Service of The Who in Who’s Who

July 16th, 2015

Categories: Credentials, Scams, University

Who are You

Following are two “Who’s  Who” scams. The first was created by lazy folks. It came by email and may, in fact have been a front to encourage people to click on a poisoned link without promise of a listing in an unrecognized research tool. The folks directing the second went to more trouble, first forming a fake university alumni group which then offered the “benefit” of joining a pricey impersonator “Who’s Who.”

Simple Scam

A message in my SPAM file began: “You were recently chosen as a potential candidate to represent your professional community and be ranked along side of our industry experts.” It was in the SPAM file for good reason.

SpamAn additional excerpt: “Through our publishing alliance we select potential candidates based not only on their credentials but also focusing on criteria from professional directories, associations, and trade journals…..This time honored tradition has become a hallmark revered by the upper echelon throughout Corporate America; A virtual ‘Who’s Who’ of prominent professionals.”

I have until August to respond and there’s a characteristic scam alert: I must verify the information they have about me by clicking the link they provide. Sure: Hold your breath.

Faux Alumni Group Who’s Who Come-on in Sheep’s Clothing



We all get scams like this but a friend told me of a double scam also involving a “Who’s Who” clone that she might easily have fallen for but didn’t. She thought she was signing up for her university’s alumni association group on LinkedIn.  She filled out her information for the “closed group” and awaited word on admission.

She soon heard from a representative of the group (aka salesman) who introduced himself as “the senior director with who’s who distinguished individuals alumni of the university of ____.” He asked her to answer some questions to verify that she was an alum and told her that one of the perks of joining this group was that members would be added to “Bristol Who’s Who.”

He pressured her to sign up for the Who’s Who double—which cost plenty–adding that it would be most beneficial to her personally and professionally, and specified she had to do so by a deadline–a possible clue that something’s amiss. What’s the rush?

She became more suspicious when at first she understood she’d have to pay a fee for the LinkedIn group membership and then, when she asked again, he said she didn’t. He even floated the promise of new business saying he was on the board of a company that was a fit with her specialty.

He consistently left messages on her mobile and work phones to get her to agree to be included in the Who’s Who “honor.” When she inquired if she needed to pay the hefty sums for the Who’s Who inclusion to be a member of the alumni group on the social networking service he said “No.”

She phoned the University Alumni office and learned the correct name of the official LinkedIn  group which she joined free, with no strings.

Will the Real Who’s Who Please Stand Up?

Who's who in AmericaMarquis Who’s Who publishes the flagship and well known “Who’s Who in America” and the others—“Who’s Who in American Politics;” “Who’s Who of American Women;” “Who’s Who in Science and Engineering,” to name a few. According to Wikipedia, “Marquis requires no publication or processing fees from the persons selected as biographees [sic].”

Have you been approached or tempted by publishers of ersatz “Who’s Who” directories? Have you found online a company or organization you thought was legitimate and it turned out its name was deliberately close to what you wanted to first dupe and then pull you in?

Wolf in sheep's clothing


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12 Responses to “Service of The Who in Who’s Who”

  1. Kathleen Said:

    The best “Who’s Who” story I know came from the folks we stayed with when we attended the High Point Furniture Market. The family got an application for Beau Hunter (their last name is Hunter) which they dutifully filled out and submitted. So Beau found himself listed in this so-called directory. One slight problem: Beau was the family dog — a wonderful boxer!! The Hunters proudly proclaimed that Beau was the first dog to be included in Who’s Who!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Good one! I bet there are and have been many an employer who would have preferred Beau on staff than some of the gems they collected over the years whose information was as true as his.

  3. Septimius Said:

    Vanity scams are almost as old as Eve and the poisoned fruit. The worst thing about them is that they make you feel real, first-class jerk when you fall for them. I did once. I know.

    Many years ago, Marquis, unsolicited, sent me an application to be listed in “Who’s Who in America.” Knowing what it was I filled it out. Neither then or at any time thereafter, did my listing ever cost me a penny. Then a few years later, after my name had gotten into the paper for something, a like London publication sent me a similar application. My self-importance had gone to my head, and assuming that it was the same deal, I filled it out without bothering to read the fine print.

