Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Are Screenwriters the Easy Target for Internet Scams?

Because of previous Post this weekend, one could call this -- Looking Out for my Fellow Screenwriters Part 2

We all know there are scams baited everyday and sent out across the Internet.  
And I believe one of the groups most vulnerable to grabbing the bait are Fledging Screenwriters. 
It seems like everyone has a screenplay that they want to get produced. And I'm no longer talking about writers living just in the United States, but all over the world. So many people out there dream of writing a Screenplay that ends up being Produced that it must be a con artist's wet dream when he thinks of all the possible targets. 

A recent post on Linkedin (via a group I'm a member of - Film & TV Professionals) caught my eye and I checked it out:  

Barbara Akpa
CEO/Fashion Designer at CAB'S Couture

Hi Everyone, we are launching a new platform for undiscovered scriptwriters which will help movie producers and directors connect with them easily. Media coys are invited to partner with us. 

Honestly, I was shocked to see how many people responded to the original post by Barbara Akpa because the person who posted was a self-described Fashion Designer in Nigeria (and of course it didn't help that the poster was from Nigeria, which is the punchline to many jokes about Internet scams). Unfortunately, many of the people writing replies to BA's post included their email addresses and other personal info, which of course, is often the first step in any Internet scam. But perhaps even more troubling was the content and tone of those who replied to the "launching a new platform for undiscovered scriptwriters" bait.  Here's a small sample of the replies --

Please add me to your list.
Add me too, i am interested.
You Know i have a great idea for a documentary that I would love to share with someone who is willing to work with me to make it into an awesome two to three episode maybe 4 movie. Is there anyone on this team that is willing to hear me out and tell me if this will fly. I am tired of waiting for others to do what I should have done a while ago. So do I have any interested people who want to set up a conference call or meeting?
Add me too, i am interested
Sounds like something I'd be interested in. Starting a production company, and would love to meet line producers and investors.I am very interested in learning more about this platform. I am an avid writer, as most of my stories are within the horror and drama genres.
I want in on this! Can we post scripts?
Great job!
Have a number of projects to list when you are ready for data.
Where and when?
I would like to learn more as well.
I have just started writing something and would love to know more!
i am basically film director and i have written a script and dialogues in Hindi ,for low budget commercial film ,the story is based on awarded novel ,i need a producer / financier
I'd love to hear more about it! I have plenty of friends who fall under the "undiscovered writer" category.
Add me to notifications. I am interested. I have a heep of undiscovered scripts on my desk. This sounds great.

Finally, the long list of unquestioning replies was broken up by JACK FELSON who posts a single question -- A fashion designer getting involved in filmmaking?

Barbara Akpa doesn't respond to Jack Felson's single question post. And why should she? The replies coming from undiscovered screenwriters out there continues after Jack Felson's post as if there is no problem --  

Brilliant - help at last...
I would like to connect for few fiction and nonfiction series.
Sounds very interesting...would like to learn more
How When Where, etc.). I am very interested.
As everyone stated before me, please keep us informed. I'm definitely interested.
Where do I sign up. IMDB me, I've written and worked on a number of film projects.
I am a writer and editor and a member of the Writers Guild of America.

Three weeks after Barbara Akpa's original post, a David Vernon writes a reply -- The owner of this posting appears to be a false scam account. Not sure how group owner allowed member. Hopefully will delete post and member.

This time Barbara Akpa does respond -- Hi David Vernon, I think it's very disappointing when a fellow business person tries to talk down or lay accusations he can't prove.

Despite this on screen exchange between BA and David Vernon, group members continue to pursue the opportunity that Barbara Akpa dangled in front of them weeks ago -- 

If it's in my lane I have several ideas and some past stories on military; families and (G-PG-R) Rated material!
Great job!
That'sgreat. Love to hear more about it so I can pass it along. Keep me informed.
Sounds like something I'd be interested in. Starting a production company, and would love to meet line producers and investors.

The last quote I listed above was from a post someone put up about an hour before I wrote this piece. 

There are many personal or emotional vulnerabilities con people look for when sizing up a potential mark. Greed is one of the obvious ones, but often times this isn't always the easiest one to exploit.  Not that greed isn't almost always in play, but a good con artist is usually looking for another trait to manipulate. Desperation, Naivete, and a victim's lack of Self-Awareness are all personality flaws that invite exploitation from those who have become experts at conning people out of their money. This is true regardless of where the trap is set -- in a boardroom... a dark alley... or at a dining room table where the con artist is surrounded by family and friends, who often turn out to be the con artist's first victims. 
But the best theatre of operation for grifters is the Internet. 
And right now I see a lot of vulnerable screenwriters who might as well be wearing tee shirts with painted targets. Why?
People who con others for a living know that the easiest marks are those who define themselves by the dreams that have not come true. 

UPDATE 08-23-16 6PM  I just checked the link to Barbara Akpa's original post. It has not been removed. It's still up in the Linkedin "Film and TV Professionals" group posting area, attracting more replies. 336 responses so far to the original post.