Gobsmacked – Scammed Again

I consider myself an intelligent person, so whenever someone manages to trick me I feel utterly gobsmacked. A couple of months back, I was contacted by an internet marketing company to which I’d submitted a resume. The man I spoke to was charming, funny and you got a sense right off that he was regular folk. Someone you could be friends with. Good, right?

After we hung up, he immediately sent a contract and some tax forms, which I filled out and sent back the next day. Then I didn’t hear from the fellow for over a week – just when I was about to give him up for lost. Again, he was charming and offered reasonable excuses which I accepted. After all, I wanted the work and he complimented me quite a bit on my blog which he said he had been reading.

Then a couple more weeks went by and again, as I was about to give him up for lost, the phone rang. He had work for me. And wasn’t I delighted to hear about that? He offered me a price, which I accepted and told him to send the info and it turned out to be a pretty healthy chunk of work, which I finished in about three days. They were press releases, not the main type of work he had called me about but some ‘extra’ work that he thought he’d throw my way. He also told me there would be no delay on the pay and that I had only to send him and invoice and as soon as he got it, he would write me a check and send it off. Okay, this is the part that gets dicey. A few days go by and no check. He is only two states over from me and 5 days certainly should have been enough time, since I emailed him the invoice with the last press release. Oh, and he’d already assured me that the client loved the work. So, what was the problem?

The client was out of town and they hadn’t paid him yet – but oh the other work was going to be a go in a few days and again being the anxious writer I was, I let the fact slip that our agreement was that he would pay the invoice on delivery, not when his client paid him. Stupidly, I began the other work and worked on it flat out for four days and go it to him 4 days ahead of schedule. No acknowledgement, no thank you for the work, nothing. When I finally called him he said he hadn’t had time to look at it – which was odd since the deadline he’d given me had passed. If that was the deadline wouldn’t it have made sense for him to have looked at it/edited it? I started to get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach but I’d invested time and work (all of which he had) and I had to continue to believe this was all going to work out fine.

The next day he sent me the pages with his edits, but he also sent me the pages of the other writer on the project and I saw that our pages were vastly different. It worried me that he hadn’t mentioned it – he hadn’t given me any guidelines, though I’d asked for them. But since he seemed okay with the pages I let it pass. He told me that once the client approved, he’d send out a check (which was the agreement). I also asked him about the check for the previous work and he said he was still waiting for his client to pay me.

Then I got a somewhat hysterical call from him two days later, saying the pages were wrong and claiming I’d lifted copy off another dentist’s website – which not only shocked me but made me feel sick to my stomach, as I didn’t lift anything from anywhere. I assured him that wasn’t the case and I offered to rewrite the pages more to the style of the other writer and he said okay. I rewrote the pages (50 of them) in about 36 hours. Just as I was ten pages from completion he called again and apologized for being so worked up and claimed he’d quit smoking and that’s why he’d been so anxious. I told him not to worry about it and finished the pages. I sent them the next day.

The day after that I recieved a cc of a mass email sent to all the writers saying payment had been scheduled and would be sent out Monday. Well, as it turned out it took 10 days for the payment to reach me and it was only for the previous ‘extra’ work – not for the pages.

When I called him again, he said the client was paying on the 15th (of May) and he would cut the checks the next day. The 15th was only few days away so I agreed, even though he’d had the pages for three weeks and they were already on his client’s website.

Well, and the rest of the story is this, after continually calling and emailing and getting false assurances that the check is on the way time and again, there is no check and I’m pretty sure there won’t ever be a check and that he never intended to pay me in the first place. Quite possibly the only reason he paid me the first check was in order to get me to do the work on the bigger project, realizing he couldnt’ stall me any longer and I wouldn’t deliver on the bigger job if he didn’t pay me the small check.

After reading this, you’re probably thinking, duh. And you’d be right to think so. You’d think that all the signs were pointing in the wrong direction and I should have seen them. And I did, sort of…but the guy was just so darn likeable and I just didn’t want to believe he was a shit. I just didn’t want to believe that somebody I liked would do something so shitty – that I’d been so naive and easy to take in.

