How to Spot Spam, Scams and Shams

1 05 2010

Please also see:

  • The Trouble With
  • The Trouble with Part II
  • My previous posts on seem to get more traffic than any other post on my blog. Most people seem to arrive here after searching for words to the effect of “Is a scam?”, and to be honest, the reason I wrote the original post was to discuss exactly the same question. As a freelance writer and editor, I’ve opted to receive daily email alerts that inform me when new projects matching my skills are added to the site, and for a while, I really wondered whether it was worth it. Every day I’d have to sift through the newly posted projects and more often than not would instantly delete them or report violations against the project owners because they fell into one of 3 categories: spam, scam or sham.

    Spam projects range from the outright illegal, such as “I need someone to create a programme that will hack into Facebook/Hotmail/GMail/Yahoo” and captcha projects, to the more subtle, yet equally as annoying, “need someone to get me 1.5 million Facebook/Twitter followers”, or “need someone to post comments containing links to my site on blogs and websites”. I’m always amazed that these projects get any bids at all, especially for the paltry sums that the advertisers offer – I guess not everyone can afford to take the moral high ground, and that’s sad.

    Scam projects are the ones that really make my blood boil. They can include money transfer scams: “my Paypal account has been closed down due to an internal error and I need someone to transfer money from my account to my Western Union/Indian bank account”. makes it very clear that these projects are not to be posted on the site, and yet some people still try and get away with it. Other scams include things like the buyer asking for money from the freelancer to cover “admin fees and start up costs” before the project starts, sample article theft and asking for large numbers of articles with payment on completion of the whole project – no milestone payments or escrow.

    Finally, less illegal but equally as immoral in my eyes, are the sham projects. There are an awful lot of these abounding on every day. In the vast expanse of cyberspace, the websites that succeed are those that rank highly on Google. To get your website to the top of the rankings, it must be heavily keyworded with search terms that people are likely to look for when they want to research a particular topic. This is called SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation and in itself, it’s a very lucrative marketing tool. However, some people set up sites called affiliate sites which contain large numbers of badly written, but – crucially – heavily keyworded articles, along with a whole pile of monetised adverts. If you land on these pages because you are fooled into thinking that you will find out whatever it is you were searching for there, and click the advert links, you’ll be making money for the site owner. Needless to say, the site owners don’t write the content themselves, they pay pathetic sums of money to people in India, the Philippines and Africa to write the content for them, or even to rewrite content stolen from elsewhere, while the site owner knows that he will more than recoup this small outlay in click money.

    Personally, I will have nothing to do with any of these “jobs”, but I have to admit that sometimes the project owners make it very difficult for freelancers to judge whether or not a project is legitimate. I’m happy to say that I have noticed less trash projects advertised on Freelancer of late, and I must again stress that the problems do not inherently lie with itself, more with the shameless people who try to abuse the site. Nevertheless, here are some tips to avoid being caught up in spam, scams and shams.

    1. I live in the UK so, personally, I tend to stay away from article writing projects that offer a very low rate of pay simply because they’re not worth my while. Also, while I appreciate that there are people in developing countries who would be overjoyed to receive a few dollars for a days work, the majority of projects within this budget – approximately $0.25 – $3 per 500 words – are the aforementioned affiliate shammers. They’re not interested in quality articles, they just need high keyword density and as low a price as possible so that they can easily absorb their outlay in advert click earnings. There is a place for outsourcing to developing countries, but I think projects like this are highly unethical and exploitative.

    2. Scams and spam projects are quite easy to spot. Money exchanges, hacking, and rewriting anything other than somethat that either you or the buyer has copyright for is illegal. If you have concerns about a project, always ask the project owner for clarification. If they don’t reply or are cagey in their response, it’s probably not worth it. Report a violation!

    3. Steer clear of projects that state that they will not use the payment system. It isn’t perfect, and you will incur a few dollars in fees, but it is a useful safety net. You can check if the buyer has enough funds in their account to pay you, and you can also arrange milestone payments that can be released as you complete each phase of a project. If you conduct a project outside of, then you’re on your own if there’s a dispute. I would recommend to only conduct a project outside of‘s framework if you trust the buyer, e.g. if you have worked with them before or they have very good feedback as a buyer.

    4. It is against‘s terms and conditions to offer less than $30 for a project, so report violations against those that do. Also, don’t bid lower than this yourself. It’s not on.

    5. Check up on your buyer’s feedback. Obviously, it is better to work with someone who has received good feedback points and comments from their previous clients. Not having any feedback doesn’t instantly make them untrustworthy though; they could be new to the site or past providers may not have left feedback for any number of reasons. They might not have been able to leave feedback if they conducted a project outside of the payment system. Check if they have posted any projects before, what those projects were, and whether the projects were cancelled or not. Be wary of anyone who has cancelled a lot of projects or has had projects deleted – this usually means that they have previously been in breach of‘s terms and conditions.

