Anatomy of a Scam

577578-phone-scamsThis morning I received a call from a restricted number. I do not answer calls from people I do not know. I let it go to voicemail. A few minutes later I checked it.

“This is an urgent message for Mr. Cameron. My name is Valerie. I’m calling you in reference to a complaint that has been forwarded to my office. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the pending actions that may be filed against you, you’ll need to contact the firm immediately at 855-899-0269 and the file number you’ll need in reference is *****. This does require immediate attention and it’s important we speak with you or we will be forced to make a decision without your consent. “

I called the number back. A guy calling himself Logan Baker answered. I gave him the reference number. He said the last four of my social security number and asked if that was correct. It was and I told him so. He said that I had an outstanding balance of $1197.92 from an Emergency Room visit at Tacoma General Hospital in November of 2012. I’ve had some health problems over the years and I had no idea if I was in the ER in November of 2012 or not. It seemed likely though.

He said that since they were suing me the account was not on my credit report. He said that they were willing to drop the lawsuit for a settlement of $521 and that said settlement offer had been sent to me via mail 45 days ago. I told him I did not receive any such documentation. He confirmed my home address. I told him I did not get any documentation whatsoever for him.

He also told me that there I would soon be served paperwork by a process server and that once that happens they would be unable to offer me the settlement of $521. He suggested if I want to pay that amount I should duck the process server until I pay them. He claimed that he could not stop said process server from serving papers, but then a few minutes later said he could ‘hold the account’ for five hours if I needed time to get the money together. I told him to go ahead and do that and told him I’d get back to him.

I thought about the information they had given me. They accurately knew that I had been to Tacoma General Hospital. They accurately knew the last four of my social security number, my phone number, and my home address. But that’s literally all the information they had. It wasn’t enough to convince me that they were who they said they were, but they might be.

I then talked with a friend who knows about this stuff. He gave me some advice. I looked in all of my paperwork and eventually figured out that I was likely not in the Emergency Room in November of 2012 as that was before most of my health issues. I called Multicare and asked them if they knew anything about this lawsuit. They said that they send all delinquent accounts to the same collection agency and that they had no information on any lawsuit. I contacted the collection agency. They said they had exactly one thing in my name and that thing was from 2014 and was being disputed.

At this point it was fairly clear to me that I was not being sued. I was being scammed. So I called Logan back. I asked him for his firm’s name and address. He gave it to me:

Stallings & Associates
1430 Truxton Ave. 5th Floor
Bakersfield, CA 93301

I thanked him for the information and told him I would get back to him.

I did a little digging. I found their website. It is the most bare bones, anonymous law firm website I have ever seen. I have seen websites for fictional lawyers that had more presence. This is a website called Stallings and Associates in which they do not mention who the hell ‘Stallings’ is. In fact not one human being is mentioned. Instead it has the improbably sentence: “Our Knowledgeable Staff is a leader in its field, with significant experience and expertise in resolving complex financial or commercial disputes.”

I then did a little more digging. It turns out that the fifth floor of 1430 Truxton Ave. is run by a company called Pacific Workplaces. These guys provide office space and work space for companies and individuals who need it. I figured Pacific Workplaces is on the up and up. So I contacted them and let them know that ‘Stallings & Associates’ are scam artists and that maybe they should rethink allowing them to use space.

So instead of getting $500 from me, Logan and his friends may be getting an eviction notice.

– Jack Cameron

UPDATE: I just received the following email from Pacific Workplaces:

Mr. Cameron:

Thanks for taking the time to sharing your information with us.

As happens we have instructed the 3rd party that provided us this client that we would like to part ways.

UPDATE 2: Since posting this article, I’ve received emails, Facebook messages, and comments about how these guys are still at it. If they contact you, see if you can get their mailing address from them and any other identifying information and leave it in the comments section. Thanks.

Kickstarting Your Kickstarter Campaign

If you’re thinking of starting up a business, chances are someone has mentioned Kickstarter to you. It’s a fantastic tool for generating money for independent projects. I’ve been tangentially involved in a handful of Kickstarter campaigns. All of them have been incredibly successful. Now that I’m preparing to publish my first novel, I’m in need of some money to get things up and running and I have no intention using Kickstarter to do this. As a marketing consultant and a guy who doesn’t like to see people fail, I think explaining my reasons why might help you decide whether or not you’re ready for Kickstarter.

