Playing Safe On The Internet – Don’t Get Catfished

Catfishing has been in the news a lot lately. The reality is that dating on-line is a great way to initially meet someone but how do you know if they are real? There comes a point and it should be long before your on-line connection goes on for a year or 2 when you need to verify that who you are talking to is indeed who they say they are.

If you are using a dating website, they all have security to protect their users, it is there for a good reason. If someone asks you to go outside of the sites methods of contact, as in send me your phone number so we can text instead of spending money, odds are good they are scamming. What are they doing on the site if they can’t afford to spend a few dollars to pursue a relationship? In some cases the sites are free in which case there is no reason to go outside their contact system.

Don’t give out your phone number until you verify that someone is “real”.

The easiest way to weed out the lazy fishers is to ask for a video chat. Scammers can send you pictures but they can’t fake what they look like on an on-line video chat. Scammers will come up with all sorts of excuses on why they can’t video. I have done a lot of travelling in countries like Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, in all of these countries there are internet cafes & they all have cameras on the computers, they are very cheap to use, less than $1.00 an hour. There are very few places in the world where someone would not be able to access a computer with a camera. If someone can contact you via the Internet and text they can do a video chat.

I am always amazed when I hear about people giving money to people they have never met. I don’t give money to my family members, no way I would give it to a stranger who’s only contact has been via the Internet. This is a total red flag! People can ask for money without really asking, you know the “My car broke down, wish I could afford to fix it, won’t be able to make my job interview next week”. Don’t fall for it, anyone who is legitimately looking for a relationship will not ask you for money or hint that you should give it to them. You don’t know this person, it is not your responsibility to take care of them. These people will make it sound like you are the only one who can “save” them to bring out the protector we all have in us, they know how to play people to get what they want.

If you have chatted with someone online and they are immediately complimenting you & telling you how crazy they are about you.. Things are off. The people who scam need to get you into the loop fast, time is money to them. No one who is looking for a real relationship will behave this way. They will want to get to know you and build a foundation before they decide if you are what they are looking for. Imagine if in the real world you went on 2 dates with someone and they started talking about marriage and sharing finances.. You would get a restraining order and put them in the stalker pile never to be seen again.

Keep in mind that scammers are very good at what they do. They can come up with a million excuses and with rose colored glasses firmly in place many people fall for them. Your safest bet is to trust no one until they prove to you that they are who they say they are. If someone cares about you and really wants to have a relationship with you they will understand why you are cautious and in fact your safety, comfort and welfare should be one of their main priorities.

A “New System” for Publishing Comic Books?

I formed my own comic book company in 1994. Catfish Comics published 14 issues before fading from view. After a six-year hiatus, I’ve returned to the self-publishing game with SINNAMON: GRRL VS. WORLD #1.

A few people have asked why this comic is only available via ComiXpress. They ask because in the past, SINNAMON comics were available at comic book stores. Those fourteen issues were published through what I call the “traditional system”.

Let me outline the basic steps behind the “traditional system”:

1. Get the comic book listed in a distributor’s catalogue. Since the late 1990s, the catalogue with the widest market penetration is Diamond Previews.

2. Take note of when the book will be listed in the catalogue. Normally, the book is listed three months before it’s available for sale. For example, if SINNAMON #13 was coming out in December, it would be listed in the September Previews.

3. Wait for the orders to come in. Keeping with the example above, orders for SINNAMON #13 will arrive sometime in November

4. Send the comic off to the printers.

5. Sometime in January, receive payment from Diamond for the books.

Other than keeping track of various deadlines, the system isn’t very complicated. All things considered, it’s probably the only way a publisher can get his or her book out to comic shops all across North America. But is it effective for smaller publishers like yours truly? I would say not.

This isn’t a diatribe against Diamond Distributing. There are small publishers who have complaints, but the reality is that the overwhelming bulk of Diamond’s sales come from five or six publishers. There’s going to be an obvious imbalance in the treatment of someone who might produce sales of 1,000 books compared to someone doing thirty or more times that amount.

