In May, I wrote about the annoying and unrelenting phone calls and texts I had been receiving from questionable salespeople supposedly representing “traditional publishers,” purportedly trying to lure me into a “contract” for “re-publishing” one of my books. At that time, one particularly annoying consultant—as they prefer to call themselves—had been persistently hounding me. “Carl” called me daily at the same time every afternoon from the same phone number, a much-used San Diego area code. I doubted he was physically in San Diego because, as most tech savvy people know, anyone can spoof any phone number to achieve desired results. In my experience, I have discovered that many telemarketers are based overseas, even though they call using US area codes. It’s essential to their attack plan.
Carl’s calls and texts abruptly stopped after a few weeks, and I assumed he moved on to another author or to a more lucrative line of work. However, calls from the same San Diego phone number began about a month later and the caller this time was a woman, who left the exact message Carl had: a traditional publisher wants to re-publish one of my books. Here we go again. I deleted her voice message and, surprisingly, never heard from her again.
Literary Agents Abound
But the party didn’t stop when the San Diego calls ceased. No, things were just heating up. It was summertime, after all. Calls from Wyoming and Massachusetts, and then last week, a call from Avalon, California—the only city on Santa Catalina Island and part of Los Angeles County. This fresh batch of salespeople also claimed they were “literary agents,” though their distinctive East Indian accents revealed that English was not their mother tongues. Indeed, every consultant that has ever called me sounded like he or she was really calling from a foreign country (spoofed phone numbers). The latest consultant with the Avalon area code claimed his name was “Derek Morris.” Right. And I’m the Queen of Sheba.
I had answered the call from Derek because I wasn’t suspicious of the area code, and I thought it could have been a business call. (I have candidates all over Southern California.) Even as I answered in my usual way by identifying myself by my first name, Derek was already talking over me, clearly reading from his script, saying he is a literary agent, wanting to talk about one of my books, Day of Reckoning. Tamping down my initial reaction to respond rudely and tell him I’m not interested—as a recruiter, I also make unsolicited phone calls and most people don’t want to hear what I have to say—I politely interrupted him and said I couldn’t talk as I was at work. He said he’d email me and would call me another time. Great.
Still, he got in the last words before I disconnected the call: “I wanted to inform you that we have received a response from a traditional publisher regarding your book.”
Turns out, it is the behemoth publishing house of Simon & Schuster who is interested in my book. Derek probably thought I’d continue talking to him when I heard that famous name, but he’d be wrong. I wasn’t born yesterday, and I know a scam when I hear one.
Literary Scams Are the New IRS Scams
Speaking of scams, yet another call came in the following day, this one from an “862” area code, a New Jersey exchange. My gut told me it was likely another phony literary agent, so I let it go to voicemail. Typing in that area code in a search engine, I discovered there were numerous entries in Yahoo for 862 being an area code used by various types of scammers. Isn’t that special! We’re on to a new trend of grifters.
Curious, I listened to the New Jersey message later that day and sure enough, it was from a woman who called herself “Inga,” who said she was from “Author’s Creative Media.” Obviously reading from a script, Inga forthrightly told me I was “nominated to get a $500 coupon for the Ruben Crawford TV Show.” Who the heck is Ruben Crawford? Who gets nominated to receive a coupon for a TV show? Why target authors? Are we the newest prey for con artists? More importantly, are there really that many of us authors out there to be scammed?
Inga droned on about how it would be a “great partnership collaboration between us,” so please call her back. I have no idea who the “us” is in this game and don’t want to know.
But I must give Inga the award for Best in Show. At least her gimmick was unique and one I had never heard of.