    6. Check out your buyer’s profile. Have they given a company name, or their real name as well as a username? If so, google it and see what you can find out. I once discovered that a past client of mine was not only involved in some really dodgy “cash gifting” scam system, he was also a student at an Ivy League university and the project he had asked me to do was his school lab report!

    7. A freelancer should never ever have to pay money to the buyer upfront. Ever. “Admin fees” and “start up costs” should ALWAYS be borne by the buyer – if you pay them, you probably won’t ever see that money or hear of the buyer again. This happened very recently on People Per Hour – the buyer advertised this great-sounding job, but when he responded to people asking for clarification, he suddenly began asking interested people to pay £35 up front to cover the costs of “getting you set up on the system”. A google search for the company name also, tellingly, gave no results. Using a freelancer will already be saving a company money, so there should be no reason for the freelancer to bear any start up costs.

    8. If you bid on a project, always mention that you will require the buyer to sign a contract. If they’re a spammer, scammer or shammer, they probably won’t even bother replying to your bid. If they do, and they refuse to sign a contract, stay away from the job. Make sure you get your client’s full contact details: full, real name, company name if applicable, postal address (no PO Boxes), phone number and email address, from a paid ISP if possible rather than Hotmail or Gmail etc. If you both sign a contract and there is still a dispute, at least your back is covered from a legal point of view.



    68 responses

    1 05 2010
    Geoff Jackson

    I report endless jobs/bidders. Never receive a response and no action is ever taken. It is full of scams, all of which I have notified of, explaining that many of these jobs are breaking various terms and conditions of networking sites or even breaking the law.

    It’s a complete waste of time, the same east asian bidders are bidding on every single job copying and pasting the same rubbish on every job even if it has no relevance to the particular job and they all have a positive feedback rating which is remarkable.

    7 05 2010 on Wikipedia « Lisa A. Martin

    […] reading and commenting on my previous blog posts about (here, here and here), Alaister Low from the company’s marketing team hired me via the site to write a Wikipedia […]

    27 05 2010
    find freelancer

    you are true, scam projects are too worst, Who are all looking for part time and home based jobs, Visit the website:
    In this website you can Find freelancer as well as you can find number of projects for home based working.

    30 05 2010
    Concerned Website Owner

    I guessed there would be plenty of scams and shams, but is Freelance a legitimate website? I was going to use there Banner system on my website, to get some extra money to pay for the cost of running my blog. Do you think I will ever see any money from these banner ads, or worse could they have Viruses?

    Thanks for your answer!

    30 05 2010

    Hi Jon, thanks for your comment here and on the other blog post. To answer your questions, yes there are some very good jobs to be found on and I do recommend the site. I wouldn’t use it if I didn’t think it was worth it. That said, it depends what you want to get out of the site, what type of work you are looking for and – crucially – how much you want to get paid. Sadly for us, unless you work in a niche area (which as a science writer I am lucky enough to do), many Western workers are savagely undercut by cheap Asian labour who are perfectly happy to do a day’s job for one or two dollars. It is possible to find better paying work by choosing your projects carefully and writing a good proposal to convince the buyer that you really are the best person for the job. You do have to be very careful about which projects you choose to bid because unfortunately there is quite a lot of illegal or immoral activity going on – but, and I stress this again – this is the fault of the users – the people who post the projects – not Freelancer itself. I’ve been a member for about a year now and have won a total of 12 projects. Needless to say, I don’t rely on Freelancer for my daily bread; I have external clients that make up the bulk of my income, but it’s a great site for winning little projects that will see you through a lull in other work, or just for a little bit of extra money. It’s become decidely easier to win projects now that I have a little bit of feedback (all positive I might add!), but that just comes with practice and patience.

    As for the banner ads, I’ve only ever had one sign-up through the affiliate links that I put on my site, but then again, I don’t try very hard and only use text links instead of plastering banners all over my site. I think I’m right in saying that you only get money from the affiliate links if someone signs up *and* wins a project *and* gets paid through the Freelancer payment system – then you get a percentage of their earnings; it’s not simple pay-per-click advertising. I really don’t think you’ll get viruses. Good luck – and if I may be so cheeky, if you’re thinking of signing up to Freelancer and have found my blog useful, wanna use my affiliate link?! 🙂

    15 03 2012
    Susan Bennett

    I disagree that it’s not the fault of the site. They have terms of service which they do not uphold. Some manual checking of ads would do away with much of this illegal activity, and as someone else points out above, reporting it to them yields no result. Quite clearly their terms of service amount to lip service and they are merely protecting themselves by stating those terms without actually enforcing them. Freelancer must be more than happy to earn their commission from dodgy dealings.

    Recently I encountered an ad on Elance for the content to be scraped from three very well known recipe sites. It called for the content and photos to be stolen and rebadged to avoid detection. The ad even went so far as to name the sites the content was to be stolen from. Now, Elance must have some manual checking of ads, because there have been instances of ads with insufficient detail being pulled, and yet, these ads calling for illegal activities somehow manage to remain, so yes, I’d say it’s very much the fault of the sites.

