Easy Tricks for Spotting Freelance Job Scams

Protect your identity and integrity by avoiding fraudulent freelance job offers.

Image credit: Studio City Neighborhood Council
Image credit: Studio City Neighborhood Council

Because freelance job listings characteristically involve short-term telecommute work, they’re easier to fake than full-time, salaried job postings. If you’re a freelancer looking for a new project, get familiar with these easy tricks for spotting freelance job scams:

Take a Step Back from Start-ups

Start-up businesses should not be universally painted with the job-scam brush; however, it’s important to understand that con artists exploit the entrepreneurial spirit of start-up businesses to weave their web of deceit.

Beware of freelance job listings from newly established businesses that promise income from future earnings or a percentage of profits after “X” amount of labor. If an employer cannot afford to pay you now, then you cannot afford to say yes to the job offer.

Non-payment for freelancers
Image credit: Kimberly Back

Never Pay to Work

Although this sounds like career advice from Captain Obvious, job scammers resort to inventive methods to coax freelancers out of money. Never agree to pay for a contract, design or training materials, or distribution costs.

Protect Your Samples

It’s difficult to envision a freelancer in 2014 who does not have an online portfolio of work generated from educational assignments, internships, or previous employment. When a potential employer presses you for additional work samples or detailed outlines pertaining to a specific project proposal, recognize that you may be on the fast track to getting swindled.

Image credit: EAGNews
Image credit: EAGNews

Working for free on the promise of a job offer is bad business. Make sure you are always under the protection of a contract. If you readily provide free samples, don’t be surprised if you find your uncompensated work online, credited to someone else.

Avoid Calls for Inexperienced Workers

When have you ever contracted with a legitimate employer who is not interested in the professional and educational backgrounds of their freelancers? Even entry level positions require some measure of basic demonstrable skills or competency.

Jason Voorhees Trust
Image credit: Kimberly Back

Freelance job ads that boast “IMMEDIATE START – NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED!” should be treated with as much caution as Jason Voorhees at a summer camp.

Respect Your Instincts

Similar to how you would refuse email lottery winnings from a “Nigerian prince,” go with your gut when conducting online searches for freelance employment offers. Remember to not take unnecessary RISKS:

Research employers with accredited agencies, like the Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Investigate employers on social media sites and with other freelancers
Skip the spec work
Keep your guard up when asked to provide sensitive personal information
Stick to this promise: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Image credit: Manner Effect
Image credit: Manner Effect

If you are solicited by a freelance job scam artist, do your part to stop the cycle of employment fraud and report the incident to the BBB’s Scam Stopper or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Have you been fooled by freelance employment fraud or are you aware of current scams circling the Web? Share your stories and tips in a comment.

Kimberly is the Social Media and Content Manager at Virtual Vocations, your one-stop shop for freelancers looking for legitimate telecommute jobs. Connect with Kimberly on Facebook and Google+.





4 responses
  1. Ankita Chauhan Avatar

    Thanks for the useful tips. It happened with me on a number of occasions that my client got away without paying for the work. Now, I am more cautious before taking up any new job.

  2. Angela Avatar

    Not writing but editing. Was for someone I believed to be a friend so I gave her the benefit of the doubt when she said money was tight at the moment and she would pay me in a few weeks. The “book” ended up being about 60 pages of a mishmash of contradictory and incomplete ideas with no basis in reality. I got to a point where I realized there was a pattern going on. She would have these moments of clarity where what she was saying actually made sense. There were complete, well-put-together sentences, and then a nearly-identical block of text underneath that had been struck through. I thought these were revisions at first but I dug a little further and discovered massive amounts of plagiarism. In one instance, she copied and pasted someone’s entire (and very lengthy blog). After I outed her, she played it off. “What was I supposed to do?” Months later, she still hasn’t paid me. I wrote it off. She probably wasn’t going to pay me. She took off to another country for a month, supposedly to work on her book. She ended up purchasing a vacation home (so much for money being tight) and started texting me pictures and dropping hints that I should rent the home from her. How about no. Needless to say, we are no longer friends, if we ever were.

    1. Noemi Tasarra-Twigg Avatar
      Noemi Tasarra-Twigg

      Wow. That’s a horrible experience. I’m sorry to hear that.
      I think this is a perfect example why I avoid working with friends. I don’t think the money is worth risking the friendship.

  3. Charity Avatar

    Just a heads up about the Better Business Bureau. I’ve owned and run my business for 45 years and I refused to succumb to their blackmail tactics trying to get me to pay $400 and more to “join” the BBB in order to have a positive reputation. Otherwise, they say my business was “uncooperative” or some equally damning word. I sued for defamation and won. So don’t put all your trust in the BBB. Online reviews are more dependable and generally truthful enough to make a more informed decision about a company.

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