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Realities of a Freelancer: Fake Jobs

Hello! Welcome to my blog. This is officially my first post and I hope that you readers will find this helpful.

Initially, I was going to write a post on 10 ways to shorten your morning daily routine. However, something happened recently that I think more people need to know about. And, that is how to spot a scam.

One of the realities of being a freelancer is that you find a lot of your jobs online with people that you do not know. Kind of like online dating, you don't always know what...or who... you are going to get. You have to be cautious when accepting these jobs because some sound almost too good to be true...

Before I begin, though, I want to say this. I do know that there may be some people who will read this, who will think, "How could someone fall for an obvious scam?" To some people, this sounds like an amazing opportunity that will prove that all the hard work they are putting in is finally paying off. That's exactly what it sounded like to me when I first saw it. And that's what these scammers prey on. So, before there is a rush to judgment, this is to spread awareness so it doesn't happen to anyone else.

And, I am coming from a place of experience, I want other people to learn from this. Thankfully, I noticed that it was fake before anything bad happened or any information was released, but someone else might not be as lucky. Hopefully, this can prevent that.

How to Spot a Fake Job

1. Offering large sums of money

I don't want this to be a downer, but if they offer you an outrageous sum of money for the work that you're doing, it is probably a scam. This is not to say that there aren't legitimate jobs out there that have a great pay. What I am saying is that if the pay is not proportionate to the degree of work that you are doing, then it is most likely a scam.

This happened to me where I was offered an insane amount of money, which was all I could see. I saw that dollar amount and I was like, "YES! SIGN ME UP PLEASE!" I didn't really stop to process what they were offering. They were offering me thousands of dollars for 5 hours of work a day, doing beauty makeup on models. That should have been a red flag from the beginning.

Once I settled down from the shock, I read the message more clearly.

In the beginning, it sounded legit. However, I did have my reservations. I remember reading it over and thinking, "Is this actually real?" But then I talked myself out of those negative thoughts by thinking instead, "If it is fake, why would they put all of this effort into it?" And believe me, it was a lot of effort for a scam. I'm talking extremely detailed emails with confidentiality notices at the bottom, an actual fashion designer whom I researched, a website, and others. Everything seemed legitimate...

2. Sending you money before you have done any work

If they offer to send you a portion of the money before you have even done the work, then you should start to feel a little suspicious. Not always, but if you are getting an bad vibe, then I would listen to it.

I was offered a portion of my total payment before even doing any work as sort of a guarantee that I'd be available for the job. Again, in the beginning, I didn't see a problem because that does happen, especially with bigger budget jobs, but what I should have realized was that there was no contract detailing the terms of payment.

Especially with that kind of money, I should have been adamant about signing a contract before any sort of money was exchanged.

Ask for more details. Question them. Make sure they have a written contract.

3. Asking you to send money to another person

Red flag #3... How it was pitched to me was that they were lumping my deposit and the funds for the wardrobe stylist together into one check. Then, once I received that check, I would deduct my portion out and send the remainder to the stylist. Such a huge red flag... NEVER SEND MONEY TO SOMEONE YOU DO NOT KNOW.

Thank god it didn't get that far because when I read that detail, I started doing a little research to see if there were any known scams like this.

Turns out, there were. It is known as "Advance Fee Fraud", "419 scams", or originally, the "Nigerian Prince Scam".

It started years ago, with some elaborate email from a Nigerian Prince claiming that he needs help wiring millions of dollars out of his country, but needs banking information or other personal information in order to do it. Today, I don't think anyone would believe it, but this was a problem and many people fell victim to it.

This scam has now taken many forms and here we are today, where people claim that they have to send the lump check to you and then you are in charge of distributing the money to the relevant people. It is not labeled as "Advance Fee", but essentially you are paying some unknown person, in order for them to continue with the job. Logically, if they are capable of sending the check to you, then they are fully capable of sending a separate check to the "stylist". That should never be your responsibility. Your one and only job is whatever your freelance title is and whatever you were initially hired to do. You should never be in charge of sending another person money.

That's the scam. There is no stylist. They are sending you a fake check. If you deposit this fake check, by the time the bank realizes that it is not real, the real money (your own money) to the "stylist" is already out of your account. That fake check will then bounce and you are financially responsible for paying the bank back the money they are owed. The scammers are then off the hook and you will never hear from them again.

4. Receiving the same exact message from somebody else

Another red flag is if you receive the exact same message from someone else... or if someone you know receives it, too. My friend and I both have profiles for a job website, which is where I received this bogus message. A week later, my friend mentioned to me that she received the exact same message on the same website, but from someone else.

I don't think there is need for much further explanation, other than, if it is a copy-and-paste message, then it is probably a scam.

5. If you cannot find a website or profile for the person sending you the job

Lastly, be aware of who these messages are coming from. After receiving this message, I went to check the person's profile a few days later and it no longer existed. I also tried looking up the company and people who claimed to be involved. No luck. The fashion designer, who this photoshoot was for, barely had any online presence. I looked up her name, which showed up initially, but then when I looked further, there was nothing. Her website came back with an error and there was nothing on Google about her.

From what it seems like, these scams have some sort of backstop, but only go so far. They never expect that the victim of the scam will research them that extensively. They bank on the fact that they don't.

So, in conclusion,...

There are a lot of untrustworthy people out there. Be careful who you do business with and remember to do your research. If something feels off, it is not worth the risk. I would apply the same rules to your job search as I would with online dating.

One of the things that fully confirmed it for me was when I sent them an email to tell them I knew it was a scam and that I will not continue my correspondence, I did not get a reply. Nothing. There was my answer...

I hope you all found this helpful! I will also start a thread in the forum so that you can share your stories, too. Only if you want to, though!

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