So, what I’ve learned from this experience as well as a few others is this: Writers are often treated poorly, especially those who are striking out on their own newly and needy for work, the pay offered is close to being an insult and then not getting the small amount offered is even worse. From here on out, I don’t care if the person is charming or not, in fact, I may just shy away from charming perspective clients, I may just look for the just the facts, kind of client who sticks to business and keeps his word. And I will never ever work again on spec – if that means I get less offers than I guess it does. If that means I get no offers, that’s fine too because I can always go get a conventional job if I have to. But from here on out, a deposit is required for my services.

My advice to any writers out there, looking for work, don’t fall for this type of scam – they treat you nice and act like your friend but all they really want is work for free – even if he does utlimately end up paying me, it’s now been seven weeks since I completed the work and turned it in to him, yet he was paid by his client over a month ago. Is this the kind of client you want? I don’t think so.

As a writer you have to value your own work before someone else will. This writer has just begun doing that, as of now. I hope you do too.

21 thoughts on “Gobsmacked – Scammed Again

  1. GAH!!! You are gobsmacked and I’m so mad I could spit! That’s all I can say since you run a very clean site here…. I’m sorry Annie.

    Thanks, sweetie – live and learn I guess.


  2. Bottom line is, other idiot stick is not going to get anywhere running his business the way he is. Wasting our breath on any further comment is just that, a waste.

    As for you: You are God’s gift to publishing, and anybody ever expecting to reap from your valuable time or exquisite work will just have to let you know they are serious by handing over those green bills just so that you will consider them.

    Anybody who is really looking for good people will know that nobody who is talented and has a quality product will waste their time working for free or will even chance to work for free.

    We have to make a leap of faith anyway, so why not make one by asking for what we really want rather than giving people what we think they want so that we may eventually can get to what we want .

    Thank you for sharing Annie. We’ve learnt with you.

    Thanks for this – I know it’s silly but I’m really hurt. Hard not to take it personally. It’s just not something I would do to someone, so I can’t figure out why I deserved this. Why it happened. Where I went wrong. I don’t know…I suppose it’s best just to move on. Still…it’s difficult.


  3. Aw, WC, so sorry you ran into a jerk like this. To be honest, I wouldn’t know how to handle a remote deal like this; I commend you for daring to put yourself out there. Your break will come; hang in there.

    Thanks 30 – apparently, I don’t know how to handle things remotely either. It’s just when things like this happen, it’s so disappointing – not just on a personal level but overall. Generally speaking, I think that most people have their hearts in the right place – but when you run into one of these it shakes your faith in others – which is probably the worst thing about it.



  4. Geez, A. Gimme his email address. I’ll kick his proverbial electronic ass for you.
    Scum that eats scum off scum’s feet.
    Toe fungus.
    Pocket lint.

    Feel better?

    Thanks for the list of expletives – I can always use more. I’d give you his email address but I doubt it would make any difference – it’s too easy to delete emails without any effect, these days. I still feel like an idiot though – shame on me.



  5. Aw, Chica that sucks.
    You should not feel bad. You are just getting your bearings in freelance. Now you know.

    But i still agree with J, and would like to add a few more names to the list:

    box of rocks
    moronicus maximus
    sh!t bubble


    LOL Chica – shitbubble is a new one on me. Love that. And yeah, I guess it fits too.


  6. Ah man Annie, sorry people are sh*ts.

    I hope that man is reading this blog and feels like the assh*le he is acting like.

    Hey Honey,
    Naw, he isn’t reading this blog – and if he were, I doubt he feels the least bit guilty about it. If he had any guilt or remorse he’d at least have returned my calls and tried to work it out with me. He’s probably doing the happy dance that he managed to trick me and get something for nothing out of me. Unfortunately, I think too, that it will be a long time before karma catches up with him – if it does at all. Just my feeling.


