I was slightly wiser this time around.

On top of that, recently I had a dinner conversation with two friends (both IT professionals) who shared stories of dealing with phone scammers who try to convince their victims that their computer has been infected by a virus. One friend led the person on with all kinds of bogus information, thinking that he was at least distracting the guy from bothering anyone else. The other friend recounted how he basically shamed the dude into confessing and actually got the scammer to admit he was a bad person. I found both stories amusing and inspiring each in their own right.

So when the red flags showed up for me this week, I settled on a straight-up, straightforward approach – not mean, but I did put on my mom voice, just a little. 🙂 I’m no saint, so this email went through several more colourful drafts, at least in my head.

The call-out

Dear Kylian,

I’m afraid there are several aspects of your overture which raise serious concerns for me:

  • a Google search of your name gives me only information on famous football players, and your email address is impossible to track
  • your English language skills in your email messages do not match the language in the attachment
  • you have not answered my questions clearly about your geographical location or the purpose and intended audience of your document
  • you have asked for a full estimate and proposed a paper method of payment even before you have determined I am the right editor for you
  • your deadline is odd and the term begins on a future date, even though your project is apparently already underway

Unfortunately, all of these factors call into question the legitimacy of your project. There are many shameless scammers out there who try to take advantage of freelance workers making an honest living, and I would hate to think (but I do think) that people like you are not so much looking for help as you are looking for victims..

I am willing to give you one more chance to prove to me you are a legitimate prospective client. If you are, then please understand the absolute need for transparency and clear communication, and give me reason to trust you. If you are not, then please reconsider your life choices, think about the kind of person you want to be, and find a better way to make your living.

Sincerely yours,

Karen A. Limbert Rempel, MSc


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