Scammers come in all shapes and sizes. They prey on their victims via social media, dating apps, over the phone and even by post. Until recently I hadn’t experienced being scammed. I naively thought that my job as a freelancer was safe from scams, but I was wrong. 6 weeks ago I was offered a freelance opportunity that unbeknown to me was a scam freelance job.
I was asked to list items for sale on a popular website using my account for the site and my PayPal details. Alarm bells are ringing for you already aren’t they? Unfortunately they didn’t for me. In return for listing the items and completing some other online admin work, I was offered 5% of the profits. The scammer contacted me via my work email and seemed professional.
I completed the admin work and the items sold, and that is when the problems began. The scammer became impatient and starting sending emails 3-4 times a day trying to blackmail me. He scammed a large sum of money out of me.
A short while later the buyer of the item contacted me to say he had not received the item. Turns out that item never existed, but the buyer had paid instantly and the scammer now had his money and the buyer had nothing to show for it.
Because the scammer had insisted the transaction was made via my account and using my PayPal details, I was solely responsible. My idiocy had costed my family and an innocent buyer a huge amount of money. To this day I can’t shake the feeling of guilt. I feel stupid for not recognising the warning signs until it was too late.
Thankfully PayPal ruled in my favour, the buyer’s money was returned to him and my name was cleared. If I could say anything to my scammer, I’d ask him why. Why prey on someone simply trying to make a living?
I wonder how he can sleep at night knowing the angst his actions have caused to both myself and the buyer.
My experience proved to me that nobody is safe from scammers and that actually, those who work in the media and online are hugely vulnerable to this kind of behaviour. The online world can be a scary place. Just a few months ago I wrote about my daughters online bullying experience – in this post you can find top tips for what to do if your child is a victim of cyber-bullying. Today I’m sharing my top tips for spotting a scam freelance job. I hope our experiences and what I have learnt from it all can help others.
- If you receive an email with a freelance job offer, take a look at the email address it’s been sent from. If the address is something along the lines of ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ then whoever is contacting you is not a professional. In my experience, legit work comes from a company email address or a professional looking email address which contains a company name.
- If you’re looking for freelance work, it’s best to search amongst an established network or on freelance forums such as LinkedIn.
- Make sure you check out the website of the company who is contacting you. Does it look professional? Does the company have a social media presence? If they don’t, and their website is of poor quality, walk away.
- You know what they say – if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Have you been promised a large amount of money for doing, well, not very much? There is no such thing as an easy job that pays big. Turn the offer down before you find yourself stuck in a pyramid scheme or something similar.
- If the employer doesn’t ask for the basics such as a CV or samples of work alarm bells should ring. Who on earth would employ someone without any clue as to their level of knowledge or experience? If the employer doesn’t require any details, then it usually means they don’t care who works for them. As long as the shady work is done and they achieve what they set out to do like my scammer.
Click here to find information on reporting a scam and please feel free to get in touch with any tips or personal experiences.