Where did you say you were from?

16 07 2013

My name is Rachel. I’m a reeeeally good writer from India. Honest!

Although I haven’t actually used the site for a long time, I am still signed up to receive Freelancer.com’s project notification emails, which contain a summary of all jobs recently posted in my categories (writing and editing). I don’t often get time to sift through these project alerts (99% of the projects are a load of crap and I have better things to do with my time, quite frankly!) but sometimes, particularly when I am in need of a good laugh to cheer me up, I will have a look at who is posting what, and in particular, who is actually bidding on these ridiculous projects.

In checking out the profiles of my ‘rival’ freelancers, I started to notice a few patterns forming. I should have known really…on a site where pretty much every writing project listed is badly written, under paid, an outright scam or a  complete joke, it appears that some of Freelancer’s 8 million members are not what they seem either…Here are some examples:

Writingpool

‘Writingpool’ is allegedly from London, UK. She has been a member of Freelancer.com for over a year and in that time, to date, has amassed 59 reviews and an impressive reputation score of 4.8. She is a ‘verified’ member in that she has deposited money in her Freelancer account, her email address and phone number are all valid. However…

…I checked out Writingpool’s feedback – most of it is very good, but there are a few less than satisfied customers who seem to share my concerns that this profile is fake:

Writer is incapable of handling the project and have cancelled the project.

Seller claims to be from the UK but is blatantly not. Provided low quality work which I would assume was written with article spinning software, content scraped from wikipedia. Hire at your peril!

Really disappointing. The first batch were clearly just outsourced to other freelancers as the content style was very mixed, the content was terrible, full of very basic grammatical errors and completely unusable. This freelancer provided revised versions, but again the style of content was very varied so clearly these were not produced by the freelancer, but outsourced elsewhere. The content is still of a poor quality, full of poor grammar and not something I can readily use. Not sure who this freelancer actually is, but the quality of work definitely does not match the profile!! Would never use this freelancer again.

Furthermore, the language that Writingpool uses is not consistent with what I would expect from a 20-something Londonite with an MBA – her profile is riddled with grammatical errors that, to me, seem highly indicative of an Asian nationality, for example:

I am writing articles for last 16 years in local UK company and my goal is to provide excellent work to my clients.

Hang on a minute…did you say you’ve been working for 16 years?! Either Writingpool has found the secret to eternal youth (her profile picture suggests she is a young, blonde, white girl who can’t be more than 20-21 years old) or that is not a picture of her! Of course, it may be that Writingpool is based in London, but I have my doubts that she is not who she says she is!

elizabethouse

‘elizabethouse’ has provided Writingpool (above) with no less than 7 glowing reviews, all celebrating her as an excellent writer who delivers high quality articles on deadline (contrary to what some of the more negative reviews have said!). Yet despite Elizabeth Ouse’s very English-sounding name, and her (again) young, pretty, blonde, white girl profile picture, I’m pretty sure that she too is an imposter.

Those tell-tales are here again:

  • a handful of negative reviews expressing displeasure with the quality of Elizabeth’s work, and multiple very positive reviews from a few individuals (fake projects to bump up her ratings?)
  • she addresses herself as ‘Professor Dr Elizabeth’, something that a British person would never say
  • Her spelling and grammar are awful and again, littered with the kind of mistakes that an Asian English-speaker would make

Elizabeth is ‘honest’ about the fact that she is from Pakistan, but that’s probably the only true thing on her profile.

hotline69

Apparently based in London, hotline69 is yet another pretty young white girl (brunette this time, for a change!) who seems to have picked up a decidedly Asian accent in her writing…She has amassed hundreds of reviews and somehow has a rating of 4.7 which isn’t too bad, but if you sort her feedback reviews from low to high rating, you will find that the first 3 pages of reviews are all incomplete project disputes, and the next few pages seem to confirm my suspicion that she’s not British at all. Hotline69 has provided several glowing reviews for elizabethouse (above).

So what’s going on here? I strongly suspect that:

  • The profiles are deliberately written and designed to mislead genuine employers into thinking that these are native English speakers when in fact they all seem to be from Pakistan – the pretty young women in the photos, the Anglicised names,  the boasts of British university educations, etc.
  • The profiles are probably all operated by the same person or small group of people. To give the impression of a good feedback history, these fake profiles are all awarding each other projects – no work or money is changing hands, but they have instead left positive feedback for each other to bump up their ratings.
  • A combination of fake profile information and good feedback scores serves to dupe buyers into thinking that they are safe working with that person. However, when jobs are awarded, they are outsourced to other workers – accounting for the variability in quality that many of the feedback reviews mention. Because of the good feedback, the profile owner(s) can probably get away with selling articles for a few more dollars apiece than they paid for them, thus, given the volume of projects they are being awarded, this seems to be quite a profitable scam!