    Six months later, I received a proof of my entry and a bill for 800 Pounds, a lot of money then. I’d obviously been had. I called a solicitor friend with who I had done a lot of business to find out what would happen if I did not pay it. He knew of the London publication, which was legitimate, and was embarrassingly blunt when he told me that I’d be in breach of contract.

    The application I had signed was a contract. The publisher had filled its end of the bargain and published my entry. I had no choice but to pay or be sued and lose in court.

    The moral of the story is obviously always read the fine print, but it is also make sure that you keep your ego in check.

  4. jeanne Byington Said:


    Read the fine print is a good topic + rule of thumb but when people are busy, which spammers + scammers count on, it’s an easy step to skip.

    I guess fooling people who are employed is better than the very old or young who are targets of the heartless.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Who’s who scams are much older than emails, and present themselves as such, by asking for money in order to be granted a listing. However inviting the “invitation” should appear, or whatever the organization, the mere suggestion of payment should raise a red flag. It is also imprudent to be sharing personal information with an unknown entity.

    I first heard of these boondoggles in the ’50s, and there’s little doubt they’ve been around well before then.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The second example was especially tricky as my friend approached what she thought was a legitimate group which then turned into a hidden sales platform for something else which was the Who’s Who look-a-like. Nobody approached her at first.

    It’s so easy to do.

    I use an anti-virus program that I thought I was linked to–I fished it out of the Internet. Turned out what I linked to had inverted a letter or in some way changed the name and used a very similar logo to the real thing so I downloaded a horror that messed things up and I needed a computer doctor to remove all the viruses.

  7. Martha Takayama Said:

    My most recent Who’s Who call was one that awakened me late yesterday afternoon as I was trying to rest after an exhausting day. I am never sure whether these calls are legitimate or not but I always find them intrusive and annoying. They invariably end up with a hard sales pitch for a set of volumes that will include me, and which I am assured I really will want. I used to receive more esoteric or “selective” email solicitations from professional groups as opposed to alumni ones. Once or twice, a long time ago, I made the mistake of not recognizing them for a waste of time if not a scam. I am often confused about just what it is that they claim has made me fit into the select group in question. However, I nowadays feel that my importance and marvelous qualities and pedigree will just have to survive without inclusion in these real or imagined groups in print or online!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What would be interesting to know is how many human resources people–or others who do the hiring in a particular field–actually refer to any of these directories. I suspect that most use LinkedIn, Google searches and other ways of checking out potential employees onlione or they know them through networking.

  9. Martha Takayama Said:

    Jeanne, I don’t know that human resource people ever started their search for employees with these directories. Perhaps a long time ago they were used to casually check out someone’s affiliation with a particular school. The alumni directories often served a variety of social purposes including furnishing contact information. Other of these affiliations are sometimes used to round out or embellish a resume in the art world in particular. However, I am unclear as to how truly meaningful they are, especially in the current climate of endless self-promotion and self-exposure on social media.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    If what we suspect is true–that few if any use the directories any more or perhaps never did–then I suppose the only purpose of a legitimate “Who’s Who” listing is to add a line to a resume. It wouldn’t seem worth the money to be included in the pay to play variety.

    Unless in the Ivy League, I wonder how many favor graduates from the college they attended when conducting job searches. If a resume came over the transom and the decision-maker noticed the applicant went to their school that might carry some weight. Otherwise the directories might be useful for personal searches or for those looking for contact names from whom to solicit charitable funds or send sales pitches.

  11. JBS Said:

    I believe almost all pofessional women get this scam. Must admit that early in my PR career, I was hooked by the first one and dutifully filled out all the information they requested. Then came the Ask, please send X dollars (more than I had to waste at the time) and I caught on. Numerous other requests happened as I aged, but now that I am retired, they no longer come after me … I’d like to hope the lack of response for the last 10 requests or so had something to do with this.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I bet men get plenty of these offers as well.

    But another point that I tried to make in this post applies to anybody who uses the Internet: Be very careful you are on the site you meant to reach, not one that’s trying to attract you as happened to my friend and to me with my anti-virus program update. It’s so easy to make a slip on the keyboard or link to the faux site via Google and bingo: You either attract unwanted sales pitches dressed as something else or in my case, add all sorts of viruses to your computer.

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