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  • Writer's pictureS. Jennifer Paulson

Beware of Phishing Scams Targeting Indie Authors for Reviews and Publicity

Updated: May 21

They almost got me.


A person who claimed to be from a major media outlet kept Facebook messaging me about their interest in Boomerang, and my heart skipped a minor beat.

But I was wary. My gut immediately told me. What are the chances?

Something’s off.

Yet there was that one hopeful part in me, Maybe it’s legit. Maybe. Someone has to make it and be discovered. There are first-time authors (indie and traditional) out there who nail it on round one. Think Colleen Hoover (Slammed, the start of her empire), Alex Michaelides (The Silent Patient), Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train) and Andy Weir (The Martian). Just be smart about it, I told myself.

author writing
Phishers don't care about your dream. They want in to your wallet.

I cautiously responded.

I communicated with this person a little. They showed me some of their “work” for this respectable media site. And being the former journalist I am, I started poking around. Just googling their name and purported employer, I came up with zilch. So, I started asking questions, like what their role was, if they were a staffer or freelancer and requested an email address (which I was hoping would have the site’s handle in it).

I explained, I am rightfully concerned and SHOULD be asking these questions. My inbox is bombarded daily by spammers and phishers, trying to get me to work with them. Real reporters understand.  

But this one’s responses offered no comfort.

I don't provide a link for my account majorly because of security and self-promotion, platform policies...

When I finally somehow wrangled a Gmail address out of them, they added they don’t use it and the inbox was full (uh, sure). I grew even more suspicious. Even though my heart was pumping, and my thinking was wishful that maybe, just maybe, this could be my break.

You have got the right person..I would love to review your book and also hand it to the editorial staff for a read...I hope you know what it means for an editorial staff of the (site) to review your book also... I can certainly assure you of easy massive popularity and value

My Spidey senses kicked in.

I asked for further proof to verify if they did work for the site they claimed to. They asked for my email address, home address and more.

I asked why my home address was needed.

And then I got the guilt treatment.

Hey...if there's know (sic) trust in our goals which is to promote popularity and value to your book then you let me know,We (sic) can't work together if there is no iota of credence

Yes, a so-called journalist didn’t know that “know” should have been “no.” And a real journalist wouldn’t speak to a potential story lead like that. Plus, they would have a basic grasp on spelling and grammar.

At least the real journalists I know.

I asked them flat out if this was a paid service.

I can't guarantee you that...You need to have a word with the editor staffs and gree (sic) on terms with her

Another misspelling. And a total scam. No media outlet that’s legit has the source pay for coverage. And what a crappy way to get a story scoop.

spam phishing author spamming
Good lord, there are SO MANY spammers and phishers out there!

So, I blocked them.

Did I blow it? Was this my big chance?

Doubtful. I smelled phishing scams targeting indie authors.

But that’s my reality.

In addition to us indie authors writing, writing more books, social media, marketing, blogging, sending out newsletters, updating websites, advertising, contacting the press, figuring our if we should record an audiobook (or hire someone for it) and so on, we have to deal with this nonsense. (I will confess here that I have spent money on advertising on various platforms, including a couple of paid promotions. I know, I know. That's not great. But I'm trying to get the word out. And if someone sharing my book image and link helps get it in front of a few more eyes, it's worth a few bucks. Though my hopes are not high those will help that much.)

It’s exhausting. And depressing.

Yes, I want nothing more than to live out my childhood author dreams for a real living as an adult. But I know there are so many hurdles.  

This is one of them.

If you’ve read Boomerang, dropping a simple review on Amazon or Goodreads means so much to me. (I could cry from some of them, they touched my heart so much.) Hell, I’ll take a star rating alone if you have no time to write a few sentences.

Fellow indies, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section. And readers, know that I truly appreciate you. I value every legit review out there, even the ones that aren’t so favorable.

Because at least you’re honest about their feelings. And real.

As always, I welcome comments and communication. Real communication. And I am happy to engage with real readers.

Right after I do my daily inbox spam-blasting.

You can find Boomerang on Amazon, Barnes & Noble online, Kobo, Apple Books, Google Play and more. Click here. Or google it for your own sense of safety.


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Hi, readers! I’m S. Jennifer Paulson, a former journalist who has been pecking away at my debut novel for years. You know, in between work, helping my husband with his business, grad school and being a wife and mom. So, I’ll be sharing about the writing journey, as well as musings on everyday life — and the things going on around us — from the world of books to beyond. So grab a cup of coffee and join me on my journey to publishing my first book. It’s gonna be an interesting ride.

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