    3 06 2010
    The trouble with « Lisa A. Martin

    […] How to Spot Spam, Scams and Shams […]

    3 06 2010
    The Trouble With Part II « Lisa A. Martin

    […] How to Spot Spam, Scams and Shams […]

    13 06 2010

    Another scam/sham I’ve recently become aware of is buyers posting “urgent” projects. Projects with titles along the lines of “NEED 10 ARTICLES IN 5 HOURS – URGENT!” are not urgent in terms of the fact that the buyer will get sacked/die if he doesn’t get the work done within this short time frame, they are urgent in the sense that they need to award the project before a Freelancer moderator spots the scam and deletes it!

    Even if these projects are genuinely desperate, and I can’t see why they would be, it’s hardly professional to demand work in such a short space of time, and usually for no more remuneration. Stay away!

    16 10 2010

    The escrow is a royal pain in the arse. You set aside the money for the project and then if you don’t navigate through the confusing (intentionally confusing) website to send it directly from the right URL then the money is taken out of your overall budget and the escrow money sits there, untouched and unnoticed by most people. I wonder how many millions of dollars they have in unclaimed escrow!!!! What a SCAM.

    19 10 2010

    Actually, Freelancer maintain that they do not provide an escrow service, although I would argue that their system is something very similar.
    I’m not sure I understand what you mean about having to “send it directly from the right URL then the money is taken out of your overall budget and the escrow money sits there, untouched and unnoticed by most people”. Can you please explain? Are you referring to milestone payments? If so, do note that when you set up a milestone payment for a provider, the money is reserved for that provider but stays in your account. To pay the provider, you need to release the milestone – a lot of people don’t realise this! Sorry if I got the wrong end of the stick, but please explain if you need further help!

    14 07 2010

    Also, some people always bid lowest possible 30$ even for projects of $500+ but actually PM their email or website address where their actual price list starts from $1000+ for full SEO package etc. So those who are bidding extremely low will never do the job. In my case I have never respond to article writers that bid below 5$ per article. and I can give you the names of those 10-12 so called “SEO teams” (just 1 person most of the times) who always bid $30 on almost all article projects and then email me their website. and their reviews are all fake. just open their profile and see that those who have given reviews are either suspended from or they are the same people with different id. There is a complete network of this type. believe me because I have spent many hours trying to find these people and always ignore them on my projects

    17 08 2010
    Freelancer, fo’ shizzle « Lisa A. Martin

    […] much that I have decided to share it with you. Most of the time, I LMAO about the cheek of obvious scammers, spammers and shammers, but this time the listing seems to be a genuine, albeit unusual and comical request. Who knows, […]

    11 09 2010

    hi lisa

    11 09 2010


    11 09 2010


    11 09 2010


    11 09 2010

    Yes, you can have as many projects open as you wish – just make sure you can handle the work and agree turnaround times with the buyer! 🙂

    12 09 2010


    6 10 2010
    Is a scam? (Part 1) « Lisa A. Martin

    […] people who will work for ridiculously low sums of money. You can read what I had to say here: How to Spot Spam, Scams and Shams. I hope you find it interesting and can use this information to make good choices when bidding on […]

    13 10 2010
    autovermietung spanien

    It took me a long time to search online, only your site explain the fully details, bookmarked and thanks again.

    – Laura

    20 10 2010


    I am going to use for the first time as a buyer.I need someone to develop a website for me.Now my concern and question is – once the website is developed then the source code for the site, how would that be handed over to me?what if after developing the site the programmer makes it his own site?how do i safeguard myself?I want the website to be mine once its developed.

    I hope my question is clear.


    22 10 2010

    Hi Rajesh,
    Well I’ve never used Freelancer as a buyer myself, so I can only advise you from my own experience. As a copywriter, I always ask my clients to sign a contract before starting a project, and certainly before handing over any copy. In my contract I have a clause saying that the copyright of all work originating from and produced by me will remain my copyright until it has been paid for, in full, by the client, and I give 14 days after the end of a project for payment to be made, unless agreed otherwise with the client (some like to pay bills at the end of the month). If the client hasn’t met the payment deadline and has ignored reminders, and if the content is on the live site, then they’ll have a very angry freelancer on their ass and a potential law suit. I always make sure I get the contact details of my clients to make sure that I can trace them, too, if necessary.
    In your case, I would suggest that you make a similar agreement with your freelancer so that he has no claim to the code after it hass been paid for, and maybe ask him to agree to delete all files related to the project on his computer once the project is closed (after sending them to you of course!). You’re never completely safeguarded, but at least you have some clout if you ever decided to take him to court.

