Latest Self-Publishing scam: publishwholesale.com

Though it’s a truism that one of the surest signs of a business you want to avoid is that their advertising takes the form of spam email, it’s still worth repeating from time to time. (A couple of earlier posts on this subject, regarding Dorrance Publishing and International Masters, might be worth a look at this point…)

The latest turd to hit my inbox offered “World class publishing for less than anyone for over two decades”, a jumble of near-word-salad that can hardly be encouraging to anyone with enough literacy and intelligence to write anything actually worth publishing. Perhaps, like the famous Nigerian email scams, the obviousness is intended to quickly narrow down the field of potential “clients” to those who aren’t very bright.

They’ve been spamming at least since 2011 according to this discussion board, hardly a sign of a successful legitimate business. Publishwholesale.com appears to be owned by a company called Accurance which has been given a “Not Recommended” rating by Preditors and Editors (that’s a link to the archive.org cache of their page; PDF version here) and there’s a useful discussion about them at Absolute Write.

As usual, they appear to have seeded the web with a lot of links, YouTube videos, etc. to minimize search engine results to complaints, criticisms and questions about the legitimacy of their business. (Besides their business names, Accurance and Publish Wholesale, it’s worth searching on the phone numbers they’ve used in their spams, 727-550-6268 and 812-509-3342.) Scammers are also often benefited by their victims’ reluctance to tell anyone they’ve been scammed or even to believe it themselves.

Other suspicious notes:
• They sent their email through a different internet provider than the one they use for hosting their web site, a technique often used by spammers to insulate their web presence from take-down by a hosting provider who objects to spamming. Even if their email provider shuts them down for spam their web site will (they hope) remain on line while they quickly find a new email provider.
• Their domain registration is anonymized to conceal its true owner. This is very suspicious behavior for a business site. In fact, their web provider, websitewelcome.com, has their domain name cloaked through an anonymizing service! That’s a huge red flag.
• They sent their spam to the “postmaster” role account for my robertstech.com domain, which means they scraped the address from somewhere, most likely the ARIN database of domain names. That is illegal in the U.S. under the CAN-SPAM law.

Scam Complaints and Warnings About Accurance and Publishwholesale.com on the Web:

Standard Disclaimer: Can it be a "scam" if it’s legal?

The answer is Yes, in my opinion. And in the opinion of the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. 1st Circuit Court.

Here’s a good example of a legal scam:

It’s the “free” home alarm system. Often targeted at the elderly and particularly in neighborhoods where there’s been a break-in, however minor, recently. The target (customer) is first regaled with horror stories from newspapers (all true) of break-ins and “home invasions”. Then they’re offered an alarm system for free, including installation. What’s not free, of course, is the mandatory monthly monitoring fee, which is usually much higher than the going rate. And the term of the agreement is likely to be longer than usual. Often with a heavy penalty for early termination. There may also be a hefty fee for removal of the alarm system upon discontinuing service (part of the reason the system and installation were free in the first place is because the alarm company retains ownership of the hardware). But that’s all in the fine print and if the customer is frightened enough they won’t notice it.

All perfectly legal, but no reasonable person would not call it a scam. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission explicitly uses the word "scam" to describe the above scenario.

The 1st Circuit court has found that the word "scam" does not necessarily imply anything illegal:
From McCabe vs Rattiner: Beginning with the statement itself, we observe that the word “scam” does not have a precise meaning. As the district judge said in his bench ruling, “it means different things to different people … and there is not a single usage in common phraseology. While some connotations of the word may encompass criminal behavior, others do not.”

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