The excellent Hoax Slayer newsletter reminds us of a few scams that are currently harvesting lots of suckers. Here are a few reminders:
* Nobody is buying iPhones at auction for $5 or £5.
* There is no "one weird trick" that makes you lose weight instantly
* There is no "one weird trick" that made a 70-year-old woman look like 40.
* There are no dying widows looking for strangers to whom to give their fortune.
* There are plenty of Nigerian crooks but they want you to give them money, not the other way around.
* More specifically, it's not true that a 3-year-old girl named Lilly was snatched from the Surrey area of the UK, even though the message features a photo of her and the registration number of the fictional car she was last (not) seen in. Don't pass along this bogus message.
* You don't owe an EZ Pass toll that you forgot to pay. Do not open the attached invoice, it contains malware.
* Your Netflix account probably has not been cancelled. If you get a notice to that effect, do not click anything within that email. Instead, type in the Netflix address on your browser and then log in.
* Your PayPal account probably has not been limited "due to login from unknown advice." If you get a notice to that effect, do not click anything within it. Otherwise, you may enable the scammers to hijack your PayPal account. I nearly fell for one of these because it happened to arrive shortly after I was made aware of an actual issue with my PayPal account.
* If you get a notice from American Express regarding unusual activity on your account, don't click on anything within it, just go to the real American Express site and log in as usual.
TIP: When in doubt, always check the address from which the email came. Sometimes they do use one that resembles the name of the apparent source, but you may be surprised to find how often they're from an obviously bogus address.
I'll add a few scams that target writers:
* Traditional publishers are not desperate to be sent manuscripts, they get plenty without advertising. Generally these are companies that will publish anything they are sent, providing the author is willing to put up the money. There are some legitimate companies who assist you with publishing for a fee, but do your research before you sign any contract. Look them up on the web, contact authors whose books they have published, etc.
* Be especially careful if a publisher says they are eager to publish books of poetry because they sell well. Unfortunately, books of poetry (at least by unknown writers) almost never make any money. That's not to say you shouldn't publish them anyway, to give to friends and relatives, but be aware that your chances of making a profit are close to nil.
* Legitimate agents do not charge a reading fee. They make a percentage of what you make, usually 12-15%. Legitimate agents also do not insist that you use the services of editors or writing coaches they recommend.
* Legitimate contests do not charge a large entry fee when the prize awards are relatively small.