First, let’s talk about why Kickstarter is a good way to fund your project. In the last three years, Kickstarter has successfully funded over 22,000 projects. They’ve generated over $200 million from over two million backers. If you’re looking for a way to quickly generate capital for your project and you’re not looking for venture capital, Kickstarter has some fabulous advantages.

For those of you unfamiliar with how Kickstarter works, it’s fairly simple. You come up with the minimum amount of money you need for your project. You estimate how long it will take for backers to fund your project. You put up a page advertising your project and depending on the amount of money backers contribute, you give them perks related to the project. If your project gets the amount of money you ask for or more, it’s funded. If not, it’s not.

Now before you throw up a Kickstarter page and start clicking ‘refresh’ every three seconds to watch the money roll in, keep in mind that 56% of all Kickstarter projects fail. That means if two of you start a Kickstarter campaign, odds are at least one won’t get funded. The reasons for failure are numerous and there’s not much reason to focus on them. Instead, I’d like to focus on the things I’ve seen that make a Kickstarter campaign work.

In order to have a successful Kickstarter campaign, you need at least three of four things:

  1. A good idea
  2. A clear plan
  3. A proven track record
  4. Good rewards for backers

You can get by with three out of the four but it’s not easy and you better knock those other things out of the park. And the thing of it is, I’m not sure why you’d want to when all four are fairly simple to accomplish.

A Good Idea

If you have a good idea, this is going to help more than anything else. Don’t just try to do a project because you love it. You’re not likely to get a lot of backers to fix your classic car. It’s good to have passion for something, but you’ve got to look at it from the backer’s point of view. Is this something they want to have or want to see? If it isn’t, then it’s probably not for Kickstarter. Who are your potential customers? Why should this project mean something to them? Why is your project important? If you can’t easily answer these questions, why would anyone back your idea?

New Pencil’s FlipSteady invention is a great example of a good idea. They saw a gap in the iPad case market and invented something to fill that gap.

A Clear Plan

A lot of people think that all it takes is a good idea. That’s understandable. Good ideas are exciting and when you have one, it seems obvious why people should fork over cash to help you out. The problem is that when people spend money, they like to know what they’re spending it on. So you need to have a plan. You need to tell them exactly what their money is going to do for you besides pay your bills. If you’re asking for $50,000 why do you need that amount of money and what exactly does that do for your project? If you’ve thought about your idea at all, you should be able to come up with a plan fairly easily. had created a successful program for growing plants in your windows using water bottles, but when they created a more efficient and elegant prototype, they needed funding to get the molds made for mass production. You weren’t just ordering your own Window Farm, your money was going to making these things into a reality

A Proven Track Record

This leads us to the hard part. It’s the thing that people starting out don’t want to hear: you need to have a proven track record. I know you’re just starting out. I know you need money to get going and that’s the whole reason you want to use Kickstarter in the first place. And I also know that you wouldn’t give pay a guy who is sure he’d be a great mechanic if you’d just buy him some tools. You may have a great idea. You may know exactly what you’d do with the money, but who the hell are you? What have you done? If you’ve never done anything like this before, you might have some trouble.

Since this is the most difficult part of a successful Kickstarter campaign, I’ll try to help you out. This does not mean that in order to get money for your movie, you need to make a movie. What this means is that you need to show what you can do with limited resources. This will give potential backers an idea of what you might be able to accomplish with more resources. If you’re making a movie, make a short or a trailer for the movie you want to make. If you’ve invented something, make a few of them. This part is probably going to take you using some of your own money.  If you’re uncomfortable with that, then don’t get upset when other people don’t want to spend money on your project either. That line from Field of Dreams is still true, “If you build it, they will come.”

Before Dead Gentlemen Productions created their incredibly successful campaign, they created season one of JourneyQuest, a seven webisode series that had quite the cult following thanks to previous endeavors and some quality storytelling. When it came time for season two, they asked for $60,000 and got over $113,000. This wouldn’t have been possible without the work they put into season one.

