Literary Scammers are the Weirdest Scammers

British literary prizes are being targeted by a scammer or scammers

There are more lucrative scams, but none quite as strange as those involving the literati.
Patrick Tomasso/Unsplash

Late last year, The New York Times recounted the tale of an odd case of impersonation. The article, written by Elizabeth A. Harris and Nicole Perlroth, recounted “a mysterious international phishing scam that has been tricking writers, editors, agents and anyone in their orbit into sharing unpublished book manuscripts.” Weird, right? Well, an even stranger scam has come to light in the literary world — though this one looks to be a bit more financially lucrative for whomever pulled it off.

Someone has been impersonating prize-winning writers in an effort to claim their winnings for themselves. And in a few cases, it’s worked.

Writing at the New York Times, Alex Marshall has more details. The scammer or scammers have targeted at least 5 British literary prizes, reaching out to the organizers and requesting payment via PayPal due to issues with their bank. Someone impersonated Craig Brown, author of 150 Glimpses of The Beatles, in an attempt to collect around $69,000 from the Baillie Gifford Prize.

That attempt didn’t work — but whoever impersonated Lost Children Archive author Valeria Luiselli when talking with the Rathbones Folio Prize convinced them to send £30,000 to someone who turned out not to be Valeria Luiselli. The organization was, thankfully, able to come up with the money to send to the real Luiselli as well.

The identity of the scammer (or scammers) remains unknown, though some of the people the Times spoke with suggested that it was likely someone from within literary circles, given their knowledge of the prizes and the correct people to email. There’s likely a fascinating book to be written about all of this — perhaps even an award-winning one.

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