Ethics and Morals, Marketing

Spams, Scam, Bologna, and other Fried Emails

So this post has nothing to do with food. Just sayin’ so you know before you keep reading and don’t find a recipe. But if you are curious about spammy emails and how to spot them, read on.

If you’re familiar with this blog and my philosophy, you know that I consider myself a content marketer. I have stuff to sell (books, art, apparel, and more!) but I am not going to abuse the technology at my fingertips to push it in front of you all. Instead, I’m taking the time to gain your permission to take up your time and offer you wares. Permission marketing is the opposite of spamming and telemarketing. I try to make coming to my blog worthwhile by writing interesting content that isn’t scraped from the bottom of my shoe, and you all reward me by reading, sometimes commenting, and occasionally buying my stuff if it strikes your fancy. And I’m ok with that. Like you, I’m not a fan of the bologna most spammers dish out, and that’s what this post is all about.

Over the last week I’ve received emails in various accounts which if I were to take them at face value, offer me some nifty opportunities. I don’t take things like this without a large grain of salt, and a few minutes surfing google. Time well spent, as I will show. I’m sharing because it might help someone else catch on that hey, maybe I should think twice about what drops into my email box – especially if it looks too good to be true.

This one came into my author and main email account.

Hello,

My name is Jackie Velnoskey. I saw that you have written Vulcan’s Kittens. My question for you is: may I promote the book at the Book Expo of America in Chicago in May? It costs you nothing. All I’m asking you in return is if we may add you to our book marketing email list.

We would like to include your work in the Hot Indy Author Guide that we’re displaying and distributing during the BEA event. This option is free. Check out our Facebook page when we report live from Chicago where over 150,000+ are expected to attend.

At America Star Books we have a book promotion department that does nothing but offering book promotion at the lowest fees in the nation. We attend all of the big fairs and festivals: Book Expo America, London Book Fair, Frankfurt Book Fair, Miami Book Fair International, the American Library Association mid-winter and annual Conferences, Baltimore Book Festival, and so on.

All I am asking you at this time is if we may add you to our email list when we issue our next book promotion offers. You may at any time unsubscribe, and we will promptly cease sending you any further emails. America Star Books has been around for more than fifteen years, serving over 60,000 authors. Participating in book promotion is entirely optional.

Thank you for considering this opportunity. I am looking forward to hearing back from you.

—Jackie Velnoskey

America Star Books Special Services, manager

So right off the bat I noted that wherever they had scraped my email from – likely one of the many promo sites I have registered with – they managed to not collect my name. Really, spammers, it’s not that hard, and putting a first name in that greeting is much more likely to engender warm fuzzy feelings in your prey so they keep taking the bait. I mean, you found the title of my book. Granted, it’s my oldest book so why you want it for a list of Hot Indy books?

Second, I had never heard of these people. It’s not a company I’ve done business with – like the book promo sites I have paid to use in the past. I’d have been likely to consider an offer from a business I’d actually heard of. Off to google I go! And two seconds later, as I’m typing in the business name, I have my suspicions confirmed. When the auto fill-in puts ‘complaints’ right after your company name, this is a big red flag. And oh, look, even without clicking a link, I see that this company is part of, or related to, the infamous PublishAmerica vanity press. Even if this offer were legitimate (which I doubt) there’s no way I’m having my name associated with this company.

The next email that raised my eyebrows came into a different account, one I use for specific purposes, but again, there was no personal greeting. There was, however, much more effort to establish legitimacy through providing ‘references.’

Hello There,

I’m reaching out as I think your art is truly exceptional and I’d like invite you to become a collaborating artists with us here at VIDA. The aesthetics of your work are perfect for apparel prints and I’d love to see if you’d be open to working with us to transform your artwork into professionally manufactured elegant apparel.

VIDA, is a Google Ventures backed fashion eCommerce platform for artists. We bring together artists and makers from around the world to create original, inspiring apparel in a socially conscious way.