Good Rewards

Lastly, you need to have good rewards. If you’ve got a good idea, a solid plan, and a proven track record, you’ll get backers, but if you really want to guarantee a successful Kickstarter campaign, you need to give back to your backers. You should take some time and think about what your ultimate fan would want. As long as these things don’t cost as much as they’re giving you, it’s worth doing.

When Jordan Weisman wanted to create a tablet version of his classic RPG Shadowrun, the top tier backers could have everything from NPC characters that look like them to a Shadowrun game developer come to your house and run a campaign for you.

Okay, so having said all that, let me explain why I won’t be using Kickstarter to fund my novel. Is the novel a good idea? Yes. It’s a thriller that combines relationships, crime, and lies in a way I’ve never seen before and it all takes place in my hometown of Tacoma. Do I have a plan? Yes. I have a step-by-step development and marketing plan. Do I have a proven track record? No. I’ve written one other book but it wasn’t a novel. It was nothing like the novel. And while it was successful in that it made a profit, it was far from a best seller. I have a successful blog with and a reasonable following, but I don’t have a track record as a crime fiction novelist so there’s no reason for your average person to think I’d be good at it. Do I have good rewards?  I wrote the novel knowing I wasn’t going to use Kickstarter so I didn’t leave characters or locations open for perks. I could offer copies of my book but really, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it from the ground up. So once my novel comes out and if it’s successful, I might use Kickstarter to fund my next novel if I feel I need to, but until then, I’m on my own. As it should be. (I suppose I should mention that I’m not saying I would refuse help funding my novel. I’m just saying it’s not a viable Kickstarter project.)

There’s a lot more that goes into the successful marketing and development of a Kickstarter campaign and there are a lot of people who know a good deal more than me about it, but this should get you started in the right direction. If you need more information, as I mentioned, I’m a marketing consultant as well as a writer and I’d be happy to help out.

–          Jack Cameron

I’m With The Brand Part 5: The Masters of Personal Branding

Tim Ferriss, Personal Branding at its best.

We’ve talked about the concept of Personal Branding, finding your Personal Brand, developing your Personal Brand, and the things to avoid when it comes to Personal Branding. In this post, I’ll point you in the directions of Personal Branding experts. Some of these guys were working on Personal Branding before anyone had a name for it.

Dan Shawbel wrote what some consider the Bible of Personal Branding, Me 2.0. It’s a fast read full of good information. Dan has created a business around Personal Branding. His success speaks for itself.

William Arruda is another professional Personal Branding guru. His book, Career Distinction focuses on how Personal Branding can improve your career and your career prospects.

Timothy Ferriss is another master of Personal Branding. He doesn’t advertise himself as such. Instead, he’s known as a best-selling author, champion kick-boxer, fitness guru, and chef.  Yeah, he gets around. And yet, he still manages to maintain a consistent high quality Personal Brand. He does this by being a source of good information and a champion of unknown experts. Tim Ferriss spends just as much time talking up people he looks up to as he does talking about himself. His first book, The 4-Hour Work Week changed the way I look at work. His second book, The 4-Hour Body changed the way I look at fitness. His next book The 4-Hour Chef will doubtlessly change the way I look at cooking. (Notice how he brands his book with the ‘4-Hour’ thing? That’s not an accident.)  What do these have to do with Personal Branding? The information in Tim’s books aren’t specifically geared towards Personal Branding. This is true, but using many of the ideas and techniques in his book, you’ll find that you increase your Personal Brand.

As Personal Branding gets more mainstream, there will inevitably be more books and articles about it (like this one). The most important thing to remember is that you are creating your personal brand whether you’re doing it purposely or not. You’re doing it by having a Facebook page. You’re doing it with Twitter and FourSquare. You might as well take control of it.

