As a freelancer, you have the advantage of flexibility and convenience. You pick the hours you work and determine how much you get paid for it. More importantly, you also get to choose who you want to work with and what you want to work on.
However, with this much control, you also risk running into a potential pitfall. There are people out there who pose as clients but intend to scam you. It's for this reason that you need to be aware of scammers who can steal your data, refuse to pay for the work you did, and cause you to work for fraudulent purposes without you knowing.
Whether or not you are new to freelancing, the following tips should help you steer clear of fraudulent projects and clients:
You know a freelancing job is suspicious if it offers above-market rates. It's easy to see why since most newcomers expect larger payouts only to earn way below what is advertised.
The best way you can spot such scams is by researching the average rates for your niche. If you are offering remote admin assistant services, the most you can earn is $50 an hour, and that's only if you are working under the world's largest brands.
Clients that offer beyond what is reasonable are just baiting you into a scam. When in doubt, check it out on Google.
Being in the "gig economy", you may already be familiar with platforms such as UpWork and Fiverr. Knowing how difficult it is to compete for freelance jobs on these sites, you may consider looking for other platforms where you can easily win projects.
The problem with this is that there are a lot of websites that might not be legitimate in the first place. Most of these are designed specifically for phishing personal information. For more about phishing schemes, click here.
Requests for personal information
If you are like many serious freelancers, you can rely only on legitimate platforms to hunt for gigs. However, fraudulent clients still exist on Fiverr, UpWork, and other legitimate sites.
One way you will know for sure if a client is anything but legitimate is when they request personal information during an interview. They may ask you to send them your bank account numbers and social security number as part of their “onboarding process.”
It’s still important to know that you are well within your rights to refuse. Moreover, sharing such information is prohibited in many freelancing platforms since they have their own systems for verifying and processing payments. If someone ever asks you to provide them sensitive information, you are better off looking for someone who plays by the rules.
Requests for original samples
For clients to know if they are dealing with the right people for their projects, they often require samples or provide tests. This is normal, since samples and tests enable clients to know if you are a good match for their needs.
However, fraudulent clients will exploit this requirement. If you are looking to work as a content writer, they may provide you with sample topics to work on. After submitting your outputs, you may not be able to hear from them again. Plus, they will use your samples to their own advantage and without having to pay you for the effort.
It’s always a good idea to prepare a portfolio of your previous work. Legitimate clients will view your samples and give their feedback within a day or two.
Lack of a track record
One advantage of using legitimate freelancing platforms is that you get to check a client’s previous record. This is important before you even get to sign a contract. You wouldn’t know if the client is simply gathering sensitive information or representing an illegal organization.
Taking the time to check the background of the client can spare you from headaches. For that, consider checking testimonials from previous freelancers and researching the companies they own or represent. If they provide you an email address, you can search it on Google and find out if it’s used on suspicious websites.
Lastly, make sure to check if they have a presence on LinkedIn. You know you are dealing with a legitimate client if their profile provides complete and relevant information.
If you are looking for a freelancing gig, consider these tips to help you find jobs and clients that are worth your time and your trust.