I stayed in the publishing game until 1999. When I encountered problems getting SINNAMON SAGA #2 completed, I threw in the towel. I had been considering this for a while, because I had the gut feeling the “traditional system” was not in my best benefit. It took a few years away from the business to gain perspective and figure out why my gut was probably right all along.

Why? Let’s look at what I consider to be the major weaknesses of this “traditional system”.

Start with Diamond Previews. Each month’s issue is the size of a small city’s telephone book. How exactly do you make your book stand out from the many hundreds of books listed? You could advertise. How much money do you have set aside for advertising? Now if you’re reading this article, odds are very good you have nowhere near the advertising budget of companies like DC, Marvel, or Image.

Fine, you say. You’ll be creative and find other ways to get people to notice your book. Go for it! Every small publisher should embrace the principles of guerrilla marketing.

Now you’ll come up against the second major weakness.

Suppose you get your book noticed. Perhaps you get a favorable mention in a newspaper article, or become an Internet darling. Great! So now people want to buy your book.

Where will they buy it? Under this system, the only place is a comic shop. And how are books sold at a comic shop? The new comics come in on a Wednesday.

And that’s it. Generally speaking, your book has one week on the main shelves. All your marketing must be targeted to get people in the shop that week. Otherwise, your book will be fighting for space among all the other back issues, assuming it hasn’t sold out.

That’s not the only fly in the ointment.

Remember my description of the “traditional method”? Remember the part where store owners do their ordering? That means your marketing must hit during that ordering period. You need to get shop owners to order your book. If they’re not won over by your marketing, you need to get people to go comic shops and order the book.

Whoa. Stop.

Did you read that sentence carefully?

“You need to get people to go to comic shops and order the book.” Any sales person will tell you that the key to sales is to place as few obstacles before the customer as possible.

What could be easier for a customer than clicking a link?

Let me outline each step of the “new system”:

1. Produce your book and get it printed at a Print On Demand printer. I use ComiXpress. If there are other POD printers who do comic books, feel free to contact me with details.

2. Set up the online sale page. ComiXpress will set one up for you. They take a cut from each sale, but in exchange they are taking the orders and handling the shipping for you. ComiXpress accepts credit cards, which is another factor in making life easier for customers.

3. Promote your book.

That’s it. Compare this to the “traditional system”. Notice how this system is less complicated? You’ll also notice the absence of any external deadlines. Your marketing no longer depends on getting word out by a specific date. Instead, your marketing only has to get the word out. It doesn’t matter when word gets out, so long as every mention includes a link to the shop (or your web page). So if you get mentioned in a national newspaper or magazine, you don’t have to worry that shops have sold out of your book.

Here’s an example of how the “traditional system” fails small publishers. Ten years ago, I worked for a publisher on a book titled Bruiser. Much to our surprise, BRUISER #3 got a positive review in a comic book magazine (not Wizard). This was the kind of good news any publisher would want to receive. Did it help BRUISER #3?

It did not. The review appeared a few months after the book had hit the stands. Since the original solicitation had been very small, there was no way anyone could find a copy.

Ten years later, such an article could include a link to a site that provides more information about Bruiser. That wouldn’t put any books on the store shelf, of course. However, the publisher could sell Bruiser from the web site. The onus would be on the publisher to have copies on hand. So after getting the order from Diamond, the publisher could have an extra box or two printed up.

An extra box or two is fine if you only ever publish one book. I put out fourteen issues of Sinnamon, and because initial orders were good, I overprinted four or five boxes per issue. In ten years, I’ve moved a fair number of back issues, but do the math. Right now, I have about twenty boxes of Sinnamon comics in the basement. It’s a good thing I live in a house.

Personally, I rather like the idea of keeping ten or twenty copies of a book on hand, and let ComiXpress print out more books as they’re needed. It definitely beats moving to a bigger place, especially in this housing market.

Although this “new system” makes life easier for the small publisher, it does not make success automatic. The only way to sell comic books is to work hard at marketing. Diamond Previews does get into every comic shop. The economics of this “new system” means you can’t afford to sell your book through comic shops. Instead, you must focus all your marketing upon getting people to click on that link.

