Most freelancers turn to the Internet to find work. And while there are plenty of legitimate job opportunities to be found online, many others are too good to be true. Navigating this virtual minefield and avoiding scams can become a key element of your job, as today’s scams are particularly sophisticated. Fortunately, a bit of knowledge and constant vigilance can protect your work–and your paycheck–from con artists.
How can they scam you ?
I always considered myself to be pretty careful. In my years of writing Web content, I’ve come across plenty of scam artists:
- Clients who ask for multiple revisions as a way to get several articles.
- Clients who ask for bank account information under the guise of direct-depositing payments.
- Prospective clients who ask for unpaid samples as a way to score free content with no intention of actually paying for the job.
One scam I was not prepared for, however, was the so-called “check” scam. The mechanics of the scam are fairly straightforward: First, an individual approaches you with an assignment, such as a document to be edited. He offers payment in advance using a stolen, forged or otherwise fraudulent check. He then cancels the assignment, demands a refund and requests that you wire him the money.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re ever taken in by a scam artist
It’s in your best interest to file a police report. Even though the odds of the authorities actually finding the scam artist are slim, doing so will help protect you from fraud charges of your own if you accidentally write any hot checks, and it improves your odds of having bank fees waived.
Prevention is always the best medicine
There are ways you can spot a possible scam before it gets out of hand. In hindsight, these are things I could have done to save myself the hassle and disappointment of being taken in by check fraud:
- Get as many details about the project as you can. My first red flag should have been that the client was always eager to discuss payment but had little to say about the project itself. Before you begin, you should know where the project will be published and who exactly is ordering it. Check the website of the client–both the end-client and any intermediary broker–and refuse to deal with anyone whose identity you can’t verify.
- Use a written contract. In it, specify your payment preference, number of revisions you’ll complete, deadlines and any other details that seem relevant. Forward the contract to the client and don’t start work until the terms have been agreed upon and signed.
- Use a safe and secure payment method. Paypal is easy to use and one of the safest options, but be aware that clients can still cancel a payment after making it. Another option is a money order or secure wire transfer such as Western Union. Don’t accept personal checks; take checks only from a well-established company that you know for a fact hired you to do the work. Even cashier’s checks can be faked.
- Verify that funds are available before cashing a check. If you do accept a check, you can call the issuing bank to ensure that funds are in the account before cashing it. Don’t count on your bank to do this for you.
- Request a portion of the payment in advance. Or, for larger projects, after completing an agreed-upon portion of the project. Ensure that the payment method worked before proceeding with additional work. Be wary of any client who offers to pay entirely up front. Even if they’re not scammers, these clients can still cause headaches if they decide to cancel the project and demand reimbursement.
- Consider working through a brokering service. Textbroker, eLance, oDesk and Guru collect payments from the client on your behalf and hold them in a secure account. When the work is complete, you are paid by the brokering site. These sites do take a commission of your earnings, but the price can be a fair compromise for the security they offer.
- Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll never run into a scammer. Anytime you use the Internet to find potential clients, you run the risk of meeting a thief or con artist. By practicing some vigilance and taking steps to protect yourself, you can weed out these unsavory characters and focus on the real, valuable paying clients who make up the backbone of any freelancer’s career. Tips: Freelance writing is an interesting way to work and earn money, it maybe easy if you have a good foreign language skills and ability to work under high pressure. You can find many good clients and have them rated you a better rank for getting jobs easier.