Beware the New Podcast Scam

Podcaster

Podcasts are becoming another source of scams that target book authors and anyone with a product or service to promote. While most podcasts are legitimate, it easy to create a podcast and use it to scam anyone who wants to be on the show. Authors and self-publishers can be especially vulnerable, since they are writing about topics that real podcasters want to talk about, and they are eager to get the publicity for their book. But sometimes the podcast can be a scam to get personal information and money. For now, though, it doesn’t appear there is much attention to the problem, since a search on Google doesn’t indicate any complaints or articles yet. But it’s very real.

Ironically, the host of a podcast warned me about these scams after I did an interview on the show for my recently published book The Big Con, featuring the stories of 10 victims of a book-to-film scam, and tips on how to avoid becoming victim. While I was talking to the host during a commercial break, she mentioned that podcast scams were now a growing problem, and three days later I experienced this myself.

The scam began when I received a phone call about 10 days before another podcast to talk about The Big Con, but I never received any confirming details about the podcast which is usual. Thus, I wasn’t sure I was actually going to be on the show, and I had only written down the time of the show and the host’s name. Since I heard nothing after the call and figured the podcast had been cancelled, at the scheduled time, I got a call from the producer as I was about to leave for a meeting, saying they were about to do the show, and she was relieved when I said I could do it if it was for a short time. When I asked how long the interview was, she said 5 or 10 minutes, and a moment later, the host was on the phone with me.

For the first three minutes, all seemed fine, as the host introduced me as a special guest who was there to talk about The Big Con and the victims in the book who were scammed. So I began talking about how there are so many scams today and how anyone, including professionals and experts in a field, can become victims. I also pointed out how there are scams in virtually every industry, and as I started talking about the victims of the book-to-film scam, the host said he had a caller.

The caller briefly mentioned being scammed himself, so now he wanted to be careful not to be scammed again, and he wanted to know what banks would be best to work with to protect himself. It was an unusual question, but I mentioned some of the bigger banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Then he wanted to know where I had my account. Initially, I told him that didn’t matter, because any of the big banks could help him, but he persisted, claiming he still wanted to know my bank, since I was the expert in this area and that would reassure him that he was making a good choice. I told him I wasn’t going to give out this information on the air, and after he asked why not and I repeated the same reason, the host broke in and said there was another caller on the line. While I should have been suspicious that this request for my bank information was the beginning of a scam, I initially thought this was a crank caller, so I continued the interview.

This time the caller wanted to know some personal questions about me, such as my age and was I married, and after I answered that, he asked what my phone number was, so we could talk personally. In hindsight, I realize this was very likely an effort to get personal identity information that could be combined with other information about me, and I should have ended the interview, but instead I simply said, I didn’t want to give out that information. Then, I tried to steer the conversation back to the original topic of scams.

But now there was another caller, this time someone with a very hard to understand English accent, who as best I could make out wanted to know what to do about someone who kept appearing or leaving things on her porch. Though I recommended she might call the local police, she gave some reason I couldn’t understand, and said she hoped I could give her the answer about what to do, since I was the expert. But since I couldn’t understand the rest of what she said, I simply told her that I couldn’t help, and I told the host I had only a few more minutes and had to leave.

“But one more caller,” the host said. This time the man who asked me about banks was back, and he had another question about what stocks and securities he should invest in. He proceeded to reel off a series of names that weren’t familiar to me, and I told him he should talk to a financial professional, since I only wrote about such topics if a client provided me with information about the subject, but I wasn’t an expert myself. But the caller just repeated his request saying he didn’t want to be scammed again and wanted to know more about my areas of expertise. So I referred him to some of my website, which in retrospect can be a mistake, since scammers can use the bio information and contact information on a website to build a personal profile about someone. Unfortunately, you need this information to demonstrate your authority and expertise to prospective publishers, agents, producers, clients, and customers. But this information also helps to open the door to scammers.

After that, since I had to leave, I told the host that I had to end the interview, and I thought that was that. But an hour later, I got a call from the guy who had asked about the banks and investing. He said he had managed to wheedle my phone number out of the host, and he wanted to know if I changed my mind about sharing the bank information in private with him. When I said no, he said that wasn’t what he was calling about. Instead, he wanted to know if I would have dinner with him. When I wondered how he expected to do that, since his phone number indicated he was in Philadelphia and I was in California near San Francisco, he had a ready explanation. He was in San Jose now, but he could come over. After I said no, I didn’t know him, he continued to find reasons I should meet him, including telling me I should go out and enjoy a good meal with good company, after I told him I already had food in the house. At some point I told him I didn’t want to continue the conversation unless he gave me his email and so I could see who he was, since I didn’t know anything about him. After he explained that he didn’t want to give me this information, since he didn’t know who I was either and offered to give it to me when we met, I told him I was hanging up, and I did. So I guess you could call that effort to get more information from me Scam Attempt #2.

