How to Recognize a Freelance Scammer

Fraudsters continuously invent new ways of cheating, but the most common schemes are easy to determine if you know the rules. Here are three examples we have come across.

Scheme 1: Fake Reviews

This is one of the most popular cases. The scammer creates a profile on specialty websites like Upwork or, but does not confirm his email and doesn’t fill out the form: information about himself, briefcase, specialization—all to avoid giving to much info about themselves.

This way, potential employers see fictitious surnames, names, and no-face user pics. The scammer then creates profiles of fake employers and offers himself projects, completes them on the same day, and leaves reviews as if they were real. This illegal practice is sustained by making financial transactions between his two bogus accounts (as ‘client’ and as ‘freelancer’). Just like in the fake Amazon reviews, the money goes from one of his pockets to another. But that’s not all.

When there are enough fake reviews on his profile, real customers looking online for services find him and are impressed. Let’s say they decide to hire him. In the process of communication, the fraudster offers to go from the site of freelance service to the messenger to discuss the terms and cost of work. After agrees to all the terms of the employer, the fraudster-freelancer asks for prepayment. When he receives the money, he deletes the messages, blocks the convo in the messenger, and stops responding.

The problem is so widespread that you can often see messages about it on the websites themselves. Various measures have been introduced to prevent fraud: email confirmation, phone number verification, bank account verification, and so on. But do not forget that all fraudsters are excellent psychologists. Please note that in all such cases, they did not give time to make a decision and forced emotionally on the customer.

Scheme 2: Copying Real Profiles

A “doppelganger” finds an experienced freelancer on the job marketplace and creates an account with a similar nickname in Skype or WhatsApp, which is difficult to distinguish from the original. For example, he puts the number 0 instead of the letter “O.”

When your employer enters the username in the search box, there is a twin that may be showing up even first in the search results. The employer contacts him, and the cheater immediately asks for an advance payment. Sometimes such scammers can contact you first without waiting for his victims.

After the prepayment, the scammer disappears and stops responding to messages. Then he proceeds to return to the marketplace with a duplicated username of a real freelancer.

Scheme 3: Theft of Access to Your Site

Imagine: you need a website with complex functionality for you or your business. A freelancer responds to the project with positive feedback, calls not the lowest, but a comfortable price. You dare to cooperate. Such a scammer can offer to work both directly and through a secure transaction with money in escrow.

The secure deal protects the freelancer from non-payment and the customer from poor quality work. First, the customer transfers money to the job marketplace (escrow), and the funds are reserved. This guarantees the executor that the customer has the money, and it will be credited to the account as soon as all the terms of the statement of work are fulfilled. Then the freelancer executes the order and submits it for inspection. This guarantees the customer the quality of the project: until the work meets all the requirements of the statement of work, he may not accept it and do not pay for negligence.

After making a reservation and discussing the conditions, you pass the information necessary for the work to the performer: access to an account in social networks or website, data to log on to the domain or server. In an hour, day or week, the fraudster blocks access to the site or account and sends a demanding payment. If you refuse, he can do anything with the website.

How To Avoid Losing Money

Split the Prepayment

If the performer works only on prepayment, split the workload and payment into parts so that you do not lose a large sum in case of fraud.

Work Through a “Secure Transaction”

Be sure to learn how a secure transaction works and read the agreement before clicking on “I agree,” and if you have any questions or concerns, please contact support.

Any doubt about the provider is sufficient reason to seek support or not to cooperate.

If you still take risks, pay attention to the type of wallet – anonymous or with a formal certificate should alert you. It is common for honest freelancers to be identified to take full advantage of the service and to gain more trust from potential employers.

Look for Information About Freelancers Online

Sometimes even a quick Google search helps. If there are jobs in the briefcase, contact the customer and ask about the freelancer. Suggestions to send works to your email or download from the cloud are the scammer features, and freelancers like a paper writer, aimed at long-term work, will not miss an opportunity to upload the briefcase on the site. If the portfolio has been stolen, it will be immediately apparent.

Explore the Profile

Honest freelancers usually have all the information about themselves: a place of residence, real name, surname, and several logins for communication through social networks or messengers. Find him in social networks, make sure that the photo in the profile is real, and the age and residence are the same.

Check the Contacts

The name and user pic of a cheater pretending to be a specialist may coincide with the real one, but the login in Skype may differ, but so slightly that it is better to check each symbol.

Communicate on the Marketplace Site

Discuss all the details of the project, terms, and cost on the job marketplaces for freelance services, after which you can go to Skype or another messenger. In this way, you will be insured against forgery of contact details and understand if you are not communicating with the scammer on Skype.

Freelance Fraud: How To Report a Scammer

Warn your family and friends about these freelance scams by sharing this article on social media using the buttons provided. You can also officially report the scammers or any other suspicious activity online to the Federal Trade Commission using the link below:

Report To The FTC Here

How To Protect Yourself More

If you want to be the first to find out the most notorious scams every week, feel free to subscribe to the Scam Detector newsletter here. You’ll receive periodic emails – we don’t spam. Last but not least, use the Comments section below to expose other scammers.

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selma hrynchuk
Selma HrynchukSenior Editor at Scam Detector Media, Selma is a fraud prevention specialist with a wealth of experience in private investigations and collaborations with law enforcement. A captivating public speaker, Selma educates audiences about scams and personal safety. Through her insightful writing, she exposes criminals and shares essential tips for staying secure. Selma is a dedicated guardian against fraud, committed to unmasking deception and promoting integrity.

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