Yesterday morning, I received an e-mail with the subject line (in caps): “THE PULITZER PRIZE 2009 NOMINATION LETTER.” Well, isn’t that exciting. After all, I am a nationally published writer and all.

Here is the e-mail, cut and pasted, warts and all:



I write to acknowledge the above attachment to us of your inclusion as a norminated finalist for the Pulitzer Prize,2009. I forward you same, to enable you contact us and get the requisite details germane to your participation without further delay.


Paul Tash.

I found out Paul Tash is a real person and a member of the Prize board. However, I doubt an organization dedicated to high standards in journalism would send out such a poorly composed and proofread letter. The supposed nomination letter is attached as a Word file … fat chance I’m going to open that. Looking even more closely at this e-mail, temptingly designed as it is, I also notice that my name doesn’t appear anywhere on it!

I’m not sure where this type of spam is coming from, but there seems to be no shortage of people who will send out offers of work or notices of awards in order to get you to open files, click on links, or send information. Poor grammar and spelling, and obvious ESL-type mistakes should be the first tip-offs.

I had another guy contact me recently to edit some dubious article, and he claimed to be in a foreign country and offered to send a cheque, if I sent my full address. It’s a red flag when a client is so eager to pay even before the work is discussed.

When a stranger approaches you to do a job, or if you see a posting on Craigslist for work, it’s worth five minutes to do some Google searches and check them out. Writers Weekly‘s Whispers and Warnings message board is also worth a look. This article suggests some keyword combinations to use, and other things to keep in mind to see if a client or job offer is legitimate. Better to be skeptical than scammed!


  1. You’re so skeptical. Do you realize that you may have just took yourself out of the list of nominees for a Pulitzer Prize in…? Hmmmm, do they have a Pulitzer Prize for bloggin’? Perhaps it’s a prize for gullibility or stupidity.

    I recently got the same email that James received from that Schmap website. Instead of opening the attachment, I searched around the internet for their site. They seemed legit. So that’s fun. Then the sent a second email saying that they were interested in another of my photos. Neat.

    Meanwhile, thanks for all the good info on writing. One of these days, I hope to get my act together and actually write something.

  2. I too just received this email. The first thing I did was search around for Paul Tash and what the website is. I am reluctant to reply as it does seem like spam… I did end up opening the attachment on an older worthless computer and it was an actual word document that opened into pages. With decent layout and information.

    I am still unsure whether or not it is legit…

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