This morning I was all set to write a funny blog post.
Yes, indeedy, I was going to make you all laugh over my laziness and we were going to have a great time together! But then, as I groggily scrolled through my Facebook feed this morning, a story caught my eye that has suddenly sobered me.
A very real and scary story.
A story about how a blogger was almost trafficked at the Sochi Olympics.
You can read the full story for yourself, but to sum things up for you, this blogger was contacted through her website for the job of a lifetime… to help cover the Sochi Olympics! While this may seem like a pretty far-fetched job for most bloggers, it was not for Brittany Cason. As she says in her article, “Given my background in sports broadcasting, hosting a nationally syndicated motorsports show and working on sports talk radio, it made sense he was recruiting me.”
It made sense. And this guy was good.
Posing as a talent acquisition agent, this man was not only knowledgeable and professional, but he also did all the right things: he asked her to fill out an application and to see past reels of her on-air work. As if that weren’t enough for most bloggers to go on, Brittany even made sure to do research on him, and guess what? He had a website and twitter feed that looked like he worked in the industry and even the company he said he was with was legit.
So what tipped this blogger off? Two weeks before she was to fly to Russia, this man told her he needed to expand the team and asked her to get some more of her girlfriends in the industry to come to Sochi as well. After four months of jumping through hoops to land this “job,” this seemed a little fishy to her. And thank God it did!
Brittany decided to call the production company out in LA to check his credentials, and they had never heard of him! And now she’s talking with the FBI, lawyers and in the midst of a sex-trafficking legal case.
Wow. Just wow.
So today, instead of being funny, I’m being very serious. Especially for the sake of you fellow bloggers. It can be extremely exciting to land a job on your blog where you get to work with a big company and possibly even fly off to some event they are hosting. I’ve done it before.
Just two years ago I flew off for a quick day trip to New York City to work with a company. It was my first job of that kind and I was thrilled! But now, after reading Brittany’s experience, when I think about how naïve I was over that trip, I shudder. All arrangements were made through email or snail mail (I never spoke with anyone over the phone) and I was picked up by a private car to take me to and from airports on either end of the trip (that in essence could have taken me anywhere!).
I was so excited to work with a big brand that wanted to fly me somewhere, that I could have easily been taken advantage of. Thank God I wasn’t, and it was a fantastic trip, but the next time a fun trip like that lands in my inbox, you can bet I’ll be taking new serious precautions!
And that is why I’m writing this blog post. To bring this to the attention of bloggers everywhere. Please be extremely aware of who is contacting you through your website or email inbox! While working with brands and companies can be so very fun (especially when you are just starting to land some), don’t let that excitement cloud your judgement.
Here’s some things to consider when a company wants to fly you somewhere, especially before you give them your social security number or any other personal information of that nature:
- Does the email or phone conversation look or sound professional? In this case, Brittany’s contact passed, but if yours looks a little fishy, don’t ignore that red flag!
- Does the company they are representing check out? Again, Brittany’s “talent agent” passed on this one too, using a real company in this industry.
- Does the person contacting you really work with the company? This is the step that helped Brittany save herself from a nightmare. Don’t be afraid to contact the company named to check credentials!
- Are other bloggers invited, or is it just you? When I went on my NYC trip, I was also given a list of other bloggers that would be in attendance. I contacted a few of them to ask various questions (what are you wearing?!), and in so doing, confirmed that they were in fact really coming.
- Does anything about this trip send up a red flag? Don’t ignore it! Always err on the side of caution. A real person at a real company hiring you for a real job won’t mind if you take extra steps to confirm things.
While this isn’t normally the type of post I publish on my blog, I felt that Brittany’s story of almost being sex-trafficked was important enough to break my normal blog topics to share with you. If for no other reason than to raise awareness and start a conversation.
And please, PLEASE share this post! Pin it, post it on Facebook, tweet it, send it to your blogging friends! It might just help someone else avoid such a horrible, horrible nightmare.