>Beware bogus sourcesPosted: February 12, 2008
>Suddenly my phone rings every half hour. When I logged in yesterday, 38 new e-mails had arrived since the night before. Is my business suddenly booming? No such luck. I made a stupid mistake I’d like to help my readers avoid.
I was researching a story on grants for writers the other night. Right at the top of the Google list were two websites that appeared to be associated with the U.S. government. Hm, sounds good, I thought. What I missed were the faintly printed words noting that this was a “sponsored listing.” Like an idiot, I clicked on the site, filled in the blanks asking for my name, addresses and phone number and told them I was looking for information on money for writers.
Snap. I was on the list. Oh, and more than one list, too. Lots of lists. I got e-mails about grants, loans, prizes,and even discount diapers and information on filing for bankruptcy. Most of the e-mails had some kind of opt-out verbiage at the bottom, but there were so many I could waste the whole day following the instructions with no confidence that it wouldn’t just bring more e-mails and phone calls.
A caller named Eva would not take no for an answer. When I told her I had to click off to another call (and I really did), she said she’d wait as long as it took. Well, she didn’t, but she called back. She insisted on sending me a free CD full of information about free money from Uncle Sam. I just had to pay for postage and handling. Would I like to use VISA or Mastercard? Uh…
Another salesperson called later in the day, insisting I call the East Coast ASAP (I didn’t), and somone else woke us up this morning. When I checked caller ID, saw the 800 number and decided not to answer, they called again a half hour later. I have little doubt the phone will keep ringing. I suggested to my husband that he tell everyone he doesn’t allow his wife to talk to strangers on the phone. Not good for business, but maybe we could get rid of these people. Frankly, I haven’t even checked my e-mail yet. I’m afraid.
So here’s the moral of the story. Be careful, be very careful when you’re clicking around the Internet for sources. The first few listings are often sponsored listings, and the ones along the side are almost always advertising. Even if they don’t start stalking you, you won’t be able to trust the information they provide. Make sure the sites from which you gather your information are reputable sites written by people who know what they’re talking about. Be aware that some sites, such as Wikipedia, are written by anyone who wants to submit something. And don’t even think about trusting comments you read on somebody’s blog. How do you know what they’re saying is accurate?
Do your own research, double-check your sources to make sure they know their stuff, and don’t give out your e-mail and phone number unless you’re sure it’s worth it. Don’t fall for scams like I did just because you’re tired and in a hurry to gather information. Set your BS detector on high and use it every time.