by Anne R. Allen
Yes, I’ve already written a warning to writers about publishing scams this month. But I heard about a new, diabolical one only a few days ago. This can affect both traditionally published and indie authors. And everybody needs to help spread the word.
That’s because the author won’t know it’s happening. Readers need to alert them before it’s too late.
I first discovered this scam through the blog of New Zealand author Maureen Crisp. It’s worth subscribing to her blog, Craic-er. She has all the latest publishing news from around the world.
This scam can affect any author who uses Facebook. If you’re not on Facebook, you’re safe from this one. (But read on. I have another warning to writers of a scam that targets all authors.)
For those of us who have “Author page” on Facebook, these scammers can be deadly.
The Attack of the Clones
I think most Facebook users have run into the scammers who “clone” our Facebook pages. They cut and paste our page into a new account, pretending to be us. Then they send friend requests to everybody on our list.
A user breezing by will think, “I thought I was friends with her! I’d better fix that.” So they accept the “friendship” of the person who is impersonating you. Then they will, within hours, get a Direct Message that says “How are you doing?”
With a foot in the DM door, the scammer chats up the friend. Often they’re trying to sell bogus weight loss programs or other dodgy products through pyramid schemes.
They also might make direct requests for money. This can involve soliciting for bogus charities — abused pets are popular. Or sometimes they’ll try to pull one of the venerable “Help! I’m being held hostage in a foreign country. Send money” scams. Maybe they’ll try to get you to click on a link to a site that will install malware on your device. Or they may simply troll for personal data to use for identity theft.
I’m so wary of the “How are you doing” scammers that I recently deleted a DM from an actual IRL friend who opened with that line. ☹
Cloning isn’t Hacking
Even if it hasn’t happened to you yet, I’m sure you’ve seen announcements on friends’ pages that say “I’ve been hacked!!! Don’t accept a friend request from somebody pretending to be me.”
Definitely don’t accept the friend request. Yes, somebody is pretending to be the victim. But the truth is they haven’t literally been “hacked”. They’ve been cloned. Anybody can clone your page with simple cut and paste. No point in changing your password. They didn’t use it. They simply copy the part of your page anybody can see. Then they claim to be you. They send “How are you doing” DMs to everybody on your friend list — a list also available to the general public.
It isn’t the person who’s been cloned who’s the victim. The target is anybody who accepts the “friendship.”
Facebook has no mechanism to stop this. Apparently, no algorithms have been invented to alert them that a page has been set up that’s identical to an existing one. The only way to combat this is to ask your friends to let you know if they get a friend request from you. Most of them know they are already your friend, but they may not know it’s dangerous to accept that second request..
Readers and victims need to report the scammers through the drop-down menu in the little three dot thingy in the menu bar. Choose the option “somebody is pretending to be me” or “somebody is pretending to be my friend.” Then report them.
This will get the scam page taken down. But tomorrow they’ll do it to somebody else you know. They went though almost our entire writing club a couple of years ago.
Now Scammers are Cloning Our Author Pages
The latest scam involves the same kind of page cloning I described above. But it’s not your Friend page they clone, but your Author page. Then, in your name, they start their exciting, fun con. They offer to give away your books FREE to all your readers!
Fans come running. Yay! Favorite Author is giving away free books! All readers need to do is give these people who are pretending to be Favorite Author their home address, credit card number (for future discounts) and probably the name of their favorite pet and mother’s maiden name.
Authors don’t know what’s going on until the complaints start coming in. Where are the free books?
Unfortunately what happens next is Facebook yanks Favorite Author’s REAL author page. The author is kicked off Facebook and can’t even apologize to all those fans who never got the books and have had their bank accounts cleared out by these identity thieves.
Slick scam, right?
What Can a Cloned Author Do?
According to Maureen Crisp’s sources, you need to report the cloned page to Facebook and Google within 48 hours. I’m not sure if that is a rule with the companies or just a guideline for containment of the damage.
Apparently Google will remove a “phishing” site from the search engine within 12 hours. Facebook has no such guarantee, but my experience with Friend pages is that they remove cloned sites pretty quickly, once they have a report.
