Fighting Fraud as a Freelancer

Freelancing is a wonderful career path that gives you a lot of opportunity and control over what you work on. Unfortunately, it can also leave you vulnerable to scammers if you don’t know what to look for.

Staying safe as a freelancer is more than just joining the “right” platforms. Here are three ways scammers can target or attempt to defraud you, and how you can combat them:

Creating a fake profile pretending to be you

It’s more common than you think for a fraudster to create a profile or account and pretend to be you. For many platforms, it’s as easy as taking one of your headshots and creating an account using your name. This, of course, can have various negative repercussions on your reputation. Which, for freelancing, can really severely impact the amount and quality of job opportunities that could become available to you.

What can you do to prevent this?

There are two main ways to help combat someone impersonating you online, and neither of them involve scouring every single freelancing website on the lookout for someone impersonating you (which takes time that could be better spent working on projects!). The first way is by adding direct links to your active freelancing profiles in your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is often considered the social media of professionals, and many freelancers leverage it as a way to increase their audience. As your audience grows, they’ll become familiar with the places you’re active on, and will hopefully alert you if they come across a profile that you haven’t claimed is yours.

The second way, and one that doesn’t require a following, is by adding a verified link to each of your active freelancing profiles. A verified link– like this one, for example– shows prospective clients that you are who you say you are. Setting up a profile like the example is very simple and often takes seconds to complete– all you’ll need is your unexpired government-issued ID (like a passport or driver’s license) and a clear headshot that you’d like to feature on your profile.

Sending fake or unusual forms of payment

Most platforms will require individuals looking for freelancers to link their bank account or another common form of payment (like PayPal) to their profile before posting a job and contracting freelancers. These contractors can sometimes, however, push communications and payment off the platform, removing the protections put in place by the platform. This can leave freelancers vulnerable and without payment for work completed.

What can you do to prevent this?

Always keep communications within the freelancing platform you were contracted on and don’t feel pressured to accept unusual forms of payment. Whether it’s gift cards, crypto, or even an offer for “exposure,” keep in mind that you are under no obligation to accept what might not be a legitimate payment offer in the first place.

Crypto in particular is a very volatile market that has become increasingly attractive to fraudsters in recent years. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to reject clients and report them to the platform.

Requesting personal information to start a job

In much the same way that a fraudster can create a fake profile of you in order to scam businesses, they can also create fake profiles of various businesses to scam you. These fraudsters will often post relatively simple jobs with almost absurdly high salaries (think $1,500 for writing a page of text) or contact you for a job and demand your social security number, credit card information, and other personal information in order to send payment.

What can you do to prevent this?

There is no reason for a business to require your social security number, bank information, or account password. They won’t need this to create a statement of work and they certainly won’t need this information in order to send you payment.

If a prospective job rings alarm bells in your head, ask the potential employer to verify their identity with a simple online ID verification tool, such as BerbixMe. They’ll have to use their government-issued ID and real-time selfie to verify their identity, which will give you the confidence that who you’re talking to is who they say they are.

If they refuse and still demand your personal information, decline the project and, if necessary, report them to the platform.

Freelancing is a great way to build your portfolio and make an income that fits your schedule. You shouldn’t be afraid of taking amazing jobs because of scammers or would-be fraudsters that may lurk on the freelancing platforms you frequent. Keep the scams listed above in mind and take the necessary measures to keep yourself safe.