I think your artwork is perfect for VIDA, and so I’d like to work with you personally to provide:

  • The opportunity to convert your design vision into high quality fashion products.

  • Tools to develop and grow your artist career.
  • Access to share your original apparel collection with a global market.

For every sale you make on our platform, a portion of net revenues will be shared back with you for each of your designs sold.

You can read more about VIDA & Co. in articles featured on TechCrunch, Women’s Wear Daily, The Next Web, Fashionista, and Fashion Times.

This time, when I googled the company, it was much more legitimate, and their motive in contacting me was much more transparent. They need artists to help them generate income. I’m not sure it’s something I will work with, but I’m not going to label this one a scam… spam, maybe, since it’s unsolicited and obviously mass emailed to some artist’s list they have gotten ahold of. I’m probably going to email them and ask for some details on what they are looking for. I don’t need another POD service, but if they are marketing the products, it’s tempting.

The last email came into my student email box, and at first glance, it’s formatted fancy and they use my name and it looks very legitimate.

Dear Cedar:

Miami University has nominated you for membership in The Society for Collegiate Leadership & Achievement (SCLA), a registered student organization and Honor Society with over 135 chapters nationwide.

You have been selected by your university for this honor based upon your academic progress and strong GPA. As Executive Director, let me welcome you to SCLA!

Join today and immediately access your member benefits:

  • Improve Your Resume
  • Build Your Network
  • Access Top-tier Internships & Freelance Jobs
  • Gain Career Experience Opportunities

To accept your nomination please click the button below.

I did actually fall for this one for about two minutes. I have a decent GPA – not spectacular, I don’t think, but high enough this didn’t throw a flag. I clicked through on the link and realized the site looked like ad copy. And that threw a flag on the play. I’ve studied ad copy. Heaven help me, I can write it although I find it loathsome. So I belatedly went off to google this… and again the immediate results on the search were that it’s a scam. They tell you – no matter what your grades, from the comments I saw – that you’re nominated and you can join for the low low fee of $95. Nope.

Just… nope. I have much better things to do with that money. Like buy most of a textbook.

Finally, the most potentially expensive and dangerous one came in for my other business.

Hello Owner,
how are you doing today?

Am kortright   and my

daughter’s birthday

party is coming up soon

so i want you to do face

paint on more than 100

people face and i will

like to know if you

accept all major credit

card?

I’ve preserved the formatting, which is odd. I’m familiar with the scam being attempted here, it’s been around since I started in the performing business over 15 years ago. There have been various iterations of it, usually involving checks, but the credit card one here is a twist that showed up several years ago when entertainers started being able to take credit cards over the phone for payment or deposit. This is how it works: you’re contacted for a big, fancy party. When you are paid, you are either somehow overpaid (back to the checks, there) or asked to make payment to other vendors so will you take a payment that is X more than your usual? Of course, no matter how it happens you either pay or refund… and then the entire original payment disappears, leaving you having laundered money to the crooks. I’ve been contacted by people trying to work the scam a few times, but never by anyone that was plausible enough for me to fall for it.

There’s no party, by the way. They want you to take the payment in advance and that’s when the trouble starts. I could get into a whole ‘nother thing about the other ways people try to gyp entertainers, but I won’t. For one thing, in 15 years of doing this, and literally thousands of clients, it’s happened maybe ten times to me. I work hard at filtering them out before we get to the point where it’s a problem. This emails, for instance, will simply be ignored. Replying to it just lets them know they have a live one on the line.

 Note that none of these emails dropped into my junk or spam filters. They showed up right in the main mailbox along with emails I expect to see and respond to. But that doesn’t mean they are legit, and that I can take them at face value. Ask questions, remember google is your friend, and try not to click links or respond to emails and furnish them with even more info about you. I made the mistake of clicking through on the honor society one, but this is why you keep virus protection on your computer.

Happy spam-frying!

 

Leave a Reply