It's that time of year when magazine editors are preparing their final selections for the best gear to hit retail shelves in 2015.
Unfortunately, scammers are well in tune with the schedule and looking to take advantage of marketing and PR departments. They are impersonating reporters looking for free gear.
Backpacker magazine reported one such instance early this week with a scammer impersonating one of its regular contributors. The email likely will be used to target numerous outdoor brands (names have been removed):
"Hi, my name is [xxx].
I'm a independent research writer, doing a article for Backpacker.com.
At Backpacker we strive to provide our readers with an abundance of information & ideas.Our magazine goes beyond just hiking and backpacking, Backpacker covers the latest in a wide variety of outdoor sports, travel, adventure, camping, survival, etc. Backpacker connects with 1.1 million readers for whom outdoor adventure is the centerpiece to a vibrant, experiential lifestyle.
I'm wanting to review your [company and product name] for the March or April issue of Backpacker Magazine. There are no fee's for participation, although you would be required to submit a sample for: review, photography, & video. We will be doing the review on the Appalachian Trail!
Please note: Products featured in Backpacker are kept for future reference and review.
681 Stewart Rd.
Ringgold, GA 30736
If you see this wording or mailing address, do not send the person any gear. It is a scam. The scammers frequently find a legitimate writer's name and then create a fake email based off the name to try and bolster their scam.
So how should outdoor brands avoid getting caught up in fakes like these? Fortunately, established magazines such Backpacker have solid professional relationships with many outdoor brands. An introductory e-mail such as this (sent to a general email, instead of the specific person) should be the first red flag.
Bad grammar is another warning. You can see a couple obvious mistakes in the email above that you wouldn't expect from a professional writer. Third, verify the email address for the person reaching out with the one you have on file, or the one on the magazine's website. Still unsure, directly contact the magazine's gear editor and verify not only the name, but the email and mailing address used in the request.
Speaking of mailing addresses ... Google them and see if they make sense in connection with the writer. In this case, the writer being impersonated is actually based out of Colorado, not Georgia.
Finally, any request that specifically notes that the writer will be keeping the product should set off alarm bells.