We often read about people getting scammed out of large sums of money. It’s easy to imagine that the person who was scammed must have been very gullible to fall for a scam. But we seldom have the whole story as to how they fell into the trap. Following is my story of how I fell into a trap this summer after a lifetime of thinking it will never happen to me.
It all took place in July while we were on a six week vacation to explore the Lake Michigan area. I would like to think that because I was on vacation, my guard was down, as we were enjoying our time exploring new places and hiking on the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin. We had just returned from a hike and were hot, tired and dehydrated (another set of nice excuses) when the email arrived.
It all seemed so innocent. A short email from a magazine asking if they could interview me for an article in their next edition. As an author/coach, I get asked to do interviews a few times a month. Some are written articles, others are podcasts, and some are speaking engagements. This was another request that looked and felt like all the others I have received.
The email was from a member of the editorial staff of a magazine saying that one of my social media followers had recommended me for an interview. He informed me that they work with influencers and people making an impact. They are very selective with their choices and felt my brand would be a great fit for their magazine.
They also asked if I could get back to them right away as they were closing out the selections for their upcoming issue and needed to meet a deadline if I wanted to be in the next issue. I told them I would be happy to do the article.
They got back to me right away and asked me to fill out their questionnaire so their staff writer could put together the article. Here are their questions:
-Tell us about your brand
-When did you know that this was the right path for you?
-What do you like most about what you do?
-What is the biggest obstacle you have faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?
-If your phone could ring right now with your dream opportunity, what would that be?
-What do you want people to remember most about you and your career?
Nothing about these questions raised any alarms. Since they were in a time crunch to meet their publishing deadline for the next edition, they wondered if I could help them out by completing the questionnaire right away.
That evening we were planning to cuddle up on the couch and watch the movie I picked out earlier that day from the activities center of the timeshare. We could skip the movie and I could write up the answers tonight. I could knock the first draft out in an hour, have my wife edit it, and polish up those edits before bedtime, saving the movie for tomorrow night.
So that is what we did. We gave up a relaxing evening of our vacation to get an article into the magazine before their deadline.
When we finished the questions and the edits, I submitted the completed questionnaire to them. Then the first semi-red flag popped into my view. To submit my answers, they wanted me to nominate two other influencers to interview. That in and of itself did not seem like a big deal. Some of the people I have previously done interviews with have asked if there is anyone I can think of that also might be a good fit for them to interview. The red flag was that I could not submit my answers until I gave them two referrals.
My deepest apologies to the two names I gave them so I could get this task completed and off my plate, in order to get on with our vacation. I don’t actually remember who I sacrificed, but I’m sorry. I didn’t know I was being scammed at the time. I legitimately thought I was giving you an opportunity to do a magazine interview.
Early the next morning I received the following email.
Hello again Dr. Cory S. Fawcett,
We just received your completed interview questions. We congratulate you on your upcoming publication. We will send notification via email when your article is published and ready to promote.
We know that for both rising and established artists, positive media coverage is a major step forward in achieving notoriety and growing success in their career. We are happy to be a part of your journey.
Many artists have emailed us requesting the hard press copies of their article for friends, family, fans and promotion. A press copy is the editorial print version of your article (see attached). At your request, we will customize your press copy including the details we publish in your article. There is a onetime design and setup fee of $15, and $2.85 per hard copy (minimum 7 copies).
How many would you like to receive?
Since I didn’t know what the article would really say after they did their writing and editing, I did not request any copies yet.
The next day they sent an email asking if I got the request to order press copies. I told them I did. About six minutes later they sent an email saying
Great. And how many press copies do you want to receive?
I told them I would let them know how many I wanted to order after I saw the article they published.
I didn’t hear back from them right away and went on about our vacation.
In early October I saw an article about a new scam involving magazine interviews. Several sham magazine titles were listed. I looked at the email used in the scam and it sounded very familiar. When I pulled up the emails I had received for the magazine article I had forgotten about by then, I realized I had been scammed.
They lead me down the path of a legitimate interview right up until they wanted me to pre-order the press copies of an article I had not yet seen. When I said no, I never heard from them again.
I then realized I never actually did a deep dive to check out the magazine. I was in a hurry to get my part completed so they could meet their deadline and I could get back to my vacation. I was lucky I did not send them any money. The minimum amount this scam would have cost was $34.95, but it would have been more if I would have ordered additional copies. Who knows how much I would have lost if I had given them my credit card information by ordering the press copies.
What we did lose was a night of vacation writing and editing the information they requested.
How could I have prevented this?
-I could have dug into learning more about the magazine. Which can sometimes be hard to do as many require a subscription to read their articles.
-I could have required a phone call to discuss the project so I could talk to someone. All the correspondence was done by email and was likely automated.
-I could have asked for them to explain why I was a good fit for their magazine. That would have required them to provide specific details from reading my website, which a scammer wouldn’t want to take the time to do.
Not knowing specific details about me stops a lot of scammers/spammers from getting through to me. A great example is not knowing Financial Success MD is a company name and what my business does. If they send me something like this:
Hi Financial, looks like Financial Success MD is doing some cool things in the space! 🙂 Why don’t we jump on a call and discuss how we can help you book 1,000+ new sales calls in your space.
This is an automated generic message. Every message that starts out with Hi Financial instead of Hi Cory or Hi Dr. Fawcett is from a bot. If a person saw my page with eyes, they would know both my name and my business name. Bots assume the first word is my first name. Don’t get me started on the “let’s jump/hop on a call” line. Stating “my space” instead of identifying my niche is also a red flag.
It can be difficult to know if you are conversing with a scammer or a legitimate business that will help you with your business. Scammers are getting better at sounding legit. Be especially careful if they were the one who initiated contact and they ask for money.
Do you have any tips to stop scammers in their tracks? If so, share it with us in a comment.
I thought you would be interested in the answer to their last question. Since I took my vacation time to write it, I thought I would share it with you as a bonus. It is not part of the topic of this article.
What do you want people to remember most about you and your career?
I want people to understand that I didn’t quit medicine to play golf. Many physicians get riled up when a physician quits working at their “calling.” Those people feel a physician has the obligation to work until they drop.
I didn’t stop helping people when I left medicine, I only changed the category of patients I worked with. I used to help people with their medical issues as a physician. Now I help physicians with their life and finances as their advisor. By helping professionals get their finances and lives on track they will in turn have a better and happier life. Once they become happier with their life, my hope is they will be happier and better at their jobs and be able to continue working in their field longer. A win-win for everyone.
I’m not doing this to teach professionals to retire early. I’m doing this to teach them to have a great life throughout their long and happy career. To have a great relationship with their kids and their spouses. To enjoy life to its fullest. When your financial life is in good order, a lot of other aspects of life fall into place.