However, when studying the new design of my Author page, I can’t find any mechanism for reporting violations. Those three little dots are there in the banner just like on the Friend page, but the drop down menu has no option for reporting or even asking for help.
Any readers who know how to report a problem with a business page to Facebook, do let us know.
Maureen Crisp’s source suggested limiting what countries can view your Author page. That might help if the scammers are headquartered in another country. But I don’t think anybody knows which country. Do you just limit your page to your own country? That could eliminate a lot of fans.
Do We Keep Our Facebook Author Pages?
So should we keep an Author Page if it’s so dangerous?
I’ve found my Author page increasingly less useful in the last year. Facebook keeps throwing more obstacles in our paths. I guess it’s meant to bully us into paying for “boosting” our posts. We now have to change “profiles” even to look at our own Author pages, and if we post any information there with a link, the reader will get a “are you sure you want to leave Facebook?” message when they try to click on the link and read the piece.
The “notifications” feed constantly tells me I haven’t “completed” the Author page by giving my home phone number to them so they can sell it to robocallers and heavy breathers. They also fill my feed with constant “permission” to follow people I have no interest in following. Altogether tedious and silly.
Also, we used to be told how many hits we were getting on each post. Now we get nothing but the number of “likes.” I used to post daily writing tips, agent news, and calls for submissions, but I hardly ever do anymore. I know people will be thwarted from reading them, so why jump through all the hoops to post?
I have been thinking of deleting the Author page, but I’ve decided against it for now. It’s sort of like being listed in the Yellow Pages. I’ve found it’s much easier to communicate with readers on the Friend page these days. But the number of friends we’re allowed is limited.
And I fear new scammers will move in and perpetrate something even nastier on our Friend pages.
Maybe it’s worth it to keep both pages even if it’s just to have a spare when the scammers sabotage the other. Either way, we need to be hyper-vigilant.
Warning to Writers of Another Scam Not Exclusive to Facebook
I’ve heard now from several different people that writers should be REALLY wary of editors who advertise fees way below the going rate.
It seems some of these “editors” are outright thieves who simply steal the manuscript and immediately publish it on Amazon under their own names.
Yeah. Simple, heartbreaking theft. Work that took maybe years of your life. Not to mention your blood sweat and tears. Now some creep has slapped a hideous cover on it and is selling it on Amazon. There is probably a way to report a stolen manuscript to Amazon, but I imagine it’s a difficult process.
If you haven’t copyrighted your manuscript, it’s tough to get it back. Amazon will see the ‘original” author as the scammer. But who copyrights an unedited book?
I’ve always told writers not to worry about copyrighting a manuscript until it’s published, since every change makes it a different book and will need a new copyright.
The best protection is to be aware. Don’t use an editor you find on Fivrr, or one who approaches you via Social Media with a “great deal”. Or any stranger you don’t know through a friend or happy client. Here’s Jodie Renner’s post on how to find a legitimate editor for your book. Her policy of editing the manuscript in chunks rather than working on the full manuscript would help, too.
You’re not Paranoid. They Really are After You.
If it feels as if writers are targeted by scammers more than the general public, I think you’re right. Writers can have big dreams. And there’s so much misinformation out there about the publishing industry, new writers are easy, juicy prey.
Never underestimate the scammers They’re armed with plausible lies and lots of tech skills. If you’re not vigilant, they’ll not only rob you of your money, but shatter your dreams too.
I got a reply to a Tweet of my last publishing scam alert from a “publisher,” who said they wanted to “help me get traditionally published.” Yeah. The very people I was warning writers against thought I’d fall for their BS.
Unfortunately, that means a lot of writers do. So educate yourself.
For more on current publishing scams, like the Goodreads Extortion Racket, the write-with-James-Patterson-maybe thing, the latest Anthology and Hollywood scams, and “The Big-5-wants-your-old-failed-novel” scam, read my last post on the latest diabolical stuff from the publishing scammerss.
by Anne R. Allen (@annerallen) September 19, 2021
What about you, scriveners? Do you think a Facebook Author page is worthwhile these days? Have you heard of this page cloning scam? Or the phony editor scam? Have you experienced either of these scams? Do you know the best way to report the scammers to Facebook or Amazon? Do you have a warning to writers about any other new scams?
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