    4 01 2011
    2010 in review « Lisa A. Martin

    […] How to Spot Spam, Scams and Shams May 2010 22 comments 3 […]

    28 01 2011
    Freelancer dot com suck

    I deposited $2000 via Moneybookers and after that freelancer has suspended my account. My new account not starting any project!
    I have sent them my passport, they ask for a color copy, The next day I sent my certified copy of passport, they will ask you
    to show them your underwear because they do not trust your ID, Our company have gain a merchant status at moneybookers which
    require many legal paperwork. If they do not trust a certified copy of passport why do you trust these scammer with your money??

    The largest marketplace for outsource? save $100? Our company lose $2000 first !!

    Their support is an auto-responder copy and paste cat, They will keep ask you the same documents
    until you gave up your money and they laugh at you in a shady office.

    3% commission is not enough, That’s why this scam site worker can get commission for each suspended account,
    Quit your job today and send a resume there!
    They pick account with high balance and the fact they SCAM 50 victim 100,000 dollars, Invest their dirty 1000 dollars to hire a
    Marketer master like Lisa A. Martin, they get 10000 new signup and repeat the same SCAM.
    Will you be the next target? Complaints – Scam via Account Suspension

    Google Freelancer Scam for more

    Other Victim:

    28 01 2011

    Well excuse me!

    Rant and rave about Freelancer all you like – I’m entitled to disagree with you – but do NOT complain about me on my own blog! I appreciate you calling me a “Marketer master” – I’m not and have never claimed to be a marketing expert – but I can assure you that I do not work for! I’m a regular user of the site, just like everyone else.

    Unlike everyone else however, I seem to be able to read and understand the terms and conditions of the site which means that my account is not suspended because I don’t break any rules. If you had not started a project, why did you deposit $2000 into your freelancer account? This seems very strange to me. It’s a lot of money to have in your account for nothing so I can understand why Freelancer may have been suspicious! Every single complaint against Freelancer that I have heard has in fact been the result of a user error. Perhaps you are the exception to this, but somehow I doubt it.

    As for your ridiculous comment about me somehow magicking 10,000 Freelancer signups out of the air – where the hell did you get that idea from?? So far, 11 people have signed up for a Freelancer account via my affiliate link. ELEVEN.

    Sorry, I’ve had a bad day.

    5 02 2011
    Ray Silva

    Hi lisaamartin. First, thank you very much for making so many posts about I only recently heard about the site and now I’ve decided to join. I’m going to be extra careful to read their FAQs, terms, and all the fine print so that I don’t find myself in a bad situation.

    I noticed that in your reply to rajesh above (22/10/2010), you talked about and gave an example of a contract that you signed with a buyer. Do you mind providing more tips about contracts? What sorts of things should we include in them? I’d imagine that the buyer would be required to provide their name, address, and telephone number so that freelancers could contact them in the event of a dispute. The point you mentioned about retaining copyright of all of the written work until paid in full is definitely a good one. What else?

    Where should we describe the terms of our contract? Is it something that should be fully laid out in our bid?

    And how do we “sign” a contract with a buyer? Do we email them the contract and ask them to reply once they accept our bid?

    Sorry for so many questions. Thank you again for such great posts about!

    5 02 2011

    Hi Ray, thanks for visiting my blog!
    What you put into your contract will depend on what type of work you do, so I can only share my own experience as a copywriter/editor. My contract has these key points:
    1. A space for the client to enter his/her contact details including postal address and phone number (as you said, this is very important so that you can trace the client if there is a dispute, or if you want to send Christmas cards!)
    2. A description of the project (just so we are both clear about what work I am going to do)
    3. Payment information including; the the price of the project or hourly rate, what my “overtime” rate is if the clients asks me to do more than the work specified in the project decription, any chargeable extra expenses, and importantly, how and when payment will be made (I give 14 days by default, but this can be negotiated in advance with the client).
    4. Copyright, as you mentioned above.
    5. A statement about rejection or cancellation of the project. This states what happens if the client decides to terinate the project early (i.e. they must pay me for work already done and any expenses already incurred), and also says I’ll get the debt collectors on their ass if they don’t pay me – at their expense, of course!
    6. I also put in a little clause that says that the client cannoy refuse to give me extra time or payment for services rendered if I delay the project with a reasonable excuse, e.g. I was ill, my computer broke, my house caught fire etc.
    Then I just get the client to sign and date the document and send it back to me. Usually the client prints the document, signs it, scans it and emails it to me. I also accept digital signatures.
    I hope that helps you! I’s also recommend you check out John McGarvey’s website – he has a really good “plain English” contract that he’s made available for download so that you can edit it to your needs. Check it out here.

    11 02 2011
    David Deubelbeiss

    I’m a reputable businessman. My account was suspended after I made a deposit which was reversed by paypal because along with it, there was a fraudulent echeck charge.

    I resolved everything with paypal, sent the money back to and now after sending 3 very humiliating photos, still days later, can’t get into my account or get to that money.

    I’m sorry, don’t use a company that treats people like that and steals their money. Customer support just (5 times) gives me the same message – send a photo with “blabla”….

    Don’t use freelancer.


