So, I got hit with a classic scam again today.
The I want to do business with you, here is a check for more than you asked, please forward the extra to my associate scam. I loved it, because it started with a text from a random number (my phone number is available online, see bottom of the page). Now, I do not start by assuming any request for my business is a scam. After all, that is why I have a website with my phone number on it, so people will call.
But, after reading “i have small scale business” and other generically poor English skills, I thought there was no way this could be true.
And sure enough, it was a classic scam.
But, for your reading enjoyment (and information on how to not sound like a scammer or do sound like one, whatever floats your boat), here are 7 rules you should follow:
- Consistency – One of my customers never capitalizes anything. Not I, not the beginning of the sentence, and not proper names. Guess what? I know there is a real business owner at the end of that email: he loves numbers and thinks proper grammar is not for emails. Consistency in grammar usage builds trust with people who are reading your writing. I try to use proper grammar as much as possible (but obviously I love to use parenthetical asides to the point they caused some lower grades in university, oh well).
- Understand Determiners – For a classical English lover, a determiner is a type of adjective, for an ESL teacher a determiner is one of the types of speech, it includes numbers, articles, and the ubiquitous null determiner. My scammer today used the wrong determiner several times including “i have small scale business” (missing a or this) and ” turn into large scale business” (missing a). While I commend the copywriter of this canned email for trying to use null determiners, I must give them a fail grade and require them to rewrite it.
- Use Punctuation – I don’t care whether you never write in complete sentences. Punctuate. You can overuse many forms of punctuation (parentheses are some of mine)… including the proverbial ellipses… used for any and all punctuation when you want to show a pause in thought, but not necessarily in grammar. My beautifully crafted email has two periods in the body of the text. It is 12 sentences long.
- Cut, Cut, Cut – My spammer happened to say “the site I gave you to check out” four times in the original email. This was an email with less than 500 words, which means that nearly 10% of the words in the document were one phrase, repeated. Whether you are scamming, or just trying to sound somewhat professional, you need to cut the fluff, especially copy/pasted phrases.
- Communicate – You send me one email and ask for an estimate, I reply with one sentence: “I think I can do that site for $8,562.” This is a significant amount of money; no one should say yes, in writing, to an amount that large without asking some questions. Additionally, I made it oddly specific, no ball-park estimate or rounded figure. If you are going to communicate with someone, communicate. A single sentence will never be enough information to decide a business relationship on, especially when you are online. The only opportunity I have to connect with you online is the content I write. Yes, if we meet person-to-person, you may look at me, ask what I charge and then say, “I can do that,” but even then, we will have to follow up and iron out the details later.
- Don’t Bury The Lead – Scammers need to bury their lead, because they commonly use bait-and-switch to deliver a lead that you don’t want on top of one you do. In this case, the lead should have been: “I’ll give you money from a stolen card if you send me some back.” But, then who would do that? In good content writing, you need to make certain that the important information (the lead) is right up front.
- Check Your Information – A Google phone number from Michigan texted me and asked for my email. The email I received said he lived in Ohio, and was a generic address from Outlook.com. Needless to say, as soon as I realized the different states, I started to be suspicious. Now, I understand that sometimes this is unavoidable, I actually ran into this with the business name Paul Davis Solutions; the fact that I had multiple email addresses, websites, and addresses got my business Google + page unlisted. Now I have to find and cut information across the web and make certain that everything lines up. Whether you are legitimately confused (me) or illegitimately trying to scam someone, you need to have consistent information across all platforms.