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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Writers: Beware of Identity Spoofing!


I read an interesting article by Victoria Strauss on the Writer Beware blog this week.

It concerns a writer named Heather Boerner, who discovered that her identity had been spoofed on a popular job auction site. The account was then used for fraudulent purposes by the perpetrator.

I've copied the opening of Victoria's article below:
This week, freelance writer Heather Boerner (who has published with such well-known venues as The Atlantic and The Washington Post) alerted me to her experience with a scammer.

Heather discovered the scam when she was contacted, out of the blue, by an individual who claimed to have hired her through a freelance jobs bidding website called oDesk. From an article about the scam by one of Heather's colleagues, Paul Raeburn:

[Heather] quickly realized that she had been the victim of identity theft. Somebody--a fake Heather--had gone to Boerner's website, copied her resume, downloaded her photo, linked to her website, and created an oDesk account offering services as a writer....
It's an eye-opening article, and I strongly recommend clicking through to read the rest of it, and the comments as well.

The article struck a chord with me, as it made me realize that I may have become a victim of this type of fraud as well. A couple of weeks ago I was puzzled to receive this comment on one of my blog posts:
"Nick ------ please refund me or complete the job. You agreed to turn my word doc into a kindle version. All I have seen is a poorly formatted mobi. I hope you don't consider that doing the job????? I would like my money back if you are unable to complete the work you agreed to."
As I have no knowledge of the person concerned, and anyway do not offer a Kindle formatting service, I initially assumed she had confused me with someone else. I posted a polite reply suggesting that this might be the case, and asking her to check again who it was she hired to perform this task.

Having read Victoria's article, however, I am wondering if my identity has been spoofed as well. I did a quick search on Elance, oDesk and Guru but couldn't find anything (although it is of course possible that the account has since been deleted).

Anyway, I thought I should alert readers of my blog to the fact that this type of scam is now going on. If you have any sort of online presence as a freelance writer, there is a risk that you too could become a victim.

There is clearly no way you can guarantee it won't happen, but it is important to keep your eyes and ears open - and if you receive any odd messages such as the one I had, don't just ignore them but follow them up.

In addition, as recommended in the article above, it is a good idea to Google yourself regularly, and also set up a Google Alert in your name.

And equally, if you are hiring a writer or editor via a job auction site, check carefully to ensure that they really are who they claim to be. Don't rely on the information on the website, but contact them via their blog or homepage as well.

I am still waiting to hear again from the woman who sent me the complaint, so if she sees this I do hope she will get back to me. That aside, if you see anyone claiming to be me and offering Kindle formatting (or any other services) via a job auction site, I'd be most grateful if you could let me know.

If you have any comments or questions, as ever, please feel free to post them below.


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