    14 02 2011

    Hi David, it can take up to 2 weeks for Freelancer to reinstate your account after you have complied with their identity checks. I don’t think that much of their customer support either, but persistence and patience usually pays off in my experience! Hope all is resolved soon.

    27 02 2011

    Hi Lisa,

    Your blog is very informative, just created an account at as a provider. I did not signed up for gold membership so I can’t upload my portfolio.

    Is it okay to put a link of my website (which contains my portfolio) on my profile?

    28 02 2011

    Yes I think this is ok, as long as the page you link to doesn’t have any contact information on it.

    2 03 2011

    What do you think of which appears to be based in France? It appeared in this month’s Woman’s Day magazine?

    2 03 2011

    I must admit I hadn’t come across that site – I’ll check it out!

    6 03 2011

    Hi, Lisa, just came across your site and I am very impressed how much information you are sharing here. There are loads of pitfalls to avoid, as with everything on the Internet, have you tried 🙂

    Have recently spoken to one of the other freelancers of the site, and she says she is also requesting escrow payment before accepting the project. Do you think this is a good idea?


    7 03 2011

    Hi Laura,
    No, I haven’t heard of but I will check it out, thanks!
    It is ALWAYS a good idea to request a milestone payment before starting any project and to make sure that it is set up before you start working on a project. If you don’t have one, you will get NO help from Freelancer if something goes wrong. The milestone payment, once created, leaves the buyer’s account, but is not transferred to your account straight away – it is held in escrow by Freelancer. The milestone payment can only be released to the provider by the buyer, or can only be refunded to the buyer by the provider. If a problem arises, you are only entitled to lodge a dispute and ask for Freelancer’s intervention if a milestone payment has been created. On a site like, milestone payments are a great way to weed out some of the scammers, since many of the less credulous buyers wont even entertain the idea of a milestone payment. I have seen some buyers exlicitly stating in their project descriptions, “NO ESCROW” or “No upfront payment” and I would recommend avoiding these people at all costs.
    The only problem with Freelancer’s milestone system (see my post “A fundamental Freelancer flaw”, is that milestone payments cannot be created before you accept a project, only afterwards. If the buyer awards a project to you and you accept it, but he then backs out before creating a milestone payment (as has happened to me twice now!), you’ll lose your commission commission fee and Freelancer are unwilling to help or refund it because a milestone has not been created. Therefore, I would suggest to check out your buyer’s feedback, see if you can find any dirt on them by googling their name or business name if they supply one, and ask questions and make communication with them on the private message board to establish trust before you accept a project.

    20 04 2011

    I think the escrow or Milestone payment is the safest way to deal with a buyer. That will prevent you from getting in debt with the $5 project fee for accepting the project. Both the buyer and the service provider have control over the Milestone amount. They both can release the amount to the other depending upon the situation.

    It happened to me lately that I only finished the project halfway and I requested the buyer to pay me half the bid amount for which he agreed. He then released a portion of the escrow or Milestone payment and I in turn released the remaining half to him. It’s a win-win situation to both of us.

    20 04 2011

    And I wholeheartedly agree that the scams being mentioned were only between the buyer and service provider themselves based on my experience. whatsoever is not involved with what is happening between the two parties.

    13 06 2011

    hi lisa,

    i also have recently joined freelancer
    your blog is very useful for knowing the do’s and don’ts in this site

    2 questions

    1. did you get paid right away with the prescribe span of time release on the projects that you have worked on?
    2. can you also make a page with the name of trustworthy buyers just to not waste bids on projects that seems legit?


    28 06 2011

    Be carefull, they are SCAM. I opened account for our legally registered company, hire one person for one work and put $150 in milestone. Day after this they immediately suspend our account with $200 in full balance, after I provide ID from me and they still refuse to reinstate account with our money in. They need to reply/if 2-3 days, before I upload funds in account they reply in less than 1hr always. They can not require any ID from own customers as they dont have this in terms of service and they are not any type of bank.

    THEY JUST WANT THAT YOU UPLOAD FUNDS AND THEN YOU WILL NEVER SEE IT AGAIN, I already call my bank for Chargeback so I will not have loss, but il never again use it!!


    18 07 2011 victim

    Same case with me 😦 I wish I see this post earlier. They are harvesting your REAL data. They can use this to apply for credit or they even can call your bank on your behalf.

    18 07 2011 victim

    I just got f*cked upside down in the *ss by Cut the hell long story short. I have money in my account and the suspend it. They asked me to send my government ID. Luckily I haven’t done it. Because if search google, the next thing they ask you to do is to take photo with the card with funny code. They just want to make it difficult until you give up. My problem is you don’t know what are they going to do with the card. Next time they will ask you take photo while you f*ck a cow. This is TOTALLY SCAM. DON’T F*CKING defend them.

