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For many businesses, the rising popularity of the gig economy is a game-changer. The workers don’t want to be beholden to a faceless, morally ambiguous corporate behemoths.

In 2019, 57M Americans chose the freedom that comes with freelancing, and the number is continually growing every year.

In the IT industry, where Millenials are well represented, the Harris Poll research indicates that freelancing is preferable to corporate work, demonstrating the changes taking place in the IT market.

Survey of Millennials GenX Boomers-Freelance Scams

The Merits and Dangers of Working With Freelancers

The Merits of Working with Freelancers

1. Saving Money Without Sacrificing Quality

Hiring freelancers is almost always cheaper than having an in-house team. Firstly, you don’t have to pay for the office rent, vacations, and health insurance per worker.

Secondly, you are hiring extra help only in very exceptional cases when you have big seasonal projects or something to be done out of your capabilities. Therefore, you pay only accordingly to work done.

Thirdly, you do not have to invest money in developing the needed skills. You can simply hire someone who can do whatever you need.

2. Easy Accessibility

As the only thing required thing to communicate with a freelancer is the internet, you can easily reach the freelancer anytime despite the time of day or day of the week.

If you’ve got something to be done on Friday evening, you don’t have to wait till Monday morning. Just find someone online.

3. High Range of Skills

On freelance platforms, you can find specialists in almost any sphere from all around the world, with a wide diversity of skills and experiences proposed. Depending on your preferences, you can hire someone for a more extended project or just for a small task.

You can narrow down your search to a specific skill, or tool, or region, or age, or nationality — no limits at all!

4. Responsibility

Freelancers care about their reputation a lot. One bad comment can ruin an impression from an excellent profile with a vast portfolio. That is why while in-house workers can always count on their backup, freelancers take responsibility for their work, whether it is done or not.

If it is done, they get paid, and everyone is happy. If not, they’ll have to put a lot of effort to get back on track.  

The Dangers of Working with Freelancers

1. Confidentiality

Some information requires extra secrecy. The number one concern of any business is to keep it safe. That is why it is of high importance to choose the right person to work with, especially if you decided to hire a freelancer.  

2. Communication Difficulties

The study by Codementor.io shows that hiring freelancers from Eastern Europe or Asia is almost twice cheaper, even though they are as professional as their USA colleagues.

However, not all the abroad contractors speak proper English. Besides, they may have different working cultures, corporate ethics, and way of thinking in general. As a result, these differences may cause misunderstandings and conflicts during the working process and you may feel like you have gone through freelance scams.

3. Trustworthiness

Unfortunately, old-fashioned freelance platforms are still not entirely successful in protecting clients from scammers. They steal other’s people’s accounts, hijack good portfolios take the money and never finish the project, send plagiarised works, and so on.

Luckily, with the rising popularity of the new type of freelance platforms, which are checking all the candidates through a multi-layered vetting procedure, the process of finding freelancers has become more simplified and secured. The risk is low for freelance scams.

Trust written on sand - Accelerating Your Success - Be Successful in Life-Freelance Scams

Photo Credit – Pixabay.com

How Does a Common Freelance Scam Scenario Look Like?

Unfortunately, together with all the perks of hiring freelancers, unpleasant situations do occur and freelance scams do happen. To mitigate the chances of losing money, time, and reputation, companies thinking of hiring freelancers should be aware of the risks involved. Here are some typical cases, which are based on true stories

Scenario 1: Hijacked Portfolio & Fake Testimonials

Ben, 27 yrs old Looking for a Part-time Developer to Get Extra Help with the Startup:

“After days of searching, I finally found the perfect candidate! A great portfolio and several excellent testimonials convinced me that he was the right one to complete the job. Although the price was a little more than I expected, I hired him. Immediately after the money was sent, he stopped replying to my messages. After a few days, his account was deleted. Along with my money, he had disappeared.”

What Happened?

Very often, scammers find high-quality portfolios on platforms like Behance and link them to fake accounts. Usually, these kinds of profiles have no credible information about the freelancer or even no information at all. It’s a common practice when the scammers create fake client’s accounts to leave positive testimonials to convince the real clients to trust them.

Scenario 2: Mimicking Top Freelancers

David, 45 yrs old — Looking for a Full-time Developer.

“My team was working on a very important project with a short deadline. We could not finish everything on time, so we decided to hire a high-quality freelancer, who could help us to catch up. We found a top freelancer on one of the platforms. Fortunately, he agreed to start right away. We arranged a Skype call, where he was polite and professional. His nickname was Sc0tt.Daniels. A couple of days later, a freelancer named Scott Daniels, contacted us on Skype, asking whether the project was still going ahead. We couldn’t understand what was going on until we saw the small difference in the nickname! Sc0tt.Daniels was a scammer! We nearly lost a lot of money and, even worse, a very important client! Luckily, the real freelancer contacted us just in time.”

What Happened?

In this case, a scammer stole a trustworthy freelancer’s name. He substituted only one element of the nickname (the letter ‘o’ with a number ‘0’) to steal the real freelancer’s identity, and it worked. So, always pay attention to even the least notable details.