  7. That sucks! They totally had you running around, and re-writing stuff and accusing you of “lifting” work and then have the nerve not to have payment within a reasonable time-frame. I’m sorry but no payment should EVER take more than a month. And even a month is being beyond generous as most people in the real world get paid every week or two. Grr. This makes me so mad for you – you deserve way better than this treatment. We need t start a forum for writers to warn others about their bad experiences (there are probably thousands of those already – this place should go in there).

    Actually Teens, I’ve been looking for forums and specifically for any other writers this might have happened to. I have a feeling they are out there. If I’m lucky I’ll run into a few and then maybe we can serve up some karma – but on the other hand, I’m not holding my breath either.

    Thanks, hon.



  8. Gawd, Annie! I’m so sorry! What a bloody jerk, but you do such a good job handling it with grace. It’s too bad such lessons have to hurt so bad. I take comfort in the knowledge that people like him get their own rewards in the end.

    I’m sure you will learn other lessons along the way in this journey, let’s just hope you have the big one out of the way now….


    Thanks, Jen – I hope the icky, crappy stuff is out of the way too. Time will tell. I just have to let it go and move on. I wish that were an easier thing to do.


  9. WC: So sorry to hear about your trouble. It really sucks when bad things like this happen to good people. I’m sure your story will help other aspiring freelancers. Also, I read an article about this very thing a few months ago and fortunately, I bookmarked the article:
    A lot of good info…
    Keep smiling! πŸ™‚
    – JOS

    Hey JOS,
    Thanks…You know I think I read that article recently, but I will check it out again. This is just one of those crappy things that happen I guess – hard not to take personally though.


  10. Everyone has pretty much said it all. I just don’t know how a person can do stuff like that and sleep at night. I hope he has horrible nightmares for the rest of his life. So there.

    You tell ’em, Joanie! Hey, if I get his address, will you go cane him for me? πŸ˜‰


  11. Darn it, Annie, why do bad things happen to good people? Think that’s a book title. I am so sorry for the time you put in and the hopes that were dashed to pieces. This is the pits!

    I am not a writer like you and many of the others here but I would probably fall easily into a scam. Don’t be hard on yourself..you have learned how to handle these things in the future and can consider it a hard earned education in the life of a writer.

    I agree with Spasmicallyperfect. Just wish I could give him names as C and J have done..but I don’t think they would be very ladylike. Know what I mean?

    Your day will come, yes, it will.


    Gee Ange, I really appreciate your unwavering faith in me and your support. It means a lot to me. The names we might call him I suppose don’t really matter. He is what he is – maybe someday he will change but I have no sway over that at all, so I can only try to be smarter next time.



  12. You’re not stupid. Just honest. There’s no shame in believing people are as good as you are. You’re a better person than he.
    At least you can sleep at night. I’m a firm believer in the whole “what goes around comes around”, so he’ll get his.
    Love you. Feel better. Be comforted in knowing that there is integrity in your work.

    You know, that smart, logical part of my brain hears you – but…then there is that other part that is still looking for the hidden answer. I’ll get over it…soon, I hope.

    Thanks for the nice thoughts. Love you too.


  13. “Out” him, Annie. What’s this jerk’s name?

    Let’s put it this way, Marianne – any writer who emails me privately, I will be happy to give the details to.


  14. Hi WC,

    That’s why I only do consulting work for locals whose home address I know.

    On the other hand, don’t feel too bad as anyone can make a mistake by trusting the wrong person. My wife, for instance, who has a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and has completed both an internship and residency, fell for an Internet scam not long ago. The site promised a $1,000 Target gift card if you bought some products. The first few products offered were things she wanted and came at a reasonable price, so she spent an hour buying stuff, thinking that the next screen would be the end and she’d get her gift card. A couple of hundred dollars later, the final screen appeared and she discovered that her choices were three expensive items, the cheapest of which was over $2,000, one of which she had to purchase to claim her prize. We’re still getting fancy coffee and the odd bit of cosmetics.

    the Grit

    And smart you are, Grit! I had to laugh about the ‘offer’ of a gift card. I used to click on those and then realized it was more a less a scam for credit cards and/or crap most people wouldn’t buy. Now, I just don’t believe them.


