One of the blogger’s most sought-after opportunities is the ever-coveted sponsored post. As you grow your blog, you may be on the lookout for opportunities that allow you to reach a different audience, try new products, develop relationships with emerging and leading companies, or make a little extra cash. However, you may also come across one very unfortunate type of inquiry in your inbox: the email marketing scam.
I regularly receive emails in my inbox with someone reaching out to me that may appear on the surface to be a great opportunity. However, with a little inspection, I’m able to weed it out as a fake proposal or scam that can be potentially harmful to my personal information, or simply a waste of time.
Scammers can target bloggers because we typically keep our contact info publicly available. Our email address, Twitter and Instagram handles are able readily accessed publicly, so scammers can easily reach us and know things like your blog name and niche, which are used to tailor emails and make them seem realistic.
You know the emails: “Sally” from “Web Marketing, Inc” thinks you would be a great fit to produce a Pinterest board marketing their products. Or you may have received a message from a reputable company trying sell you marketing services or wanting to “collaborate”. I’ve read many posts about bloggers who took these inquiries seriously and either completely wasted their time or had their identities or personal information hacked or stolen. These types of messages aren’t always malicious, but you can often figure out if they are legitimate proposals by using a few techniques.
Spell-check the Message
One of the primary and most basic ways I can judge if a message is spam is by simply reading through the body of the email. While it’s true that we all make typos and have grammar mistakes, you can generally discern if a message was written by a reputable source by examining the language. Scammers are notorious for having terrible spelling and grammar, and a representative from a well-known or legitimate company or brand should at the very least be able to construct an email.
Do some Googling (or Bing-ing!)
Google is one of my very best friends during this process. Any time I am doubtful of the legitimacy of any issue, I simply use Google to help me. Try researching the name of the company if you’ve never heard of it before. Type in the company name with the word “scam” after it to find out if anyone else has talked about it. If another blogger is reaching out to you, search for their website and don’t click any links until you know it’s safe. Also, searching for the email address itself can lead you to more information about the message’s sender.
No Mention of Compensation
If you are working with a brand or another blogger there is no reason why they should be shy about addressing compensation. Most opportunities a blogger will encounter will be mutually beneficial for each party, whether the currency exchanged is exposure, products and services, or money. Every blogger will have their own set of guidelines for how they handle being compensated for branded content, but in my opinion, if a blogger requests a direct response about being paid for their work and the conversation becomes less specific or dodgy, it can be a sign that the project proposal may not be a great time investment or a scam. Whether you are receiving a mention on Twitter or coins in your checking account, I think that the question of compensation can aid in determining if you’re being targeted in an email scam.
Asking for Personal Info
One of the most important tips I can share is to beware of emails that ask for your personal information upfront. You should never have to give out things like your passwords, home address, bank account or credit card numbers, or social security number online, especially not to a source you’ve never heard of and don’t trust. Some email scams (as well as phone scams) will solicit your information along with a threat (“Respond with your Facebook password to avoid having your account disabled”). Some will ask you to connect on Skype or other un-monitored services in order to get access to your passwords. And as always, never click any links in an email you don’t trust.
Using these techniques will allow bloggers to make better judgments about the project proposals they receive via email, as well as remain protected against internet scammers.
Do you have other ways you decide which messages to mark as spam? Let me know in the comments below!