When you work with the same product day in and day out, noticing a fake is second nature. Sell designer purses? When the shade of a bag or the look of the hardware is “off,” you notice it immediately. Sell video games? You likely unconsciously know the weight and balance of a game console box without even opening it. It’s a familiarity with the materials we need to do our jobs, and when something doesn’t add up, it’s very likely not going to pass us unnoticed.
Writers have a superpower too, believe it or not. We can spot a written scam a mile away.
I recently received a request to interview for a position on Upwork. Have a look:
Three red flags immediately went up:
- Nothing in my work history indicates that I’m looking to be an assistant. My profile is created to reflect my skills – namely, that I’m a writer.
- “Loyal” is a strange quality to be looking for. When a client puts “loyal” out there on the forefront, it indicates that a previous assistant was somehow “disloyal.”
- Note to the right there that “Monir” is interviewing a lot of people, but this is his/her only posting ever on the site, they have no confirmed payment methods, and they have no money in escrow. Strike 3, you’re out.
But hell, this is an educational blog, so let’s take a fake bite of that bait, for curiosity’s sake. Here’s the response:
- Bad (unusual) Grammar in general (relative successful, will includes, should have understood / could be, have to be checking, etc.)
Additionally, the overly formal speech is a side-effect of a careful translation. We have a lot of contractions and similar functions in our language, and it’s hard to mimic the casual tone without the translation sounding stiff or forced. Notice also that there isn’t a single contraction in this entire posting and response – what American do you know that doesn’t use any contractions at all?
In this case, this scammer is setting up a popular check-cashing scam: he or she will send you money orders or checks that look genuine, but are actually very high-resolution forgeries or copies. The idea is that you’d deposit that faux check in your personal bank account, the bank would front the money because you’re likely a good customer with a halfway decent track record, and your “boss” would instruct you to wire/Western Union them the just-deposited money, after you take out your “cut,” of course. Later, your bank would discover the fraud, and your account would go negative to recoup the losses…which you’ve just sent on a one-way trip overseas. How do I know this?
As I’ve mentioned in my Debunking a Craigslist Scam post, the easiest way is simply to cut and paste a line of the questionable text and Google it in quotation marks. In this case, I found nearly the entirety of this message on Scamwarners, word for word, with a wholly different name attached – apparently “Monir Lisir” is also “Chris Crosby”. Ding ding ding – we have a scam!
So voila – now you know: you have a secret scam-spotting superpower as writers, so be on the lookout to protect friends and family!
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