Why you should always know your email address

Mis-addressed emails is a common occurrence, particularly with one of my first accounts. On any given day I receive two or three emails intended for someone else. Most commonly, I receive welcome emails from mailing lists. But once in a while I get something more interesting. This one, at first glance, seemed like all the other mailing lists and scams, including typos.

Important Reminder:

Dear amanda chemist,

Incase you haven’t received our previous emails, we wanted to reming you that we would like to publish your essay on our website. By having your essay published, you will have a personal page on CollegeInquirer.com with your name, your full essay, and a line at the top of the page that says “This essay was selected for publication by the Chief Editor of The College Inquirer.”
(Your page will look like this: www.collegeinquirer.com/YourNameHere).

We’ve already published several of our selected essays, and we can’t wait to publish yours! Here are a few links you can look at to see exactly what your essay will look like once published:

- http://www.collegeinquirer.com/barryhale
- http://www.collegeinquirer.com/chaylaervin

By accepting this invitation to have your essay published, you join an exclusive group of students whose written works have been published on the College Inquirer. You can use this to your advantage in college applications, scholarship applications, job resumes, etc. Any time you need to “get ahead” of your competition, you can simply include your link and show them that you have a published, writeen essay on a major editorial website. This will increase your chances of receiving scholarships or getting accepted to schools you may want to attend!

To have your essay published, there is a $15 administrative fee that is intended to cover the expenses of editing, publishing, and hosting your essay on our website. Whenever you are ready to publish your essay, just click the link below to start the process:

Click Here To Pay The $15 Administrative Fee ->

Thanks again, and if you have any questions, please feel free to email us at [email protected]

The College Inquirer Editorial Staff

I initially ignored this, as it is a well-known scam. However, later that day I received  a second email from the same site:

To all applicants for the College Inquirer $750 Scholarship Contest whose essays have been selected for publication:

Good evening. We have received several complaints and confused emails throughout the day from students who feel that they may be getting “scammed”. We wanted to make an important clarification about our offer to publish your essay.

1) FAQ #1: “Did you select a winner, and am I the winner?”

The short answer is: NO. We did not state in any way, shape or form that we had selected a winner for our scholarship, nor did we lead anyone to believe that it meant you were a winner if we were offering to publish your scholarship. We made it very clear on our website and in all of our email communications that the scholarship deadline is August 14th, 2011. At that time, a winner will be selected. No one has won the scholarship or has been told they won the scholarship yet. So for all of you who are complaining or posting in online-blogs that you were told you were a scholarship winner, you are lying, and we respectfully ask you to stop attempting to deceive others and slander our organization.

See liink2) FAQ #2: “I thought I was special because they wanted to publish my essay but everyone is getting this email!”

The short answer is: You are special. And no, we did NOT send everyone this email offering to publish their essay. You and several hundred other students have been selected to have your essay published, but it is 100% your choice and you are not required to do so. We have received over 6,000 applications for this scholarship. Only a select number of you wrote essays that were good enough to be published. You were one of them.

3) FAQ #3: “They are making me pay $15 and ripping me off so this is a scam!!”

The short answer is: No we are not “making” you do anything. Because we know the value of having your work published on a major editorial website, we are offering to publish your essay. If you choose to publish your essay, it will be to your advantage in many different areas. We are just one of thousands of companies who publish students essays in our major journal for a small fee. It is very simple: If you would like us to publish your essay, we will do so for a $15 administrative fee to cover our operating expenses. If you do not want to have your essay published, you may ignore the offer, and go on with your business. When you see an advertisement on TV for Health Insurance, do you consider it a scam simply because they are advertising their service (insurance) and telling you the price? Then why would you consider this a scam simply because we are advertising our service (essay publication) and telling you the price? Simply put, that is pure nonsense.

No one is required to pay the admin fee to publish their essay. That is your choice, because you have the ability to make your own decision. We are not coersing or twisting your arm into anything. The fewer essays that are published, the better it is for the people who have theirs published. We would PREFER to only publish a few of the essays, and the administrative fee is just that: a fee to cover the expenses of publication. Nothing more, nothing less.

We trust now that as educated and intelligent students, you are able to understand the simple principles of business, and will cease the practice of foolishly calling this a “scam”.

Respectfully yours,

Olivia Martin
President & CEO
The College Inquirer

You are receiving this email because you applied for The College Inquirer “CollegeTalk” Scholarship. To unsubscribe at any time, simply follow the “Unsubscribe” link in this email.

The College Inquirer

6652 Overland Drive

Colorado Springs, CO 80919

This blatant and rude attempt at convincing  marks that this website is indeed legitimate, persuaded me to do some more digging.

Looking more closely at the second email comments, the scammer initially states that he has never lead anyone to believe that they were the winner (which looking at their site, seems to be correct). He, then attempts to clarify that not everyone is receiving this email and  that *you* are special, one of only hundreds. At $15 per essay (admin costs, you know) and assuming a worst-case of only 100 essays, he will receive $1500 — double the value of the scholarship.

I am not sure what the admin fees pay for. The site is hosted for free on WordPress and a lack of editing (and quality) is clear in the essays posted (See sample here, sorry Shakia).

He then posts that this is NOT a scam, but in fact “a major editorial website”. I have no record of this site existing before the 24th of March, 2011.  How he was able to establish a major editorial website in two months, is a little stretch. In today’s world of blogs, Facebook and other social networking means, my dog, who likes to climb out of moving vehicles, can be published online. So make sure that “major editorial websites” are reputable, have a long and good standing in the media, have actual content, hosted on their own infrastructure, and do not use free email services like gmail. (You can also check out this blog, which talks about the collegeinquirer scam as well)

Another problem about the email: Legitimate businesses never need to convince customers/users that they are indeed legitimate. As soon as one writes “this is not a scam”,  a little warning signal should flash in the back of your head. When does Amazon, eBay, your online banking service ever tell you “this offer/service is not a scam”? Never.

Also, the attitude towards his potential marks, is particularly rude, not a strategy any legitimate business normally uses. Accusing your customer of being ignorant or in the wrong is never a good business model. When a person get offended by somone’s accusation, normally it’s because they (the accuser)  are telling the truth.

With some more research, we came across another one of his websites,  and then a couple more. You can see how they are related on the diagram below.

I do not want to give away details of the scammer, but it was clear to me that he made a lot of obvious mistakes protecting his own privacy. He also seemed confused as the email indicates a Colorado headquarters whereas the site lists the headquarters in Texas.

Addresses, phone numbers and other personal data are easy enough to obtain on the internet. If you are a scammer, you should be a little more conscientious of this fact. (That bike for sale did seem a little pricey).

So if someone on the internet is ever asking you for personal information or money, check around and see if it is for real.

And to all those who don’t know their own email address (especially if you think it is mine), please stop falling for these scams! Even in today’s modern world,  that old saying still applies  ‘if it seems like it’s too good to be true, it probably is’.