It’s come to my attention that there may be texts circulating claiming to be Stenograph President Anir Dutta.
Mr. Dutta called me not too long ago (Sunday), and this was obviously not his area code. Nobody should be fooled by this dishonesty, it’s a common gift card scam.
It’s notable that these attacks are frequent on prominent organizations. The data to commit these scams is usually scraped off of organizations’ websites, and as far as I know, not usually the result of any breach.
It’s my sincere hope that more law enforcement emphasis gets put on scam detection, investigation, and prosecution. FTC data shows consumers losing over $8 billion to scams in 2022. That’s over twice the size of our entire industry. Double the money every single court reporter made in 2022.
If you or anyone receive this scam, remember not to fall for it. Respectable people like company presidents and association board members will not randomly ask for gift cards.
Stenonymous Satire Weekends is back with a vengeance tomorrow. We’ll be poking fun at AI art.
I’ve personally seen a couple of videos like it. The presenter starts “ready for another side hustle? This one’s for you if you are broke and lazy.” She proceeds to mention that you can transcribe audio and video into text with these websites.
The video continues to make transcription seem simple by stating that you’re not actually doing any work. She mentions how you can go to an automatic speech recognition (ASR) site called SpeechNotes, speak the words, and have them transcribed. But the science we have so far points to ASR being better for whites than black speakers as well as the AAVE dialect. That’s a lot of unserved jobseekers. What she’s describing is essentially voice writing, but without a “stenomask” or Nuance’s software trained to your voice. She closes by saying, in part, that there’s “no reason” a person can’t make $2,000 to $3,000 a month.
There’s a lot to be said about this. First, it embodies and emboldens our argument about quality. Do lawyers want the accuracy of the record to become a side hustle? It also points to what a scam digital court reporting / recording really is, because even if companies are able to successfully train enough digital reporters / recorders to take the work, it’s clear that there’s a transcriber shortage.
Probably from the terrible pay! $0.30 to $1.10 per audio minute according to the video. That’s $18 to $66 per hour. That doesn’t account for any time it takes to submit a job or edit voice transcription mistakes, which could be 20% or more of a transcription. That doesn’t include any proofreading time. With average transcription times ranging anywhere between an hour and six hours, depending on the methodology of transcription, we could be talking about $9 to $33 an hour. Less if we actually divide by six, $3 to $11 an hour. That $2,000 a month could require between 666 hours and 60 hours. At that kind of pay, transcribers would probably be better off trying to argue that they are misclassified employees — at least it would guarantee the ones in America minimum wage, which the independent contractor title does not. At that kind of pay, it means digital court reporting / recording won’t have enough transcribers to cover all the work it wants to take from stenography.
Transcription companies utilize influencers to bring in business. It’s not hard to imagine transcribers also being lured in under this model. Transcription fixture Rev is open about their influencer program to bring in business, which I respect.
There are people in the field speaking out against mistreatment, but progress is slow. Stenographers can take note that the cracks are forming in the narrative of the larger corporate players though. Is this the future? Yes? Then why are we paying people like it’s 1990? Is this equal to stenography? Yes? Why don’t you pay them like stenographers? No? Why are you selling it? What’s the turnover like with these people we pay peanuts to? High? Why are you wasting all that time and energy retraining people? Do you profit from it? Low turnover? Then where are all these people? We have to deal with a crushing reality: Most of the data that people would need to make good decisions is in private hands that profit from the data being unavailable.
Luckily we have our own influencers and their numbers are likely to grow once stenographic organizations and collectives start getting serious about reaching audiences. Can’t wait to see what the creative minds out there think up next.
TikTok user workathomewoman mentions in her video a 3 to 1 ratio being possible for an experienced transcriber.
I read and learn about scams frequently. The terrible thing about a great scam is that it’s adaptable to almost any market or format. Court reporting’s a got a wide range of people in it, from technological masterminds to the folks that only deal with the bare minimum that they need to know to do their job. This’ll be mostly for the latter! Here are a few common scams you may run across.
The check cashing scam. In American payments and banking, many of us still use checks. Always know where your check is coming from and get your guard up if the check is in the wrong amount. To very quickly run through this scam, someone will send you a check, usually “overpay” by hundreds or thousands of dollars, and then ask for some money back. In our banking system, the bank must release the money to you in one or two days, so most people look at their account and believe the check has cleared. So let’s say you get a $1,000 check. You deposit it and the bank lets you withdraw this instantly. The payer says “whoops, I overpaid, please wire me back $500.” No problem. You send the $500. It can take several weeks for the bank to discover the check is fraudulent. When they do, they deduct $1,000 from your account, and probably add a bounced check fee. So now you have an account that is negative $500, and you’re on the hook for it! This is not like credit theft where the bank must reimburse theft that isn’t your fault, and thousands upon thousands of dollars are lost through this common scam. For court reporters that deal with checks, you are a huge target for this scam.
