New Nigerian scam targets writers

A new Nigerian scam targets writers. Here is how to recognize it, even if they say they’re from Ghana. Or Vietnam. Or Finland.

If you get an email from Nigeria, it’s a scam, right?  Not necessarily.  Nigeria is a big country – 173 million people, most of them real and honest.  And the “Nigerian scam” is so famous by now, that anybody trying to pull a scam would make sure NOT to say they are from Nigeria, right?

Not so.  In fact, there is a scam targeting writers – yes, writers! – that is being run by Nigerians (or people claiming to be Nigerian, perhaps for the notoriety?).

Writers beware of scam

The first clue is that it comes from Nigeria. I am in Canada, and I don’t expect to get a request to edit documents from Nigeria, nor from anywhere in the Third World. People usually outsource overseas to cut costs. Why would someone from low-cost Nigeria outsource to high-cost Canada? The explanation was actually plausible, although just marginally – too much work to do, not enough staff, therefore have to outsource overseas, etc.

When I first got the message, I was not thinking scam. I was thinking, “Yeah, right. They’ll want to pay starvation rates.” But I responded just to see what they had in mind.

What they had in mind was a contract for full-time employment for six months. That kind of shocked me, since I was expecting a short-term, project-based proposal.

The second shock was the US$73,920 remuneration. OK, “shock” is the wrong word. “Red flag” would be more accurate. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Nobody pays an editor $148,000 a year. Nobody. Certainly not a consulting firm in Nigeria (unless they are part of organized crime and need you to keep your mouth closed – I have read The Firm – but I confess that such a possibility did not cross my mind until I sat down to write this blog post).

The next red flag – are you keeping track of these? – is that the contract was sloppily written:

You shall conform to 8hours daily {Mondays –Fridays} work for the period of 132 days.

Your voluntary decision to desist is subject to 7 days notice in writing or payment in lieu of notice.

If they can afford to pay $148,000 for editors, why can they not afford $25 to have somebody proofread their legal documents?

The next red flag is that the numbers in the contract don’t add up. The full-time employment of “8hours daily” in one place, turns out to be “5 hours [Daily]” in another. That’s a pretty huge error in a contract.

But the biggest red flag is the show stopper. I can’t think of any way to say it better than to just quote the paragraph from the contract in full:

8. LOGISTIC FEE: All international/online editors and writers are required to pay our consulting/file fee of two hundred & fifty United States dollars [US$250] only.

Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever accept a writing job that requires you to pay the client or the employer. Never. Not ever. Not a writing job, nor any other job. Did I mention “not ever”? If the client or employer wants you to pay them, they are not a client or an employer. They are a thief.

A scammer.

A fraudster.

A magpie.

And in this case, they are targeting writers. You have been warned. As tempting as it is to make $73,920, there is no glory in paying $250 for the privilege of NOT making $73,920.

But there is one possible benefit from this new writer scam. It would make a great basis for a novel, the heroic (but unfortunately gullible) starving writer, traveling around the globe, trying to track down the Nigerian writing scam cartel. What do you think?

About David Leonhardt

is President of The Happy Guy Marketing, published author, a "Distinguished Toastmaster", a former consumer advocate, a social media addict and experienced with media relations and government reports.

Read more about David Leonhardt


  1. Thanks for the warning, David. At least that scam was obvious. It is the scams that are not obvious that are more dangerous to us. I have only worked with two people from Nigeria. Like you, I thought we shouldn’t tar everyone from one country because they have a lot of scammers there. Unfortunately, not one but BOTH of those individuals took advantage of me. Now I wonder if perhaps in their culture it is considered admirable to be a con artist. Those experiences will mean I would be very unlikely to ever work with anyone from there again.

    Writers should also watch out for scammers on Skype. I’m not sure exactly what their game is because I block them as soon as they tip their hand. I get requests daily from people in other countries pretending they aren’t. Often they use the names and photos of real American military officers. When I see that I just immediately block them. Sometimes they claim to be in the U.S. then supposedly posted somewhere else, but obviously not native American English the way they write. Others just say they want friends.

    It isn’t logical to randomly contact people you know nothing about wanting to be their friend. There are too many ways to meet people who had something in common with you. The likely explanation is they are either trying to find a way to immigrate here or they want online friends they can later hit up for money.

    • David Leonhardt says:

      Indeed, Gail, I would not accept a Skype invitation from somebody I don’t know. I mostly get young ladies from Ghana and South Africa and some other countries. Wherever they are really from, if I did not give them my Skype handle, they are spamming me.

  2. I’m embarassed and deeply apologize for your sad experiences , Gail.

    I’m from Ghana and while I’ll say that corruption abounds (where does it not, though ?), it is not admirable in the culture to be a con artist. Not in the least bit. It’s really unfortunate that this is what those of us tagged from the “Third World” are becoming known for.

    I hope there’ll come a day when we’re seen in a better light.

    • David Leonhardt says:

      And who knows where the scammers are actually from, anyway. We really don’t know. I find it amusing that they say they are from Nigeria, the last place on Earth I would say I was from if I was a scammer – even if I was from there.

  3. Wow, that’s funny! Definitely scammy, yet I wonder how many people will actually say “wow, what a deal!” Sheesh! lol

  4. Scammers are so creative that sometimes I wonder if they haven’t chosen the wrong ‘career’… Anyway, many thanks for the warning David.

    • David Leonhardt says:

      Yup. If we could turn all the energy and talents of destruction toward improvements on our planet, we could even become the most desirable location to live in the Solar System. 😉

  5. Few days ago I got an offer like that .I deleted it on the spot. We should be aware of scammers .

  6. Hi David,
    Its so embarrassing having to read about these online “Nigerian Scams” every now and then. Many countries are known for their innovations and creativity but it seems that Nigerians have been portrayed often in the “negative” light.