    19 07 2011

    Look, I’m sorry you had a bad experience with Freelancer, and you have every right to give your opinion on the matter – hence why I have approved your comments (after some deliberation), but there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about this. You didn’t get “f*cked in the ass” by Freelancer, you probably broke the rules, whether you knew it or not. I know that Freelancer isn’t a perfect system, and there are other sites out there with better reputations that you might like to try instead. But, as I have said to nearly every single person who comes to this blog, I have NEVER heard of an account suspension sob story where the USER was not at fault. I’m not defending Freelancer at all, but if people are going to use the site – which many millions of people do – then you need to know how to use it properly, which is the purpose of my site.

    1 05 2014

    Punishment for breaking the rules ??Steal the money ??I like how you defend them and i like how you say don’t swear on your blog and then you swear yourself

    1 05 2014

    It’s my site, I can say what I like 😛

    18 07 2011

    If you are about to use, don’t, you will not have peace for the rest of your life. If you’ve done business with them, be careful, read on. is harvesting your REAL data with your Photo. They will do anything so that you will submit your Government issued ID or Passport. The most common way is to suspend your account with your money inside.
    In order for you to recover your account you need to submit full color high resolution Government ID / Passport. They will reject it if it’s a black and white even with high resolution. Or they will reject color ID but low resolution. Or they will reject your ID card not issued by government. Does not make sense at all.

    Once you have submitted it, they will ask you to take your photo holding a code given by them and with your passport or government ID. They want to verify that you are real. Don’t you find this is fishy? This is just a freelancer website. Even website with high sensitivity and money involved (eg. Paypal, google checkout), they never ask you submit full color high resolution Government ID.

    When you have this sensitive data and high resolution Gov ID, they can do anything. They can re-produce the card, apply for credit card. They literally can do anything with it. They have your email address, real name, passport id, address, date of birth etc. Using this data I can impersonate you and call your bank. This is just simple example. Spam companies or other not legit company will pay top dollar your real data.

    When they refunded your money after you submitted your Gov ID, don’t be happy. Don’t think they are legit. Ask yourself why they need this? This is the first time a website ask for my Gov ID!

    For my case, I have $450 in my account and my account suspended. Paypal will not help you to recover your money since this is a service. Which I’m very disappointed although it’s clearly to do with scam. The money is deposit, not purchasing any service from them. I have a choice to fight back through my bank. But definitely I will not send them my Gov ID. This company is from Australia. It’s NOT common for a company to ask for your full color high resolution Gov ID unless you deal with government agencies.

    If you need freelancer website, search from google. and odesk have good reputation. They have real people answering your phone. doesn’t have phone number. Their online chat customer supports are from 3rd world country. They don’t speak English, they just know how to type.

    Someone must investigate on this. This is alarming.

    3 08 2011

    Thank you for a very informative post. I’ve been with Freelancer for less than a month and being new, was too stupid to use all bid privileges at once without thinking. I chose projects with minimal budget and placed bids at a low rate hoping to be awarded the project, receive a feed back, earn a reputation, and bid higher next time. I realized my folly the hard way. Everything you said is true. They don’t need to award the project. They can distribute the number of articles required among bidders as samples. I got awarded some but to my dismay, it was either too difficult to collect payments or there was none at all (if not incomplete). I got as many information about the project owners of course but only after I got ripped off. If I couldn’t physically avenge myself, I’d make sure they won’t be able to trick anyone anymore. Shameless as they are, I’d shame them online (their businesses and companies included) just to get even.

    18 08 2011
    no name

    I need money to pay tuition fees, so I join, hoping that I can make some money from that website because there is no part time job for college student here in my country. But then, I found that there’s too much scammer, shammer and spammer in that website. There goes my college year.
    I wish there is a freelancer website, that is full of serious employer and worker… ^^

    23 08 2011

    Umm, I don’t think you can blame Freelancer for stopping you from going to college. Freelancer is not an ‘easy’ way to make money. The legitimate projects advertised on the site (and I appreciate they are few and far between) are for skilled freelance professionals, not have-a-go chancers who want to get rich quick. Get a bar job like all the other students..??

    5 09 2011

    Hi Guys,

    I have been a member of for about 2 years now, and I was scammed the first time I joined (not by freelancer), I was scammed out of $700 from a company with an email Although with this said I learnt from this and kept bidding on other projects and I landed myself an on going $15,000 job writing product descriptions for the next year or so on until I finish, I also scored another $6 product description writing job on top of this so I am keeping busy, and these people do pay me weekly or fortnightly depending on whether the employer is out of the office for that week, but they always pay. For those who are looking to work on here are some tips below about spotting scamers.

    1. If they ask for a sample to be written try to avoid doing this unless they have plenty of stars. I have written a few samples that have appeared on the net without my permission and never got paid. Although many may be “good and honest” remember if 50 people bid and each one is given a sample to write then the “employer” has their 50 articles done free of charge. The samples of your previous work should be good enough to show them your skills.

