The overpayment scam that targets proofreaders


shutterstock_130473632There’s a scam doing the rounds among proofreaders at the moment, I’m sorry to say. It has affected at least 20 of our advertisers in the past fortnight, and I have fallen foul of it directly via my own proofreading website, too. Luckily, the scammers failed to extract money from any of us, but they did waste a few hours of our time as we proofread their documents in good faith. In this article I will explain how the scammers operate so that anyone reading this can avoid falling into the same trap.

It starts with an email. The scammer claims to have several projects that require proofreading and editing to a high standard. The English in the email is very poor, which may set alarm bells ringing in itself (think of all the spam emails that clog up your junk folder every day), but then in our line of work it’s very common to receive emails with poor grammar, isn’t it? And as these emails are specifically requesting a proofreading service, you’d be forgiven for not instantly filing it in the junk folder along with the generic spam emails about rich Nigerian princes. I received the email last Friday, and I suspected nothing untoward at this point. After all, I’ve been freelancing for nine years and have never been scammed like this before, so why would I?

Next comes the hook. Every con has a hook to it, as anyone who ever watched BBC Three’s The Real Hustle knows, and this scam is no different. When the scammer emails you the documents that need proofreading, they also inform you that they have up to £200 to spend on these projects, which is rather generous considering the documents only equate to 6,000 words.  ‘If something seems too good to be true, it probably is’ was the frequently repeated catchphrase on The Real Hustle, but sadly these wise words weren’t ringing in my ears at this point. Instead I proceeded without caution. Until the banker’s draft arrived in the post a few days later.

The banker’s draft was for £1325, well over a thousand pounds more than I had quoted. I queried it with the scammer who apologised and said that her colleague was supposed to send most of the amount to a Chinese interpreter and the rest to me. At last the alarm bells began to chime, and when the scammer advised me to still pay the draft in, keep my portion and then wire her the rest, the bells were positively clanging.

Luckily for me, I was prevented from wasting any more time on the issue, as a Find a Proofreader advertiser kindly rang me to inform me that he had been scammed via our website. As he relayed his experience, I soon realised I had been scammed by the same person. He’d received an inflated amount via banker’s draft that morning, just like I had.

So, other than wasting proofreaders’ time, what’s the point of this scam? How do the criminals actually benefit? Well, presumably they expect the proofreader to pay the banker’s draft in, and then wire them over £1000 to an offshore bank account. The banker’s draft fails to go through because it’s counterfeit, leaving the proofreader out of pocket to the tune of around a grand.

How to prevent this scam happening to you

To protect yourself against this unpleasant and potentially expensive experience, follow these steps:

  • Never trust someone who openly tells you their budget, especially if that budget is overly generous.
  • Always insist on payment (or at least a deposit) upfront.
  • Always discuss payment methods at the outset. This scam relies on the use of cheques or banker’s drafts, so if someone insists on sending you payment in the post, trust those clanging alarm bells and proceed with extreme caution.

I hope this blog helps prevent other proofreaders and editors wasting their precious time (or worse still, hundreds of pounds of their hard-earned money) with this scam. Please share this article with any proofreaders, copy-editors and indeed any other freelancers you know. According to this website, the scam has been around for some time and often targets interpreters, so I suspect they are widening their net these days to include all forms of freelancers working with words.

14/08/2013 |

Some improvements to Find a Proofreader!


Sorry to those of you who may have been looking forward to reading the latest Freelancer of the Month article – the feature has been replaced this month by this quick update about some changes to the website. We’ve been beavering away behind the scenes to bring some new modifications to the directory which we believe will enhance the user experience for advertisers and end users alike. Here’s a breakdown of the main changes we’ve made:

New tabs on listings

As well as having an area to write a description of their business, advertisers now have two additional tabs on their listings – a Client Reviews tab and a Contact Listing Owner tab:

Screenshot of new-look FaP listings

Client reviews are not a new feature, but having a tab next to the description will hopefully entice more users to read the reviews. The Contact Listing Owner form is now fully automated so enquiries will be sent directly to the advertiser, not to Find a Proofreader, thus speeding up the whole process and helping to ensure that our advertisers secure more work via the site.

No need to register to write reviews

We have removed the need for customers to register with the website before they write reviews of advertisers. We did this because the feedback from advertisers seems to suggest that the majority of customers are put off by the registration process. Now all advertisers need to do is tell their customers to visit their Find a Proofreader listing, scroll down beyond the description (or click on the new Client Reviews tab) and fill out the review form. Once we’ve approved it, the review will go live! We’re sure this new system will lead to more reviews for all our advertisers!

Improved login/register/dashboard

Screenshot of new FaP registerWe often received emails from new advertisers asking how to log into the site. The old login button was rather hidden away in the top left corner before, so we’ve moved it down slightly and placed it next to the main ad banner so that it’s much easier to spot!

Once logged in, these buttons will say ‘Dashboard’ and ‘Logout’, respectively. We think that this will make it easier for advertisers to navigate the site when they’re logged in.

Lastly, advertisers no longer need to fill out a CAPTCHA code when they log in, making logging in quicker and easier.

These are the main changes we’ve made – there were some other tweaks made under the bonnet but we won’t bore you with those here! Ultimately you should find the site faster and simpler to use. If you do encounter any technical issues or if you have any suggestions that you’d like us to implement, please let us know.


31/05/2013 |

Starting out? Louise Harnby’s ebook will help you on your way


eBook for Editorial Freelancers

Are you considering starting your own business as a proofreader or copy-editor? If so, there’s a lot to think about. Being an editorial freelancer means building a business, and that means thinking about training, marketing, networking, the kit you’ll need, and the financial viability of the enterprise.

If you’ve got a spare fiver, invest it in this new ebook, Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers: A Guide for New Starters. Author (and friend of Find a Proofreader) Louise Harnby has been in the publishing business for over twenty years and has been operating as a freelancer for seven. She receives dozens of enquiries a year from ‘newbies’ looking for advice on setting up their editorial businesses and felt it was time to put her method for starting up into an accessible ebook that would provide a one-stop shop for beginners. By taking readers through the various elements of small-business development, the guide helps to ensure new starters make the right decisions at the outset, preparing them for a freelancing journey and the success of their future business.

Chapters focus on why a business plan is necessary; the different aspects of editorial freelancing; training; client focus; getting experience; financial assessment; promotion; networking; and tools for the job. The material is supplemented with Practitioner Focus sections that illustrate the learning goals discussed, case studies from recent new starters that give an honest appraisal of the challenges ahead, and a rich list of linked resources including editorial societies, reference material, blogs, knowledge centres and UK training providers.

The eguide is available at a 20% discount if you order through Smashwords (though it’s available at full price on Amazon, too, if that’s your preference). Simply enter coupon code CS66F at the Smashwords checkout before 1 May 2013. It’s also available in a variety of formats to suit your needs. There’s even a PDF version for those who don’t have ereaders.

You can read some great reviews from publishers and freelance professionals here. We highly recommend Louise Harnby’s ebook to any new starter who’s thinking about embarking on an editorial freelance journey. Five pounds is a small price to pay for the sake of making good business decisions.

28/03/2013 |
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