    No thanks to the activities of con artists and “419ers” who take advantages of unsuspecting genuine business people.

    I am a Nigerian and a proud one but I cannot help it when “online scams” are associated with citizens of my country. The activities of scammers paint every Nigerian ugly.

    This unfortunate status have thrown genuine and credible Nigerian in bad light. Our image out there is being tainted by these scammers.

    I am never in support of scammers. I have been “scammed” even by those so called “Nigerian Scammers”. Its a good thing that we have warnings like these so that writers and other Internet users should be aware of many “get rich quick” or “too good to be true” offers.

    I am hoping for the day when these “scammers” would realize that Nigeria’s image is more important than their selfish interest.

    Thanks for sharing this piece!
    I shared this comment in as well.

    • David Leonhardt says:

      Hi Sunday. Yes, I can understand exactly how you feel. The thing is, we don’t even know if all/most of the scammers are even from Nigeria. It’s like pasta being “Italian”, when it was invented in China. Or my kids thinking Egyptians all look like the drawings in hieroglyphics.

  7. Hi David,

    Thanks for alerting us to this latest scam from wherever…

    Some of the bad grammar mistakes are unbelievable, but then the cost calculations topped off by a referral fee take the biscuit.


    Like you say, we don’t know who is behind this. Better just keep ourselves alert!
    – David

  8. I never realized they also went after people in different professions, as well as unsuspecting pensioners and lonely people, so sad. Good article though. Here’s an idea…why not write copy for their scams. Charge them $250.00 for your services… “How to be a better con artist”. That’s just for part 1 of course…

  9. I’m glad you posted this as a reminder. Maybe even a reminder to remind my clients and readers of my SharingwithWriters nesletter. (-:

    It all boils down to that age-old warning. Don’t pay agents or publishers upfront. Reputable ones make their money from a percentage of the books they sell.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Multi Award-Winning Author of the HowToDoItFrugally series for writers including the second editions of the Frugal Book Promoter ( and The Frugal Editor ( )The latter is e-book only.for the time being.

  10. I’m a musician as well as a writer, and I also get “fantastic” offers as a harp teacher. Someone’s talented child needs several lessons per day for a few months, and they’re willing to pay up to $6,000.

  11. I am a Nigerian and proud to be. I thank you David for bringing this new or trending scam targeting writers but I will tell you that I am not a scammer and my immediate and extended family members are not scammers. We are poor, we do not like to remain poor so we make genuine efforts day and night to beat poverty but scamming people is not one of those efforts. When you say Nigerians, could it be in quotes so we know that those who are scamming may not necessarily be Nigerians? I like the tittle of the new novel about Nigerian fraudster or cartel, what about titling another before the one you are about to write, “Digging into the origin of scam as it affects Nigeria”. I will definitely be helpful if you care.
    You know who are the real scammers whether in Nigeria or US, Canada or UK, greed and Laziness. When laziness wants to stay in bed and become rich, greed wants to feed laziness so that he can get all that Laziness has but he ends up losing all to laziness.
    The one who falls for a ridiculous twisted contract with big pay as you described is a scammer.

    • David Leonhardt says:

      Hi Chinyere.

      There is usually some truth in most legends, so I believe that this whole thing did start out at least partly in Nigeria. But I am also somewhat of a skeptic, and I doubt that all the Nigerian scams are actually from Nigeria. Of course, I will never know one way or the other.

      I think I made this point very clear in the lead/summary paragraph. Then in the first paragraph of the actual article, I did exactly what you suggested – I put “Nigerian scam” in quotes. Your point is well-taken and was part of what I wrote from the start.

  12. Hi David,

    This post is to funny!

    It’s such a shame that scams always seems to be associated with Nigerian. The few honest people in Nigerian will never have a chance!

    But thanks for the heads up 🙂


    • David Leonhardt says:

      Naomi, I would like to think there are more than a few honest people in Nigeria, just as the Mafia is not representatives of all Italians and most Japanese are not Sumo wrestlers.

  13. Thanks for this information. I had a similar experience with what you would think was a reputable company offering a “good deal”. Until I read the contract. The first red flag was, as you say, pay us to help you self-publish. Okay, there is a cost involved, so I made a part payment. Then I received the contract. And it was noted that is was for self-publishing. However, within that contract, I was assigned copyright of my text, not the ISBN, cover, or edits offered. Then another clause said that the company retained the rights to use my work, whether the contract was cancelled or not. And to use it “in part or total”. So essentially a worse case scenario was to take my work, cancel my contract with the “no reason” clause, and then use it however they see fit. And I was to be given royalties for a year. When questioned, they couldn’t tell me straight out that I would be paid royalties for as long as they used my material, which might have been marginally accepted. Instead I got told to “sod off” if I wasn’t going to sign the contract as is. I decided to “sod-off”.
    This was a popular name in publishing, based in the USA, and it all looked above board when I did my research prior to signing up.
    And now they are calling me to offer other packages that I can sign up for to assist me to publish.
    My advice – read every contract, question everything, and give over no work without assurance that you still own it completely.

  14. Hi David, thanks for the post. I am also a Nigerian and proud to be one. As you said, “It’s like pasta being “Italian”, when it was invented in China”. I have worked with two Canadians so far. One a referral, the other found me on linkedin.

    Weirdly the issue of Scam never really came up and I like to believe that some people are getting over the age old belief that Scamming is mostly from Nigeria.

    Pretty good post once again. Looking forward to reading more from you.

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