The infected computer scam. All of a sudden your computer locks up or starts making noise. “Alert. Alert. Your computer is infected. Call Microsoft immediately.” The way this scam goes is someone has gotten a piece of malware on your computer OR they have tricked you into thinking that there is malware on your computer through a popup. Their goal is to get you to call the number and pay them some money to “fix” your computer. The major problem with this is that they are not Microsoft. They usually get you to give them access to your PC through remote PC services, and once they have that kind of access they may steal more information, mess up your PC more, or fix your problem. You’re basically at their mercy. To avoid that, your best bet is usually to NOT CALL, save your work, close all the windows on the computer, and try to restart the computer. CTRL + ALT + DELETE can help you bring up the task manager window on most Windows computers. You can view all the “processes” running on your computer. There’s a lot of stuff there you won’t recognize. In my experience, viruses are usually poorly named, like bwejrj.exe. Once you get the “bad” process done, you can go to the “startup” tab, find it, and disable it there to make sure it doesn’t start when Windows starts. Once the virus is disabled in this manner, you can generally run your antivirus and your computer without worrying too much about it. If it’s not running and never set to run, it’s like it doesn’t exist. On older computers, you should use your search bar to find “msconfig.exe.” This is where the startup tab is on older computers. If you’re not good with computers and you’re using msconfig.exe, only use the “services” and “startup” tab. Don’t touch the other tabs. A family member once had a virus that closed all windows on the computer. By opening the task manager and tapping the delete key, I was able to kill the process (even though it kept closing task manager.) I’m firmly convinced that most malware is programmed poorly and that this trick will help you out. It’s much better than giving your money away to scammers. I’ll leave some screenshots for people that need to visualize it. Our computers are really important for our work, so having this basic knowledge up your sleeve is good.
The fake program scam. This is something we are seeing in gaming, and it’s probably only a matter of time before some scammer tries it on our software. Generally, these types of scams have to do with promising you that an application that is not made for your phone can be run on your phone, or unlocking some special feature in your software. So imagine a world where somebody comes out and says you can get CAT on your phone or you can unlock this super special feature if you just answer some survey questions. Wow! CAT software is so expensive and this feature sounds great. They might even send you a video of them doing it! Generally, the video is faked. What they are trying to do is get you to answer surveys or give up personal information so that they can sell that. Your time is wasted, they make money off your time, and you get nothing. If you’re really not sure, contact your manufacturer. Even if their logo is terrible, the chance they’re helping your scammer is basically nothing.
Gift cards and email scams. To break this one down, I’m going to explain that there are programs that “crawl” the internet looking for e-mails. Once they find an e-mail, automated messages can be sent out by the thousands from thousands of different e-mail addresses. So, for example, when you have something like the NCRA or NYSCRA board, our e-mails are public. We want members to have our e-mails. We want reporters in our state or field to be able to contact us. That’s just how it goes. We can try to put the [at] instead of the @ in our e-mail to throw off the crawler programs, but at the end of the day, scammers have access to our names. If you post your e-mail address publicly, these programs will similarly have access to your e-mail. You may get a fake e-mail that says it’s from your associations, or your association president. The biggest red flag with this scam is that it asks for money or a gift card. Gift cards are basically untraceable and once you send a gift card code to a scammer, that money’s gone. The best way to shield yourself is to never ever give gift card codes over e-mail. If you want to donate a gift card for an association event, it should be done by mail or in person at sanctioned and publicized events. I can’t stress enough that no volunteer board member is going to be asking you for gift cards over an e-mail with no context or clear reason, so do yourself a favor and hit delete. Please note there are variations of this scam where the scammer tries to tell you your friend or loved one is in prison and needs those gift cards immediately. Don’t let them toy with you. You’re smarter than that.
The subscription or spoof scam. Months ago someone wrote to me and stated “I never signed up for your blog, but I’m getting e-mails from it! Did XYZ Corporation sell my e-mail to you?!” No. This is a different type of scam in that it’s not so much money that’s at stake, but reputation. Someone can go to a subscription site and stick your e-mail in the box. They might be doing this with the intention to harass or annoy you, or they may be doing it with the intention to sour your feelings about the other party by getting you hit with unsolicited e-mails. There’s also a variant of this scam where the party may send you nasty e-mails pretending to be someone else, or post on an internet forum or subreddit pretending to be someone else. They can even use masking or spoofing to make it look like it’s coming from the person’s actual e-mail! So, if you’re getting bombarded by an unwanted subscription, take some time out to look for the unsubscribe link in the e-mail, most honest subscriptions have them. If you have any doubts about the authenticity of an e-mail, instead of replying directly, you can compose a new e-mail to the person. For example, let’s say you get an e-mail tomorrow from ChristopherDay227@gmail.com, but it’s saying horrible, nasty, hateful things. That’s very outside my character unless I’m having a nervous breakdown or deeply emotional moment. If you hit reply, you may send an e-mail back to the scammer who can continue to mess with you in my name. If you compose a brand new e-mail to ChristopherDay227@gmail.com, you’ll get me, at which point I can hopefully clear the whole thing up. Same thing goes for cellphones. Someone can make it look like they’re calling from my number very easily, but they can’t receive my calls without some serious hacking. This kind of thing is prevalent. I use myself as an example here, but it can happen to anyone. They can pretend to be your boss, your union president, your agency. The good news is you can outsmart them pretty easily.
The good news for court reporters is that the average scammer’s livelihood depends on scamming as many people as possible. This often means that scams are not often tailored to our specific profession, and that can help raise red flags and identify scams. That said, knowing reporters who have fallen for these, and knowing we can prevent that, I feel it’s important to speak up and beat back the scammers. Reporters are, on average, getting older, and many of these scammers attempt to prey upon older people who may lead very busy lives and are not able to read about these scams. Many of our recruits are younger people who are often unaware of the myriad ways that people can try to take advantage of them. Divided, it might be easy enough for them to fool one or two people. Together, we can outsmart all of ’em.