  15. Moral of this story – never sell yourself short – your value is higher than you sometimes demand.

    Hey Mark,
    Thanks. But you know, it’s a difficult thing trying to figure out your value in these terms. Though, it’s definitely worth more than he paid me, yes? πŸ˜‰


  16. UGH. stomping my feet and being grumpy FOR you. Ugh,ugh,ugh. You are WORTH a whole lot more!!! and always add an extra 10%.

    Thanks, honey. You wanna be my agent? πŸ˜‰


  17. oh my gosh … what a horrible horrible man and what an aweful thing to happen to you, i am so sorry!! sigh. i really hate it when stuff like this happens!

    I know…I hate it when I encounter people like this in my life – it’s depressing.


  18. I would have been the same if that’s any consoltaion Annie?!
    I decided long ago that that sort of writing isn’t my thing, but I wish it was because making money from fiction is laughable. You learnt a valuable lesson and now you can go on and be both brilliant and savvy – perfect!

    LOL Simonne, I’m not sure about that. And truth be told, doing this type of writing isn’t really my aspiration either – but I have done it and am good at it. I only expected fair exchange for my work.


  19. Annie,

    I am so glad to have found your blog. I also read your post at the Absolute Write Water Cooler. I am going to take the advice you were given.

    While I have worked on other projects with this individual and received payment with no issue, the last two projects have been quite a mystery – no returned phone calls, no emails, and no payment for about seven weeks.

    I’ve been waiting too long to receive these payments. I found this trend to be odd because the first payment I received from him was prompt. The second one was slightly delayed because he was waiting to get paid by the client. In this case, he went ahead and paid me even though he said he hadn’t been paid, so I thought we had a good thing going.

    The last two projects, though, total over a couple thousand dollars worth of work. As a single man, that’s about an entire month’s expenses. Needless to say, I haven’t been happy about that and neither have my landlord, insurance company, creditors, etc.

    Thanks for coming forth and sharing your experience. For a moment, I thought I was the only one going through this.

    I’m so glad you told me this. Like you, I thought I was the only one this had happened to and consequently, my frail writer’s ego got pretty beaten up. I kept wondering why I wasn’t good enough to have been paid – why I didn’t deserve to get paid. It’s an awful feeling.

    I’ve sent you a private email with some tips and info that might be useful. Please let me know how you fair with this situation.



  20. Annie- Have read your blogs & posts reg. S.R- & I feel your pain. He has done the same & yes the way you described, first one job, payment, hurry up need this new site etc is typical S.R. behavior as other wise he would never get any work done as he owes a TON of money to half a dozen(or more) writers. He owes us over $3500. Read my post at the Absolute Write Water Cooler. And no he will not give you a specific deadline or any help or advice, but boy shoots you in the foot if you cannot read his mind. I worked on the same dental site you did, turned down the press releases as he was too vague.We have found he lives beyond his means, gambles & drinks a wee bit too much-hell, he is drunk most weekends. We live just a few miles from him so have met him personally & know where he lives-this summer while apparently not paying the writers what he owed them he upgraded his Apt & furniture, bought a LAND ROVER!! & provided us w/2 cell phones til he got mad & cut them off b’cuz we were NOT available “24/7” to him!His radical phone calls & hang-ups to my hubby he put off to “drinking too much”. SO Professional!! He will get his-email me & Paul-you can email me as well for info & so we can stack the deck against him as he is bidding w/a client that we know for a 10,000 pg contract. He shared so much info w/us that we have enough to (hopefully) ruin him.

    Hey Bunny Ears,
    Thanks for coming by and giving me the 411 on the current situation. We’ll be in touch, via email and phone. πŸ˜‰


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