Looking back, I'm sure many parties saw opportunities where they could have avoided being scammed. However, one opinion that I've seen expressed alot is this "How could ESPN have hired a writer they never met" Simple. They never Hired HER per se. They paid her for the stories that she (or whomever it was) generated. Her column was generating buzz on another website, (although its in question how much of that was legit.) I have a suspicion if there wasn't a fraud element to this story, and it was simply a case of a writer using a assumed name and picture, ESPN may have still paid for "her" stories.
Granted, I'm not ESPN. But to the left of my blog, I have snippets of several other blogs. I have not met any of them, but I find what they have to say interesting. ESPN never met "Sarah Phillips" but liked what "Phillips" had to say, I suppose, or at least enough people did that it justified putting the column on their site. Would it have been in there best interest to be better aware of how their brand was being represented by Phillips on Twitter? absolutely. But I'm not as incredulous as some on how an writers works could be published on a site. Its always been my belief that freelance is exactly that. Paid for the particular works. Sadly, I feel this could only make it more difficult for legit freelance writers to find a larger platform.