    2. Check the country against how they write. There is a scamming lot that are from the USA (or so they say) and they place the dollar sign at the end of the money instead of the beginning in the title. This tells you they are not from this country. Also check to make sure they spell their city or town name correctly on their profile as I have seen one that spelt Florida USA as Floreda. If you live there you should know how to spell it.

    3. Never write articles in bulk. For example I wrote for a person who has an email address of contentscreative (at) If you ever see this do not write for them they are the biggest scammers, they go under different names and they always have a price of $4.25 or there abouts. Do not bid on a project that says they will pay you after the first 50 or 100 without being paid for the first 2 or 10 that you do. I learnt the hard way.

    4. Also if an employer asks you to write and then disappears before they assign work then comes back to you and is desperate for you to start after not hearing from them for 4 weeks do not go with them as they have already obviously scammed the other writers and are looking for new “blood”. An employer should not be desperate.

    5. Also keep note on whether the person says hello and goodbye. Most scammers won’t give you their name. They usually send messages like this that are unedited: can you work now? I have articles ready. – And that is all that they say. No – thanking you Robin or Jeff.

    With the project you are with though, usually a scammer once they have the articles will not get in contact with you after you message them. Although there are people who are different. If he doesn’t want to pay by the time asked then tell him straight if I do not receive payment for these articles then I am taking them back and placing them on the internet. (This is like a bluff if they are legitimate they will hurry and pay you) Sometimes it may take a week for their clients to ok the articles before being paid as well, you cannot do much if this is the case but they can let you know. is a good place to find work, I use it often, although if you can take these tips into consideration you may just say yourself time and money by not being scammed like I did. And for those who wonder why people put the lowest bids down and ask for more in their personal message it is because freelancer takes a 10percent fee from you. Eg I put $5000 down as my bid on one of the paying projects I won, when I accepted I was hit with a $550 freelancer fee, luckily the company that hired me paid for it so I didn’t have to. So now I put the minimum bid down so I dont get caught with this freelancer fee again.

    Hope this helps you all.


    5 09 2011

    Hi Sara and thanks for your additional tips, I’m sure my readers will find these helpful! A word of advice to you from me though: don’t bid the minimum amount and then ask for more in your private message as you say you have been doing. This is against Freelancer’s terms and conditions and if you keep doing this, you could have your account suspended. Private messages are private in that only the buyer can see your message, but Freelancer staff also have access to these messages. They can and will use them against you if you get caught! Make sure that you account for the 10% fee in your bid, or bid a smaller amount for a portion of the project and take the rest offline with the buyer (if you trust them)

    12 09 2011
    Jenny Vocar

    Damn.. I should see your post before join to I been ate up around total around 24USD for Deposit and invoice fee..

    21 09 2011

    @Jenny Vocar, just be careful who you trust. Not everyone is fake. I’ve had successful projects in But I’ve had my shares of unpaid work amounting to over $160 and more than 20,000 words. The guy even had good reviews from previous writers who wrote for him. Guess that was the last time he paid. A few other writers working on the same project were not paid either. The guy still posted the articles all over the web. It’s tiring reporting them all one by one to Google and to individual sites but that’s all I could to stop him, I hope. I don’t know if login is required before you can see clarification boards on Freelancer but here goes where it happened:

    8 12 2011

    I started to read your article, but then it started snowing, so I left. I left my jacket at home.

    3 01 2012

    thanks for all the feedback about scammers and i have be toying and researching you have saved me time money and sanity…..only wasted six hours………so one of the lucky ones

    8 01 2012
    Waleed Hamra

    thanks a lot Lisa for this wonderful blog article. i joined few days ago, with a Linux/programming/server expertise background.
    in few days, i couldn’t help but notice all the scams running on the website, and as some people mentioned in the comments, reported many of them, to see no response and no removal. from those asking for document rewrite to discover it’s a mass-captcha solve system, to people who give me their work information in links that end up to be endless loops.
    hence why i googled for scam and ended up here.
    i will keep trying to find a good decent job on that website. from what i understood from your blog, freelancer aren’t really just scammers, just a website with no scam control. i hope so.
    and i like the contract idea with every project owner, I’ll jeep it in mind.
    thanks again for this very informative blog post.
    (you said on another article it’s a shame these posts got you the most visits… I’ll try and look at other posts, won’t promise anything though :P)

    7 02 2012

    Hi lisa,

    I’m new in both freelancing and
    I created my account days ago and I’m starting to bid since
    Some of the projects are confusing me as the descriptions are all the same but were posted by different buyers
    Are those categorized as either spam, scams or shams?

    By the way, thanks for the nice articles
    I love them

    7 02 2012

    I would think it quite likely that these are scam projects – the fact that they are all the same but posted by different people would suggest that it is actually the same person posting them under different names, and it is against Freelancer’s rules to have more than one account. It’s hard to say for sure whether it is a scam or not without knowing more about the project(s) but it certainly sounds dodgy to me!

    11 02 2012

    I am new user at and I found most of the information posted here very useful. I wondered about several issues mentioned here and I stayed away from things that I thought were fishy. It was nice to confirm several of my doubts here.

