The internet gig-culture has provided incredible job opportunities for those who don’t want to opt for the traditional 9-5 employment route. Now, countless roles exist that you can do from the comfort of your own home and work around your own schedule.
Considering that 84% of the workforce cites flexibility as the most important factor, it’s unsurprising that the online workspace is the optimal choice for many.
However, where growing trends exist, so do scammers. The immense popularity of the online gig economy has attracted criminals who aim to profit from your work ethic and commitment. They will list false job postings and act as recruiters for large companies, in an effort to intercept your personal details.
Fortunately, you can sidestep these scammers pretty easily. All that’s required is a keen eye and knowing what to look for.
Often, work requests can appear out of thin air. If you’re struggling to find jobs, then it’s easy to pounce on the first offer that comes your way. However, this is a surefire way to fall for a scam. Fraudsters prey on your vulnerability, so you need to make sure you’re checking legitimacy before handing over any personal information.
Ask the following questions to wean out any criminals trying to make a quick dollar.
‘Can you show me where the work will be published?’
The most basic scammers rely on your instinctive reaction. They’ll send you what appears to be an unmissable opportunity and ask you to urgently share your details to take part. Asking for some evidence of their platform can refute false requests quickly.
‘Can I be introduced to other members of the team?’
It’s pretty easy to knock up a fake website – particularly if you run an ongoing scam. If the employer produces a site, but you still don’t feel sure, ask about the team. They should at least be able to provide details of other freelancers. If they can’t, it’s time to look elsewhere.
‘Are you on any freelancing sites? (e.g., LinkedIn, Upwork)’
Today, many online platforms exist that help online employers prove their legitimacy. Sites like LinkedIn and Upwork include review-style sections, where you can see what other professionals are saying about different companies. Anyone who doesn’t have an active profile should be treated with suspicion.
One of the best ways to avoid scams of any type is to be stringent about contact information. Criminals can duplicate a lot of things, but they can never use the identical, official email addresses of larger companies.
If you get a job offer from someone claiming to be a recruiter for an established brand then make sure you take the following steps:
- Check their email address for spelling mistakes.
- Look up the official contact address for the company on their website; make sure the recruiter’s is in the same format (e.g., email@example.com)
- Contact the official email asking if this person is actually a recruiter.
You’ll be surprised how often companies have no idea that scammers are claiming to be representing them. Not only will you avoid falling for a false job, but you’ll also help them out and put yourself on their radar – which could lead to an actual job offer.
The online freelance community is vast and incredibly supportive. Many social media platforms have groups dedicated to gig workers of all different types. More often than not, details of known scammers will be shared and circulated in these groups.
You can either use them to keep an eye out for potential scammers, or you can ask your own questions. If a recruiter who seems suspicious approaches you, you can post in the group and see if others have had any experiences with them. As most freelancers know the peril of a job scam, they’ll usually be incredibly helpful finding you answers.
These groups are based on Facebook and can be joined by any freelancer.
- Fiverr & Upwork Freelancers
You can also search for more specific groups based on your niche, location and skill set.
Sometimes you don’t have to go through all of the above; sometimes the scam is evident from the beginning. Several common red flags exist that signify a job offer is actually a scam. If you spot any combination of the following, then it’s time to be cautious.
You’ve seen those job ads claiming you can make your first million within a year, or “Earn $2000 a day from home.” You’ve guessed it: they’re not real. These sort of offers can immediately go into the trash. Simply follow the old mantra that ‘if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.’
One common feature of all online scams is that they encourage you to act quickly. If you feel like you’re going to miss a great deal, then you’re more likely to be impulsive and hand over sensitive information. If a company really wants to hire you, they should be able to wait until you’ve adequately vetted them. If not, it’s a massive red flag.
- Spelling Mistakes & Unprofessionalism
You can’t fake professionalism; it takes the experience to nurture it properly. Many scammers unmask themselves by lacking professional conduct. Take note of the way they speak, their sign-offs and – most important – spelling and grammar. Anyone who lacks professionalism definitely isn’t a recruiter for a large company.
- Personal Information Requests
No online employer should ever need any personal details further than the email address you use for Paypal. If they immediately start asking for bank information, address and other personal items, then it’s time to question the integrity of the offer. Never hand over personal details if you aren’t 100% certain.
Particularly for larger projects, it’s common to ask for a percentage of the payment upfront. While you won’t always find that companies agree to pay as much as 50%, the reaction you get from asking for partial payment is sure to be telling. If the company quickly retracts their offer than it was probably a scam. If they try and negotiate a lower pay then it’s likely they’re a real employer. For established freelancers, there should be no problem locking you in with an initial payment. If they’re resistant to pay, at least you’ve found out now and not when you’ve completed the assignment. Ensure that you aren’t passing across all of your bank details. All reputable online employers should have the capacity to pay with PayPal – or a similar app. These services ensure that your bank information is kept safe and any disputes can be handled with an objective intermediary. These types of payment platforms are designed to stop online job scams from taking freelancers money.
Avoid Scammers & Find Success as a Freelancer
The online gig economy is awash with opportunities for people with many skillsets and talents. It’s offers flexibility, opportunity and the ability to control your own career. In fact, 99 percent of it is wonderful, inspiring and incredibly advantageous.
However, that last 1 percent – those who are trying to capitalize of the ambition of others – can have a very negative effect if you’re unlucky enough to bump into it. By staying aware and cautious, you can avoid online scammers and have a thriving freelance career.