–          Jack Cameron

I’m With The Brand Part 4: Your Boss, Your Mom, Or A Cop

I spend a lot of time online. So I suppose it’s not entirely surprising that I see people make Personal Branding mistakes every day. Many of these people would be quick to point out that they aren’t interested in Personal Branding and that they’re simply sharing their lives online with friends and relatives. That may very well be true. It doesn’t change the fact that some things shouldn’t be shared online. Ever.

A common piece of dating advice is that you not talk about your ex. There are reasons for this. Some will say that it’s because they’ll think you’re still hung up on your ex. I say it’s because they are picturing you talking about them after the relationship. No woman likes it when you call another woman a bitch. And yet, if you go to any random Facebook, you will see people trashing their exes or having actual online fights with someone they’re dating.

Another common mistake is trashing your place of employment. Sure, you might work with a bunch of people who make brain damaged monkeys look like the control room at NASA.  You might be the only one there who isn’t on drugs. Or maybe just the job itself sucks. We’ve all had the shitty job with the stupid coworkers. Some of us have had that job for years. Complaining about it online may be cathartic, but it’s not going to help you get your next job that’s not as shitty.

Yes, it’s cathartic to just go off on a rant about all of the ways you’ve been wronged both personally and professionally. It feels good to get some of that off your chest. But trashing other people is never the way to get past them in the long run.

This does not mean you shouldn’t share your bad day with the world. There are ways to do it that aren’t going to hurt your future relationships or jobs. All you have to do is use this rule of thumb: Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t say to your boss, your mom, or a cop.

If someone is being a moron at work and making your job difficult, it’s better to say, “Managed to make some progress on the project despite challenging obstacles.”  Really, when it comes down to it, Personal Branding is just good personal public relations. What you’re trying to do is say what you want to say without causing any unintended problems.

It’s fine to have an opinion. It’s fine to be angry. Just be sure that you’re in control of that anger and use it wisely. Count to ten. Then figure out the most creative way to say what you want to say.

This is the fourth part of my Personal Branding series. If you’ve come this far, you’ll want to read tomorrow’s fifth and final post where I point you in the direction of the Personal Branding geniuses. I know quite a bit about Personal Branding but it’s all due to reading and watching these guys. See you tomorrow.

–          Jack Cameron

I’m With The Brand Part 3: Creating Your Personal Brand

Odds are that there is something you do better than most other people. Or maybe there’s just something you love to do. Whatever the case, this is what you need to center your brand around. When it comes to Personal Branding, there’s a school of thought that you should find a particular niche and become recognized as an expert at it. That’s not a bad way to do it but I don’t entirely agree with that. If you were an expert in doorknob manufacturing, I’d be willing to bet that’s not all you ever want to talk about. You probably have a favorite restaurant. You probably have an opinion on the White House, even if it’s on what doorknobs they use. My point here is that real people aren’t niches. Real people have a variety of interests and it’s okay to talk about those.

You do not need a niche. You do need a center. If you’re a musician, then it’s your music. If you’re a writer, then it’s your writing. You want your Personal Brand to not just be about you but also about what you love. From there, you can branch out to whatever it is you want to do.

The key component here is consistency. If someone comes upon a page you created online, it should be easily recognized as one of your pages. There are a number of ways to do this. One of the simplest ways to start is by having your photo be the same photo regardless of what site you’re on. This makes it so if someone stumbles upon your twitter account and they already know you on Facebook, there’s no question that yes, this is the same person.

If you’re more into graphic design than I am, you can also help establish your brand by using similar color schemes. This is more difficult on some social networking sites where their company colors tend to be on your page.

When it comes to actual content, quality is much more important than quantity. If you have nothing to say, don’t force it. And if you write something and it isn’t up to your standards, leave it as a draft. Maybe you can rewrite it later.

Finding what you want your brand to be isn’t easy. Tomorrow we’ll talk about common mistakes and what not to do when you post things online. And then, finally, we’ll bring in the experts and I’ll show you some of the gurus of Personal Branding who’ve turned it into an art form.

–          Jack Cameron

I’m With The Brand Part 2: Identify Your Personal Brand

Before you start working on your Personal Brand, you need to find what is already out there. Googling yourself isn’t just for narcissists. Have people written about you? Are you a feature on Is someone with your name a serial rapist in five counties? What embarrassing photos, comments, or blog posts can be found and attributed to you? It’s best that you learn the answers to these questions before someone else does.

