Eva van Emden (she/her), freelance editor

Certified copy editor and proofreader


November 29, 2011

A scam that targets editors

(Updated February 2021.)

This morning I got a scam request to write an article for an upcoming workshop. The writer mentioned having a speech-distorting condition called apraxia to explain why they preferred to use email and SMS rather than phone conversations. This is fine, but once I asked for more information about the project, the classic characteristics of the scam started to become clear, and when I Googled a few key items in the message plus the word “scam,” I found other people talking about this exact format of scam.

This isn’t the first time I or an editor I know has been approached for a cheque overpayment scam. Here’s how it works: the message is about an editing or translation job, typically with a very quick turnaround time. The client pays by cheque. After the payment has been made, the client “discovers” that they have overpaid and asks the editor to send back the overpayment, or the payer asks the editor to send some money on to another payee. After the editor cashes the client’s cheque, it turns out to be invalid.

Signs that an editing job might be a scam

Watch out for the following clues that something might be wrong with a message about a job.
  • There are signs that the client is contacting many people at the same time. The email you receive might not be addressed to you by name, or you are bcc’d on an email addressed to someone else.
  • The information about the client is incomplete or inconsistent. For example, it’s signed “Sandy Smith” but the email address is “joe-bloggs@domain.com.” Or the name of the person writing to you doesn’t match the byline of the attached article they say they wrote.
  • The client doesn’t seem to care about who you are and what your qualifications are, and they don’t seem to care about the quality or details of the project. In my experience, this has been the tip-off. Real clients who want to pay you to work for them really care about their project and are anxious to hire someone who will do a good job. When you ask for more information about the project, they’re usually eager to give it to you. The scammers come across as strangely hurried and indifferent.

How to protect yourself

Be observant when you get email from a potential new client. Try searching online for the name and email address and see whether they are connected to an existing person. Look for details that show that the project is a real project. And be cautious with cheques from new clients you don’t have complete confidence in.
  • Make sure the name of the issuer of the cheque matches the name of the client. Do a web search on the name of the client and name of the cheque issuer.
  • Be very suspicious of a cheque for too much money. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre recommends against accepting any cheque for more than you are owed.
  • Be aware that just because the money is made available in your bank account, that doesn’t mean the cheque was valid. According to a CBC article on this scam, “Depending on how good the counterfeit is, it can take weeks for a financial institution to detect the fraud. By then, the scammers are long gone with the money, and the victim is on the hook for the amount on the cheque.”
  • Consider using PayPal, Interac e-transfer, or bank transfers.
  • You can decrease your risk by asking for a deposit before starting work, but again, consider that bad cheques can take time to make themselves known.

Further reading

November 22, 2011

Anne McCaffrey

Dragonsong cover I was sorry to hear that Anne McCaffrey died today. I was about twelve or thirteen when I read Dragonsong. It must have been one my first forays into speculative fiction; I remember the strange words—“sevenday,” “blackstone”—and the foreignness of the names of the characters and places. I struggled to understand the mysterious Thread, but I didn’t have any trouble imagining the dragons. Giant, gentle, flying, talking animals don’t need much explanation.

In the years after I read Dragonsong, I read almost all of the other dragonriders books, as well as a selection of her other books. Her characters were thoroughly imagined and their relationships had depth and richness. I appreciated that the people in her books weren’t threatened by mystical forces of evil; they were threatened by natural forces, and by their own inability to work together to solve their problems. They were saved by personal courage and sacrifice.

I still have a selection of my favourite dragonriders books on the shelf, including the lovely edition of Dragonsong shown here. Thank you, Anne McCaffrey.

November 1, 2011

Try hand-kerning some tricky pieces of text

Badly kerned letters This online kerning exercise presents you with words in different fonts and invites you to drag the letters around for the best spacing. Then see how your solution matches the typographer’s solution.

Thanks, Christina Vasilevski for the link.