This is not a bad thing. Too many small publishers think that being in Previews is a marketing accomplishment in itself. Too many of them think a Previews listing automatically translates into sales. That is not the case. No matter what system you choose, marketing will be the key to your success. It is my belief that the “new system” will allow a small publisher to maximize the results of his or her marketing.

My belief gets put to the test with “Sinnamon: Grrl vs. World #1”. If it works, expect to hear from me again!

Some Reasons People Become Catfish

There can be all sorts of reasons why people become Catfish online [create fake profiles], but two I’ve read of this week are: one woman who did it to fool her employers and a man who did it to kill his girlfriend, by posing as an online stalker before he killed her.

One woman did it to humiliate her boyfriend and one man created 130 fake Facebook accounts to harass his sixteen year old girl friend. See link at end of article. **

While to many it can seem pretty harmless creating fake profiles and becoming a ‘Catfish’, and of course it can be just someone with low self esteem trying to live out a fantasy life online, to the victims it can cause pain and upset, even death in rare cases.

Other reasons I’ve heard of why people become Catfish is to check up on their partners or previous partners, to try to lure them to see if they take the bait or just to nose around on their Facebook page as someone else, if the person has blocked them. Sometimes they do it to appear anonymous on Facebook so that people they know won’t recognise them.

It’s a minefield as there are estimated to be around 83 million fake Facebook accounts. The best thing you can do as a social network user is to protect yourself by looking for the signs that someone is a fake. If you answer YES to any of these questions about your Facebook friend, then it should hold up a red flag:

1. Does your FB friend’s profile picture look too good to be true? Quite often they look like models or celebrities or just extremely attractive.

2. Do they have few photographs and none taken with friends and/or family?

3. Is there no tagging of photographs by themselves or friends?

4. Does the information they say about themselves sound too good to be true? For example, they are in the modelling business, a fashion designer, etc.

5. Do they have only a few friends listed on their page?

6. Are there few posts on their wall and lack of comments by friends?

7. Do you just ‘have a feeling’ that somehow they are too good to be true?

8. Are they always making excuses why you can’t see them on webcam or get to meet them?

9. Have you been asked for money by the suspect Catfish? If so, it could be a Nigerian Scammer behind that profile pic or some other con artist.

10. Has this person declared undying love or got keen far too soon? Another red flag.

Protect yourself by:

1. Dragging and dropping their ‘perfect image’ into Google image search, it might throw up photographs of that image elsewhere online and you might find they are posing as someone else to others.

2. If you are arranging to meet up, ensure you talk to them on webcam first so you can see they are the person in the photograph, or failing that, get them to take a photograph of themselves holding up that day’s newspaper clearly showing the date or a card with your name on it. Of course, if they are the person they say they are, it still doesn’t mean they’re not trying to con you in some way!

3. Google their full name. If they are supposed to be a successful model, designer or other, their name should show up somewhere online, if it doesn’t, see it as a probable red flag.

4. You can also contact a couple of their Facebook friends to ask what they know about the person, although you may need to be careful how you set about doing this. Chances are they might not know them either or it could be the suspected Catfish has other profiles they’ve added as friends.

5. Often if a person is a Catfish they will keep making excuses why they can’t send you a photograph, appear on webcam or keep breaking potential dates and they often have elaborate excuses, such as they were involved in a car accident, their parent was suddenly taken ill, so see anything like that as a potential red flag.

6. There are various websites where you can discover a person’s location from their email address or email header info. Here’s one:

7. It’s possible to waste a lot of time with a Catfish online as they keep dangling that proverbial carrot, so give yourself a time limit and think if so and so hasn’t proved him or herself by such and such a date, they’re not worth bothering with. With today’s technology it’s not that difficult or expensive for someone to get a webcam or send a photograph to show they are the person on their profile pic. If they can’t do that, it’s the biggest red flag of all!

Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!

** Article link: