Online freelancers have increased tenfold since the beginning of the pandemic, and it can be an exciting career choice for people who enjoy working for themselves and doing what they love. Unfortunately, one of the downsides to becoming a freelancer is figuring out which opportunities are legit- and which one is a scam.
Scammers have been around for ages, but they’ve become more crafty in recent years, so it can be hard to spot them until it’s too late.
For example, say a writer gets an email with the perfect writing gig. They want a 2,500-word article over social media, and they’re prepared to pay $1 a word for it. The writer agrees, and negotiations begin. However, when the check arrives, it bounces, and the client refuses to answer any emails or texts about the problem.
Not only did this scammer waste the writer’s time and hard work, but they’ve also refused to pay what they agreed upon, and the writer will have to get lawyers involved if they want to get paid.
This scenario is by no means an isolated event, and freelancers face these kinds of scams regularly. As a result, freelancers need to know how to spot a potential scam, deal with the scammers, and what steps to take to protect themselves.
How to Spot a Potential Scam
- Check the source. Is this company legit? Are they associated with the BBB? What does Google have to say about them? Do they have a website, and is the information up to date?
- Look at their email. If it looks like a regular email but has random letters or numbers at the end (like SamSmith2390844372@whatever.com), it may not be legit.
- Check the tone and professionalism of their messages. Are they using correct grammar and punctuation? Is their message easy to understand? Do they want something unrealistic in a short amount of time?
- Look at how they want to pay. If it’s through Western Union or other money-wire systems, or they want you to pay for a delivery, it’s probably a scam.
- Offer a contract. If the other person refuses, it’s probably a scam.
- And lastly, did they reach out on their own? Most scammers will reach out to potential targets out of the blue. They may use a company name that’s familiar to put the target off their guard, but checking the source or email is a way to see if it’s legit.
If a freelancer comes across a potential scam, they will need ways to protect themselves from further harm.
These ways include:
- Don’t engage. Delete the message, ignore the sender, and move on with life.
- Send a report to the BBB, Google, and other online registries. That way, others will know to be wary of the company or person behind the scam.
- Create an airtight contract. If the freelancer wishes to pursue the offer, they will need a legally binding contract that both parties will sign. That way, they’re protected if things go wrong. Remember to ask for the client’s full name, address, phone number, and email.
- Don’t give out personal information. Never share things like address, social security numbers, bank account numbers, and passwords.
- Ask them to pay through a secure channel, like Paypal or Stripe. Scammers can forge realistic-looking cashier’s checks and other paper payments, and it easy to deposit it before realizing it’s a fake.
- Don’t send the work until payment is received.
- Remember that if an opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Freelancers are prime targets for scammers, and protection is essential for keeping them and their work safe. Now, freelancers can identify potential scammers and decide for themselves whether they want to pursue the opportunity or ignore it and move on.