Set up a Google Alert for your name. See what comes up over the course of a couple of weeks. For those who don’t know, a Google Alert sends you an email of new search results for a specific search. If you have a common name, you might want to put your name and the city you live in into the Google Alert.

You should also do searches with Bing and Yahoo and other search engines just to see if anything different comes up, but Google is where you want to focus most of your energy because that’s what most people use.

It may be that you have a name that is too common. Or it may be that someone else with your name has already done a fine job of creating a Personal Brand. If this is the case, you need to find a way to make your name unique. For example, the name on my birth certificate isn’t ‘Jack Cameron’. It’s ‘John Cameron’. When I checked a few years ago, I was able to find six John Camerons in my hometown of Tacoma alone, including my own father. was already taken by a Canadian singer. There’s a John Cameron in Hollywood who frequently works with the Coen Brothers. From a Personal Branding perspective, John Cameron was a terrible name.

However, Jack Cameron had less clutter. Oh there are plenty of Jack Camerons out there. The Cameron Clan has had no problem breeding and we’re not all that imaginative when it comes to names. But when I started online, there was a distinct lack of Jack Camerons with a significant web presence.

Once you’ve found the name you want to use for your Personal Brand, it’s time to claim it. Purchase the domain of your name. You may even want to purchase the variations such as .net, .org and the like. However, this is a lot like Google in that if you get .com, the rest doesn’t really matter. is what people are going to go to first.

Go to . Type in your Personal Brand name. How many of those are available? You don’t have to take them all, but it’s good if you can at least get Facebook, Twitter and other massively popular social networking sites. Many of these you’re going to want to log in and register simply so no one else can. You don’t necessarily have to use every one of them. You just want to attempt to avoid any branding problems in the future.

Inevitably, there will be some sites where your Personal Brand name is already taken. That’s okay. Just add one word. That word should be the one thing you want others to know about you. If you don’t know what that is yet, that’s okay. That’s what Monday’s article is all about.  Now that you’ve established what your Personal Brand is called, it’s time to work on what your Personal Brand is. This is the most important part of Personal Branding and it takes the most work. In the meantime, you can find me at:

– Jack Cameron

I’m With The Brand Part 1: What Is Personal Branding?

I want to take a few days and talk about Personal Branding. I am not an expert on the subject and if you’re already fairly knowledgeable about Personal Branding, you probably won’t learn anything new. If you’re someone who doesn’t know what Personal Branding is or just someone who plays around online a lot, then this information could be incredibly useful to you.

You don’t have to be selling something to have a personal brand. If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, you have a personal brand. Your personal brand is what you tell the world about yourself online and offline. It’s you’re reputation. You’re creating it every day whether you mean to or not. Personal Branding is taking control of your personal brand and making sure that you project what you want people to know and eliminating the things you don’t.

Before we go much further, please take a look at the image below.


Every now and then you’ll hear people freaking out about online privacy. The simple truth is this: If it’s online, it’s not private. You can play with your privacy settings all you want. And it is good to check them from time to time.  However, if you’ve gone to the trouble of posting it online, someone has probably bothered to read it. If they can read it, they can link it or copy it and send it on to others.

Once people actually accept this, the natural reaction is to not post anything at all. I mean when you think that every little comment you make might be read by your boss, your next potential employer, your boyfriend, your girlfriend your mom, or stalker you might get a little shy about posting anything that might tell others where you live, what you’re doing, where you like to go or any of the other fun things you’ve been posting about. While this reaction is perfectly understandable, it’s not very useful.

No matter what you do, people who might employ you or sleep with you are going to Google you. They are going to look for you on Facebook. They are going to find what they can find from the comfort of their computer and smartphone. Welcome to the 21st Century. Now rather than trying to hide or being afraid of what they might find, why not give them exactly what you want them to find? This is the digital equivalent of showering and putting on good clothes.

Now that you’ve got an idea of what Personal Branding is. Tomorrow we’ll talk about how you get started taking control of your Personal Brand.