Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Tips for Writers to Keep Your Online Presence Safe and Accurate

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

I’ve been in the writing industry for a while (about a quarter century *gulp*). And two small habits I developed early on have been absolutely invaluable to my career. These two things have kept me from missing opportunities, provided valuable contacts, and enabled me to head off some cloning and hacking situations. 

What are they?

First, I check my email spam folder every single day and second, at least once a month, I search for spam accounts that have cloned me on social media.

You should make these habits part of your regular routine and here’s why:

Online Checks Writers Should Do Regularly 

First, Check Your Spam Folder(s) Daily

1. Publishing opportunities Hide There. Early on in my writing career I sent a proposal for my first novel to a publisher that requested it. Four weeks, six weeks and then eight weeks passed with no answer. I happened to see that editor at a writing conference and introduced myself to her and told her I was sorry my book didn’t make the cut. She looked at me surprised, “But it did. We’re just waiting for you to sign the contract.”

Yep, you guessed it. The reply—with the attached contract—was hidden in my spam folder. 

2. Warnings come from there. One day I was deleting email in my spam folder and came across an odd email. It was referencing something on social media that appeared to be from me. I dug deeper and discovered I’d been tagged in some shady social media posts. By paying attention, I was able to head off potential issues. 

3. Important emails can end up there. I’ve already shared about a publishing opportunity I almost missed, but other important emails can get shunted to spam. Years ago, when I was just getting The Write Conversation established with regular contributors, an email showed up in my spam folder. The sender claimed to be writing on behalf of the Warren Adler, one of our great American Novelists. I almost deleted it, because after all, why would Warren Adler want his assistant to contact me? But the email didn’t read like your usual spam email. The grammar and syntax were excellent and the email address matched the person who’d written the email. 

I moved the email into my inbox and answered. Turns out it WAS from Warren Adler’s assistant and he (Warren Adler) was looking for places to share information with writers and had chosen The Write Conversation. I was beyond shocked and humbled!!!! That great man wrote regularly for The Write Conversation for several years before his death. 

4. Notifications you need hide there. We just finished up the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and one of the services we provide to attendees is the opportunity to purchase the recordings of the classes and keynotes (and no, we are unable to sell those to anyone who isn’t present at the event). The one thing we emphasize strongly to each purchaser is the need to check their spam folder. The notification that the recordings are ready for download will come through email. And we really have no control over whether or not it ends up in someone’s spam folder. You’d be amazed at what important notifications can be found there.

Second, Why to Search for Yourself on Social Media Regularly

Before I give you my reasons, I want to make sure we’re on the same page with terminology. Today I want to share two irritating things that can happen online: Hacking and Cloning. They are NOT the same thing.

Hacking: If you’ve been hacked, someone has stolen access to one of your accounts and is using that account to share posts and/or email. This can be a huge headache and will require you to contact the account provider to unravel the mess and either return access of that account to you or get it closed down. 

Cloning: If you’ve been cloned, someone has stolen your public information and used it to open a new account pretending to be you. They have not stolen your password or taken anything private. While it is irritating, this is much more common and much easier to clean up—IF you discover it in a timely manner. 

Tips & Reasons for Doing a Social Media Search for Yourself

First, before this even becomes an issue, I strongly urge you to put into place a two-step verification for every single social media network you’re part of. Yes, it makes it harder to log in on different devices, but that momentary inconvenience is NOTHING compared to being hacked. 

1. I search for myself at least every two weeks on every social media network. But a monthly search is adequate for most people. And yes, I have a calendar reminder to search for social media accounts—it's THAT important. Here’s what I do:
  • I go to each social media network where I have an account and I type my name into the search. I don’t just look at the thumbnails that appear, I go ahead and click to do a deeper search. I’m looking for odd spellings of my name (sometimes with added characters or numbers). I’m also looking for pictures of myself—especially profile pictures that are current or have been used in the past. I set aside an hour for this and I go through each social media account separately. 

2. I don’t give hacked or cloned accounts to develop a footprint. The reason I check for these accounts so often is because if I don’t, then the impersonators have a chance to gain a following and look legitimate. This makes it harder to prove that I was the one who owned the account first. I’ve seen quite a few people who let too much time go by and lost the right to their own name on different networks. Be proactive NOW and avoid heart ache later!

3. If I find a cloned account, I immediately report that account. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the others have a place where you can report an account. I do NOT block these cloned accounts because I want to be able to check and make sure they’re closed down.

4. I notify my followers after I’ve reported the account. Once I’ve reported the account, I put up a post on that social media network letting my friends and followers know there’s an impersonator out there. I also ask them to go to that account and report it. This helps legitimize my claim to the social media network’s powers-that-be. 

Final Note: Before the possibility of hacking or cloning even becomes an issue, I strongly urge you to put into place a two-step verification for every single social media network you’re part of. Yes, it makes it harder to log in on different devices, but that momentary inconvenience is NOTHING compared to being hacked.

Things to IGNORE!
Yep, there are now some notifications you need to delete and ignore. The biggest one LOOKS like it comes from Facebook. 

1. Instant Messenger on Facebook is a minefield of spam notifications. The biggest one going around right now is a warning that LOOKS like it was from Facebook and it warns that you are in violation and your Facebook account is about to be shut down if you don't click the link and fix it. 


This is a lie. If you are in violation, you'll get a notification through Meta Business. 

2. Instant Messenger on Facebook is a minefield of phishing links. I make it a practice to NEVER click any link from a Facebook Messenger message. If I think the message is legit, I contact that person another way—OFF Facebook—to verify. 

3. A lot of the other Messages you receive through a social media app are also dangerous. I never click on any of them without verifying another way. 

Bottom Line
We live in a time where it’s important for writers to be active online. But with this comes the responsibility to govern those accounts and watch for people who will misuse them. Ignorance is not an excuse. These two habits aren’t difficult. And by adding them to your regular routine, you will save yourself hours of headaches & heartaches later. 

Now it’s your turn, what have you discovered by checking your spam folder and social media regularly? And if you don’t have these two habits in place, why not? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. No matter whether she’s talking to writers, entrepreneurs, or readers, her first advice is always “Find your voice, live your story.” As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. Connect with her on her website, through Facebook, Twitterand Instagram.


  1. I constantly get those irritating DM from fake FB.

  2. Excellent. Information I did not know. Thank you.

  3. Great tips and reminders, Edie! BTW sometimes I even get spam messages posing as coming from Meta Business. Extra tricky! So instead of clicking to respond, I log into my Meta Business acct directly, to be sure there are no real messages. Those spam messages look like they relate to charges for ads, when I’ve know I’ve run no recent ad campaigns. The icon in the messages looks like the Meta logo, but slightly off. If anyone were running an ad with money due, it would look very real! I rarely click links in Messenger, only ones from very close friends but still have to be careful lest a friend has been cloned!

  4. Wow, Edie... You always have so much information for us. I still remember some of these from the Speak-up conference, but there is always so much to learn. Blessings,