Call it the Nigerian author scam

John Evans, co-owner of Diesel: A Bookstore out in Malibu, told the newsletter Shelf Awareness about a strange come-on at his Oakland store. I guess with everything else they face, indy booksellers need to even be wary of authors.

It started a week ago Saturday morning when the store received a call from Eric Gower, author of *The Breakaway Cook*, who was appearing at a multi-author event at Diesel's Oakland store that afternoon.

"My car has been stolen and I need you to help me," he told Evans. "I've found a rent-a-car company that will rent to me, but I need you to send me $150 by Western Union. I can give you the address and information to send it. I'll give you $400 when I get up there, for helping me out."

Evans declined the $400, and Gower said, "Yeah, you don't need the money." So Evans asked what happened and where he was, thinking that if he were in the Bay Area, someone from the store could pick him up.

But Gower said he was in Los Angeles, explaining, "I locked my keys in my car, with all of my credit cards, and my computer with all the photos I have of my mother in it. I went to get something to open the car, and when I came back, there was just broken glass and my car was gone with everything in it." To Evans, he sounded desperate and a bit dramatic, both over the top and honestly anxious.

Evans noted: "It sounded strange though, calling us and not someone else, when there was no way to make the event in any case."

Evans suggested Gower forget traveling to Oakland, but Gower pleaded, "I have two other appointments up there and need to get back today. I'll bring in $400 tomorrow after I get up there. Let me give you the information for wiring the money."

Evans told Gower to call back when the events person Gower had been dealing with would be in the store. But Gower did not call back, so Diesel staff set up for the event without space for Gower. Evans continued: "Everything looked great for the event and at start time, in walks Eric! We asked him what happened and he didn't know what we were talking about."

Evans called it the "Nigerian author scam, the latest in an endlessly inventive series of attempts to hustle and shakedown unwitting booksellers of their hard-earned cash."

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