How to Spot the Scams

Scams are everyone’s least favourite part of our digital world. They’re all over the place. No matter how reputable a website or platform is, there will always be scammers on the prowl for freelancers. Sometimes you can spot them a mile away. Other times, it’s not so easy.

I’ve come across more than my fair share of scammers in my time as a freelancer. Luckily, they’ve been more of a slight occasional nuisance than anything. But they can be far more dangerous if they steal your information or get you to do work for free. Even apart from that, they’re just a huge waste of time to deal with.

So how do you avoid scammers? How can you tell when a job posting is fake? How do you know if the person you’re talking to really is who they say they are? Let’s get right to it.

Scam Job Postings

These are job postings you’ll find on freelancing platforms like Upwork or Guru. While most platforms catch a lot of spam postings before they’re published, some slip through the gaps. Here’s what you should look at if your internal “sketchy” alarm starts to go off:

1. The job description

Scam job postings are often vague, saying something like: “Get paid to do a quick, easy job and earn a huge bonus!” 

As a rule of thumb, don’t waste your time applying to jobs that don’t have clear descriptions. There’s no way to know if your skills actually match the job so you’ll probably just waste your time. 

2. The payment

Is the client offering a lot of money for a very small task? Or offering a huge bonus? Is there a “too good to be true” statement? Then those are big red flags that it’s a scam. Some platforms like Upwork have an added layer of protection that shows you if the client’s payment method has been verified, but that alone isn’t a foolproof way of telling whether or not it’s a scam.

3. The client

Are they brand new to the platform? That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a scammer but it adds evidence if you notice other questionable things about the job posting. Do they have reviews? Read them if so, and if not, factor that into your consideration.

After you’ve assessed these three things, you can decide whether or not to bid for the job. When it comes down to it, trust your gut. And if it is a scam job, there’s still a lot more time for you to realise it before things get bad.

Communication/Interview with a Scammer

If you’re contacted after bidding for a job or approached by a stranger telling you about potential work online, you have another round of fact-checking to go through. Now, let me say that even though someone randomly approaching you about work seems sketchy, it’s not always. I’ve had people reach out to me through LinkedIn and my website who I’ve ended up doing legitimate work for – but I did my research first. Here’s how. 

1. Look them up

Do some research on who the client claims to be and see if it matches up with what you find online. Most of the time, with scammers, it won’t. 

Also, notice if the potential client contradicts who they originally said they were. I’ve had clients give me one name, then another, and that’s when you know for sure what’s going on.

2. Look up their company

If they claim to be part of a company, look up that company and see if the work the client is talking about matches up. Again, 99% of the time with scammers, you’ll be able to tell right away.

3. Be wary of text interviews

If the client asks to do an “interview” over messaging, it’s probably a scam, especially if they specifically request that you download a specific random messaging app. They’re trying to hide the fact that they aren’t who they say they are. If they ask you if a text interview is okay, you can say that you at least want to do a phone call. If they refuse, politely let them know you can’t continue with the interview. 99% of scammers will never get on phone or Zoom with you, so this is a pretty sure method of weeding out scammers. 

4. Watch what they say

Are there lots of simple grammar and language mistakes in their communication? Do they contradict themselves? Added to other factors, these signs probably point towards a scammer.

How to Keep Yourself Safe

Scammers are one of the reasons why I advocate for starting on a freelancing platform and then slowly weaning yourself off of it. These platforms have safeguards and screenings in place that allow you to deal with scammers in a much safer environment than if you were on your own. For example, on Upwork, if a client funds a milestone and you submit the work on time and as specified, you’re getting paid. The client can’t retract that money. So as long as you only start the work after the milestone is set, you’re not in danger of doing free work. 

Also, remember to be extremely wary of anyone who randomly approaches you about work online. As I said, some are legitimate, but many are not.

When it comes down to it, here’s the number one thing to do when trying to weed out scammers: ask questions and do your research. 99% of scammers have a fairly paper-thin ruse set up, so it doesn’t take much to see through it. Just be inquisitive and keep your wits about you.

Have you ever dealt with scammers? How did you find them out? Let me know in the comments!

Happy writing!

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Photo by Leon Seibert on Unsplash

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When you write as much as I do, you have to take frequent breaks from sitting. A standing desk (not a whole desk, but a mini desk that will sit on top of my current desk with my laptop, keyboard, and mouse and extend upward) will allow me to continue working while maintaining that good blood flow to my brain. Thank you so much for your support that allows me to keep producing free content. God bless you! ♥️ E.J.


One thought on “How to Spot the Scams

  1. Pingback: Don’t Waste Time Applying to Freelance Jobs | E.J. Robison

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