Dealing with scams that masquerade as legit online jobs

Scams, come with the territory. Yes, I like to say there are countless opportunities for freelancers working online. And I encourage people to take an inventory of their skills and find some that they can package as a freelance service to make extra money.

But we can’t close our eyes to the fact that there are so many who leap onto the online world to find jobs only to get burnt.

This even happens to people hiring, clients outsourcing work to freelancers.

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There are so many people out there who just want:

  • to take advantage of your time and work without paying the requisite amount (agreed upon prior to you doing the work)
  • to take money off clients and then disappear without doing the work to the expectation of the client.

So, as you hop online in search for freelance jobs, don’t downplay the fact that scammers exist everywhere – and anyone can become a victim.

I am writing this piece to show you:

  • some things you can do to differentiate between scams and opportunities that are legit
  • some things you can do to protect yourself (your time and money) from scammers
  • simple things you can do to steer clear of scammers (being associated with them)

Common ways freelancers get scammed online

Here are some ways freelancers get scammed online:

Getting paid less than their work deserves. So, while you are getting paid you aren’t realizing the full benefits of your output. I know they say willing buyer willing seller, but there are some stingy people out there. They want to hoard whatever they have, pay peanuts and expect no complaints.

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They have the mentality of favours – you work for them but because they are the ones paying they act like they are doing you a favour. Avoid such characters. However, you can work for someone even if they are paying little money as long as they are dealing with you in good faith.

Being manipulated with lofty promises. So, for example you can start work getting paid Kenya Shillings 5000 (USD 50) per article and then all of a sudden you get an email promising you more work (of the same nature)

The problem is the email will most likely be loaded with language loaded with language meant to pressure you work for lower rates. So, in the end, you might get asked to write ten more articles but at KSh 3000 (USD 30) per article.

Just because you are promised more work shouldn’t mean that you just say yes.

Examine things first. If saying no is the right thing to do, refuse the work or negotiate for terms that work in your favour (as well as as the client). If they start getting angry or cold, you might just want to drop them.

Being asked to do more than what you initially agreed on. So, getting robbed of your time – time you could have spent finding and working with better and well paying clients.

Refunds. So, someone coming to you with a problem they want to outsource, paying you after you have completed the work then initiating a refund request from within their payment service provider.

How scammers perpetuate fraud online

They mask their identities. So you will find someone looking for freelancers to hire with a fake avatar, fake name, fake social media accounts, fake profiles, fake emails, and sometimes even fake blogs & websites.

They refuse to pay money through channels commonly used by freelancers. Or more importantly they try to conduct their financial dealings on platforms they deem have a lax approach to stamping out fraud.

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They bring up excuses, delay paying freelancers, disappear and change their contacts.

They try to complicate really simple matters.

They pay with stolen credit cards and debit cards. Make sure your money is coming from the person with the same name as the one who reached out to you for help with a project. Or at least the information in the receipt should be related to the business they run or the company they work for.

How to avoid scams when working online as a freelancer

Learn about pricing. Know about fair rates practices in whichever area you work in as a freelancer. The reason why this is so important is that even if you decide to work for low pay once in awhile, you will be doing that because you choose to and not because of ignorance.

Keep good records. Of invoices, receipts, emails, agreements, files containing the work you deliver to clients after completing a project.

Don’t rush into trusting someone. Get to learn more about them. Do your research. Ask a little about them and their business. Ask if they have ever worked with freelancers before (if you can’t find evidence online – on their sites for example).

Ask them why they enjoy working with freelancers. Generally just check the language in their replies for any red flags. Seek clarity, even if you have to wait before you get a job. It is a powerful way to protect yourself from scammers.

If you have been scammed once you can be scammed again. So, it helps to talk about it every time you are scammed. You usually see this happening in Facebook groups related to freelancing. And every time this happens you usually see others coming out talking the scams they have fallen victim too as well.

So, in the end you gain more information that will help you spot and stop fraudulent activities before they even start. Mention the names of the people who scammed you, give a little backstory and most of the times others will also share more names you want to avoid as you go about looking for work online.

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Why you must help fight scams / fraud in the online freelancing world

All the money people make from fraudulent activities online emboldens them. Some just get a rush off making money manipulating people with their little minds and monies. Wean them off their addiction by protecting yourself – and maybe they might learn and change their ways. If they don’t learn (and change) you and many others you share insights with will be able to protect themselves. Which is a good thing.

People who scam others usually use the money they make to perpetuate fraud. So, for example, they can use the money to entice other freelancers paying them once or twice and once they think the contractor is hooked they can demand more results and fail to pay.

It is just a lot of headache dealing with scammers. If their activities can be lessened, the better for everybody.

So, take your time when talking to a potential client. Get to know them. Get to know what they do. And then you can talk more about working on multiple projects. And every time something smells fishy, just walk away.

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