Firstly, this isn’t an article about how to grow your social media audience. It is a warning for those new writers venturing out for the first times on the net to market their books. I recently saw a post by another author about her internet troll/stalker, and how frustrated she was dealing with this person.
The author was young and beautiful. In my ignorance, I thought she was the common target for those who are looking to scam a woman on the internet, but I was wrong. At 56 years of age, I have found myself becoming more and more cautious of each friend request I accept. I question if the photographs on the profile are legit or someone else’s stolen for whatever nefarious purpose.
I’ve learned about Romance scammers who look for middle-aged (that’s definitely me) and lonely ( this is something I’m not) women with the thought of flattering them, romancing them and then trying to get money from them. They will use photos of attractive males and females (beware guys!) stolen from real people. Some will use pictures of military men and women with a fabricated story of loss. Widowed with child(ren) and wanting to find someone with a kind heart, these scammers will be texting you and many other potential marks at the same time.
I did some research on the military aspect and found on http://www.cid.army.mil/romancescam.html warnings concerning romance and online dating profiles from service members deployed in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Even military personnel are at risk for these scams. They have a Sextortion brochure that is very informative on this subject.
Some of the “Red Flags” they’ve identified are valid for both civilians who are targeted by scammers posing as US military members, and for active duty military members who have become targets themselves, and they include:
- Unknown persons contact you online and attempt to friend you. You may even have mutual friends or primarily military members as their friends.
- The scammer uses poor grammar and sentence structure when messaging. Their responses don’t always make sense as if they didn’t understand the question or they are awkward sounding.
- The person wishes you to engage in an explicit video chat or exchange graphic images almost immediately after initiating contact.
- They call you by endearments very quickly after becoming friends. This assists them in the multiple messaging they are engaged in. They won’t have to remember your name. Everyone is dear, gorgeous, or babe for example.
- A video call begins with the female in a state of undress or engaged in a sexual act.
- They ask for money so they can visit you, get much-needed military equipment, etc.
Opening your marketing to the public means you will encounter a variety of people from many different walks of life. I’m a cautious individual, and I’ve been surprised at how an innocent exchange about writing can quickly shift as the communications attempt to cross a line.
These are the steps I take to secure my privacy while continuing to interact with the public as I market my books.
- I only post vague information about myself and my life. I don’t post any photos of my family.
- I don’t post personal phone numbers, email addresses or home addresses.
- When I’m asked a personal question about any of the above, I indicate this is private information. Sorry.
- I look at every Twitter page, Facebook page, etc. for the person asking to befriend me. If there are a variety of entries on various topics, especially books and we have multiple mutual friends, I will accept. But if they have one or two posts, the account is new, or they have photos or postings I find objectionable, I delete the request.
- My friend’s list isn’t viewable by anyone but me.
- I don’t allow Messenger calls from anyone. (I have had several attempted calls. Unbelievable!)
- If anyone crosses the line — I block them, unfollow from every platform, and if need be, report them.
I’m cynical by nature, and I do not need flattery to build my self-esteem, so the attempts that have been made towards me have fallen flat. Initially, I thought it was funny and would message a bit to see where the scammer would take it. Not anymore. The frequency of these attempts is sobering. I worry about other people who may through their good natures fall victim to these efforts.
Not everyone is out to scam. Our society isolates so many people, and social media seems like a perfect solution for meeting others and finding new friendships. Just remember to stay aware, keep professional when promoting your business, and if something doesn’t feel right, go the extra step to take precautions in regards to your privacy.