Yet this mystery caller wasn’t done with his effort. Two minutes later he called back, and I let his call go to voice mail. He tried one more time, and after his call went to voice mail, he hung up.

A minute later, I got a call from the host from a Utah exchange, saying he wanted to apologize for giving out my phone number, and he was sorry that the caller had bothered me. So this was Scam Attempt #3. At the time, I didn’t consider how the host would know that the caller had bothered me, but often things that don’t make sense, seem reasonable at the time. The host said he even had the caller on the line, and he was sorry, too. Thus, I thought this was a sincere apology, and after I heard some garbled conversation of three people talking at once on the line, the host said that he had discussed this with the producer, so they wanted to give the $500 for my trouble. “That’s nice,” I commented, not really sure what to say, and when I asked for more information about why they were doing that, the host said they could make it $1000, since they didn’t want any trouble, and their lawyer was drawing up the contract. In retrospect, I realized this was really their third attempt to get personal information from me, since they would certainly ask for additional information for any contract. Besides any offer to suddenly pay me so much money for a difficult caller and then up the offer was certainly fishy. When I didn’t respond right away because his offers to pay me seemed so odd, it sounded like the three people was talking again. Then, I heard the host or caller say: “Maybe we could invite you to a three way.” At that point, I said “I’m hanging up,” and I did. After that there were no more calls.

Later that evening both I and an associate producer tried to look into who this podcaster was and if this was a real podcast. The result was that we only found one listing about a show with that podcast name and the name of a different host on a site that features different podcasters seeking guests. While the podcast’s call for guests indicated they had 100–150 live listeners and 1000 downloads in a month for each show, their website went to a “domain names for sale” site. And there was nothing more about their show in a search on Google. Thus, it seemed likely the show no longer existed if it ever did, and the supposed podcast interview with me was in reality a phone call with the host, show “producer,” and a few callers sitting around acting as if this was a real show with callers.

I’m not exactly sure exactly how the “podcast” was set up, but in retrospect, I’m 99% sure it was all a scam to get personal identity information from me that could then be used in other scams. In any case, it served a wake-up call about a new type of scam based on creating what appears to be a real podcast in order to get information from people who think they are being interviewed to help promote their book, product, or service.

Thus, if someone calls or emails you about being a guest on a show, ask for some identifying information about the show, including a website, email, a presence in the industry, and the like. Also, most podcasts will have some correspondence with you about when to schedule the interview or send you an online calendar link where you can indicate your preferences. Plus, you are likely to get a follow-up email indicating what to prepare or send to the host or producer for the interview, such a bio, questions about your topic, a photograph, and a summary or PDF about your book, product, or service. Later, you will usually get a confirmation about the call or a Zoom link, so you can connect for the interview. Accordingly, be cautious when you get a request for an interview, especially if you haven’t contacted that show or done any recent promotions to podcasters. The invitation to be on the show could be for real or it could be a scam. So if anything doesn’t seem right about the pitch, especially if you have limited information about the podcast, do more checking to see if it’s real or not.

The author is internationally published author and film producer, Gini Graham Scott, PhD, who has published over 200 books, 50 for traditional publishers and 150 for her own company Changemakers Publishing, specializing in books on self-help, popular business, and social issues. She is the author of The Big Con: Scams Targeting Writers, the Victims, and How to Avoid Becoming a Victim, and she is working on a new book on different types of scams: I Was Scammed. Other recent books include: What Type of Dog Are You? and The New American Middle Ages, published by Waterside Productions. She has written and executive produced 14 feature films and documentaries, featured on the www.changemakersproductionsfilms.com website. She also writes books and scripts for clients. Her website for writing is at www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact:

Karen Andrews

Executive Assistant to Gini Graham Scott

Changemakers Publishing and Writing

Lafayette, CA 94549 . (925) 385–0608

changemakers@pacbell.net

www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com

--

--

--

GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., J.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar leader, who has published over 200 books.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Behind the Scenes in Vistatec

How to Get Better at Talking to People

Not many people are accepting mistakes

Deciding what’s normal

Gratitude journal 15

Career Fermentation

Meet an Innovator: Haley Hoffman Smith

A Comparison of Digital Maturity Assessment Methodologies

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Gini Graham Scott

Gini Graham Scott

GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., J.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar leader, who has published over 200 books.

More from Medium

How to make a living from influence?

Is it really 2022?

Peachscore is Headed to Vegas!

Do I have something of value to share to the world?