Scenario 3: Sharing Accounts & Plagiarism

Anna, 24 yr old— Looking for a Full-time Content Writer for her Website:

“I have found a freelancer for my website to write five articles each week. At first, the content was interesting and relevant. However, after only a few weeks, the quality of the work plummeted. It seemed like a different person was writing them! When I asked the freelancer what was going on, she offered the lame excuse that she didn’t have time. The worst was yet to come. One of my readers informed me that some of my articles were not unique! I contacted the writer straight away, but she never replied. Now I feel helpless. I don’t know what to do.”

What Happened?

Plagiarising content is a widespread scam, but it can be avoided by using one of the many plagiarism-checkers which are available online. Before paying for finished work, it is essential to check its uniqueness on services such as Turnitin or Quetext. Completing shoddy quality work or sharing the account with other freelancers, as it was in the story, is also considered as a scam.

Scenario 4: Blackmailing

Lisa, 36 yrs old — Looking for a Designer to Create the Website UI

“Has anyone faced blackmailing while using a freelance platform? It happened to me. Twice. By the same guy. I contacted a designer on a freelance platform, and we agreed on a turnkey order. After the first deadline, I saw the preview, which was good. But the person told me that he cannot finish the whole website within the deadline because it’s too much work, but if I’d pay more, he would do it on time. Because I desperately needed it to be done by the due date, I agreed. After the second deadline, I received an email from the freelancer, saying that he got all the data on the website, and if I don’t pay $1500, I’ll never get my website back. This cheater scammed me two times and stole so much money!”

What Happened?

Blackmailing is not just a scam, it is a crime. Stealing someone’s intellectual property should be punished. However, due to the anonymity of freelancing platforms, it is almost impossible to do. If a freelancer is asking you for more money, think twice if you can trust this person.

How to Recognize a Scam?

1. Full Prepayment and Offsite Payments

The main aim of any scam is to make you pay. Therefore, the number one sign of a scam is when someone demands the full prepayment. Professional freelancers generally prefer milestone payments with a partial sum upfront. These types of transactions are convenient for freelancers as well because this is the only guarantee that their job is going to be paid. However, never send any money directly to the freelancer’s accounts on Paypal, Skrill, Bitcoin, etc. Anyone asking you to do that should be immediately red-flagged.

2. Empty Account and Absence of Credible Data

A profile with no info does not necessarily mean a scammer. Sometimes, a well-experienced developer just embarking on his freelance career may not have any recommendations or freshly finished projects. But, for sure, only scammers will use fake photos, unverified email addresses, or phone numbers. A real profile will always include at least some information, which proves the person is trustworthy.

3. Fake Personal Info

Always stay away from the profiles with suspicious names like John Snow, Abraham Lincoln, John Dou, and so on. A scammer always wants to remain anonymous. Very rarely, they would use their real names.

4. Suspicious Behavior

Scammers can also be identified in a simple conversation. They will try to hurry you up with the payment, won’t ask you any questions regarding the project, and most probably, right after you pay, they will ghost you.

How to Avoid Scams?

1. Use Only Milestone Payments

Always pay respect to the work done by the freelancer. Proceed with further payments only after you see the progress which you’ve agreed upon. Platforms such as Due.com and Escrow.com are perfect for proceeding with milestone payments.

2. Stick with the Freelancing Platform

Insist that all communications with and payments to the freelancer only take place via a reputable freelancing platform. Avoid all temptations and politely turn down all requests to leave the platform. While communicating over Skype may be more accessible, it is also riskier.

3. Never Share any Personal Info

Some fake freelancing platforms can ask for your ID, login information, or even credit card number because they need to “verify your identity.” Never do this, remember to protect your data.  

4. Always Communicate Directly with the Freelancer

Regular communication with the freelancer is essential. This is the only way to control the progress and ensure that all the requirements are being followed.  

5. Do all the Background Checks

Be curious and thoroughly check the portfolio, including all the references, social media, and contact information. If possible, try to reach previous clients, to make sure that your project is in the right hands to avoid freelance scams.

Can I Trust Any Freelance Platforms?

While traditional freelance platforms remain widely popular, better alternatives exist in the form of the new-generation platforms.

They are preferable because:

  • Freelancers specialize only in one or several professions;
  • These platforms only work with vetted professionals;
  • They use non-bidding systems;
  • They check every contractor before assigning him or her to any project;
  • They include matching algorithms that allow you to proceed with the best-suited professional chosen by platforms’ managers.

If you are searching for developers, try Lemon.io or Toptal.com; if you need designers, look on 99designs.com; copywriters could be found on Clearvoice.com.

If you want to minimize your chance of being scammed and you don’t have time to check the freelancer’s profile procedure on your own, just simply try one of the freelance platforms mentioned above.

Most of these platforms are non-bidding ones, which simplifies the hiring procedure and is more secure.

If you still want to search by yourself, follow a three-step guideline to avoid freelance scams.

  • The first step — Look for the red flags, such as fill prepayment requests, empty profiles, fake info, fraud behavior.
  • The second step Do the background checks on the contractor, communicate directly with the freelancer, and never leave the platform, especially while doing prepayments.
  • The third step Enjoy the perks of hiring freelancers!



Written By
Тania Ilutsa is a copywriter at Lemon.io, a marketplace for hiring vetted freelance developers. She has five years’ background in freelance and marketing. She loves to read Werber and dreams of traveling around New Zealand.

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