    Sara, today I decided to do something about projects with the same description with different users. I reported 2 of them. Don´t know how far it will go, taking into consideration several people that had complains when they reported abuse. But at least, I made a commitment with myself to do something if I can, even if it´s a small part of what´s needed.

    Lisa, thank you very much for the information in this post. It has been a blessing!!! I know your articles have helped many people, including myself. Thank you for your willingness to guide people that want to make an honest income. Have a nice day.

    11 02 2012

    I am new user at and I found most of the information posted here very useful. I wondered about several issues mentioned here and I stayed away from things that I thought were fishy. It was nice to confirm several of my doubts here.

    Ed, today I decided to do something about projects with the same description with different users. I reported 2 of them. Don´t know how far it will go, taking into consideration several people that had complains when they reported abuse. But at least, I made a commitment with myself to do something if I can, even if it´s a small part of what´s needed.

    Lisa, thank you very much for the information in this post. It has been a blessing!!! I know your articles have helped many people, including myself. Thank you for your willingness to guide people that want to make an honest income. Have a nice day.

    21 04 2012

    Reblogged this on flacklist.

    28 05 2012
    Lee took $83.10 from my paypal account in 2 transactions. I do not know why they took it, all I did was sign-up. I haven’t used any freelancers (one did contact me to try to solicit work outside of the site). I cannot get a refund from them (despite opening a ticket 6 weeks ago) and a live chat (which I have the transcript of) assuring me they would refund.

    Please don’t get scammed like I did, stay well away.


    30 05 2012

    I used for the first time a couple of days ago and yesterday I selected a freelancer. (On the day of registration Freelancer took a $10 deposit from me).

    The successful bid was $100 and the milestone was $100, so basically the freelancer wanted the full amount upfront.

    When I paid the milestone their system took *two* payments: one for $97.54 and the other for $102.66. I was logged into my email account at the time and got Paypal email alerts within seconds of making the milestone payment showing these two sums.

    I was completely shocked – I was flabbergasted that they took money automatically from my Paypal account (I soon read on the internet that Freelancer take money without notifying people by email that they have supposedly signed them up for “pre-approved” billing).

    This would not have mattered so much *if* their system had not taken two payments.

    I read on the internet of someone else this has happened to: their payment was duplicated *and* support tried to tell them they must have done something wrong their end. That’s what happened to me. I know I definitely didn’t press anything twice.

    I got on to support and after alleging wrong doing my end, they basically tried to tell me that the money would be a credit on my account. At that point I admit I started swearing as they said they could not tell me if or when I’d be refunded!

    I have now contacted Paypal’s fraud department and they said they will investigate. I have sent them a few links and intend to put my case on as many warning sites as possible to alert people to this scam company until they refund me.

    Ps – I managed to get the telephone number of their UK Manager (I’m based in the UK) he was said he’ll look into this for me. I wait and see with interest.

    12 06 2012
    I DO NOT WORK FOR FREELANCER.COM! « Lisa A. Martin – Freelance science copywriter/editor

    […] Despite all this, I still hold to the idea that many of the problems on Freelancer – at least in my experience – are user-generated. Whichever website you use, whether it is ebaY, Facebook, Twitter or whatever, there are always unsavoury types who will try to exploit innocent people. You get people selling fakes on ebaY, spammers on Twitter, and viruses spread through Facebook. Although people complain that more should be done to stop this behaviour, it happens nevertheless, and with scammers becoming evermore devious and creative, it can be difficult to police. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Freelancer shouldn’t try to prevent scammers from posting on the site, but there is a lot that the user can do to protect themselves from falling into common traps (for examples, see my post ‘How to Spot Spam, Scams and Shams’). […]

    22 11 2012

    End of vworker AND of a good ERA 😦

    18 01 2013

    I am not precise over one thing.Why do people cry over when there are other sites like Elance ,Guru and Odesk with loads of freelance professionals in it.I personally recommend Elance for anyone instead of this stupid freelancer which has more spam and scam post than job opportunities.You might even find posts which are very vulgar and the people who don’t even know the basics of writing are given 5 star ratings by clients(Which is a part of scam)….
    A friend of mine tried giving a work to a freelancer to write content on his website.The freelancer had great reviews and many work samples.But even after giving a time of two weeks the work was done in an awful way.The same work was given to a moderate writer on guru on a lower rate which was finished on time and made my friend satisfied…..
    You will not hate until you have a bad experience with it…..

    13 04 2013
    John A Eyon

    it’s a great relief having the mystery behind the Freelancer website cleared up a bit – i had my doubts from my first exploration of the site – you have rendered us a valuable service by sharing your experiences – and so have the bevy of victims who commented with warnings as well

    i’ve noted your cautious recommendation – and will continue try it out – but with a trained eye

    thank you lisa

    7 02 2017

    Great post here Lisa. I have encountered my fair share of problems.with the site too.

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