If I am right, this person or people is/are in direct contravention of at least 3 points in Freelancer’s code of conduct:

  • I will not falsify my own or any other identity and I will provide true and correct information
  • I will not create multiple accounts
  • I will not use the Site to generate false feedback

I’d hazard a guess to say that some of these fake profiles have probably earned a significant income through fake affiliate programme referrals too! I’m stunned that they have been members for so long – I’ve definitely reported these three profiles in the past and yet Freelancer doesn’t seem to have done anything about them.

This practice really bothers me because I pride myself on being honest, open and transparent. When a client asks me to work for them, they expect to pay ME to do the work – they don’t expect me to sub-let and claim that the work was mine. I’m the one with the skills, I’m the one with the reputation, and I’m the one that they want to do the work. If I need to outsource, for example if the client requires a service that I cannot offer myself, I ALWAYS tell the client and check that they are happy before proceeding – it’s just good manners!

Here are a few more profiles I found of freelancers whom I suspect are not quite what they seem. I’ve no doubt there are others!

  • Consultingfirm – Another pretty blonde from ‘London, Pakistan’, according to her profile picture, yet the photo on her Portfolio page is a completely different person…
  • sarasmith – Yet another pretty blonde from ‘London, Pakistan’!
  • Writingspirit – feedback suggests this user is not from the UK as profile says
  • Silverhope – feedback suggests this user is not from the UK as profile says
  • Universalwriter8 – feedback suggests this user is not from the UK as profile says
  • Rachel902 – “i am doing my best for all project..” says brunette “Rachel”. I ran her profile picture through Tin Eye and it turned up 4 results – this picture is apparently of an American college student named Nyla Patterson who entered a beauty contest in 2005. Wonder if she knows she is also a really bad writer living in Mumbai?
  • Contentwriting87 – quick! Someone get Hello! Magazine on the phone! Kristin Stewart is moonlighting as a really bad writer on Freelancer.com!

Please comment below if you have come across any other ‘fake’ freelancers! A member of staff at Freelancer.com now follows this blog and has been looking into some of your complaints – hopefully he will investigate these profiles too!

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14 responses

19 07 2013
doncharisma

Reblogged this on doncharisma and commented:
Very well put together article Lisa, I can see how this directly affects you … telling lies to get work and then not being able to do the job is something that’s fundamentally wrong and tantamount to fraud …

19 07 2013
lisaamartin

Thanks for the reblog! This issue is something I feel really strongly about!

20 07 2013
Jon Rista

Good read, Lisa. It’s so sad that the world, with this newish global economy, has become so riddled with fraud and deception. Its great when people take time out of their lives to track down and identify fraudsters like this. Even though it does cost you your time, I’m sure there are people out there who appreciate the investment!

20 07 2013
lisaamartin

Hi Jon, thanks for your comment. It’s a real shame, isn’t it? Ratting out these profiles did take me some time, but I got a little obsessed with it! The sad thing is, I’m sure I’ve only just scraped the surface here… 😦

24 08 2013
Milt Farquhar

Aye, very true. I’m rubbish at most things, but one thing I can do well is read, write and edit. It drives me crazy that some people are pitching for work that is clearly (just from reading their pitching gambit) way beyond their capabilities. I’d do stuff for free if it’d boost my rep.

27 08 2013
lisaamartin

Yup. And the problem is that many employers can’t see beyond the fact that those people are CHEAP. They wonder why they get burned and receive poor quality work, when in reality (often) the clues are in the bid and/or the profile :-/

21 07 2013
23missb

I asked Freelancer to permanently delete my account a couple of years ago. What a waste of time!

21 07 2013
LinusofFreelancer.com

Hi Lisa,

Good day.

This is Linus Freelancer.com. We appreciate your effort for looking into these profiles. We do take these matters seriously. As much as possible, we would like our site to be safe for both freelancers and employers and for all users to follow our Code of Conduct as well as our Terms and Condition.

Please be assured that I have these profiles investigated by the proper department.

If you have further inquiries or concerns, you can always contact our Support Team at support@freelancer.com, ask to be forwarded to me so I can handle it personally.

Sincerely,

Linus C.

21 07 2013
lionaroundwriting

Expose the scammers! Nice work, detective 🙂

23 07 2013
ceoln

Hey, Linus Freelancer’s diction seems eerily familiar as well! 😀

30 07 2013
Terry Sprouse

Great article. It confirms a lot of suspicions that I’ve had.

20 09 2013
Where did you say you were from? | DonCharisma.com

[…] Reblogged from Lisa A. Martin – Freelance science copywriter/editor: […]

16 12 2013
Update: “Where did you say you were from?” | Lisa A. Martin - Freelance science copywriter/editor

[…] this blog post will be investigated and acted upon where appropriate. In fact, in response to my ‘Where did you say you were from?’ post, Michael says that the following user accounts have been suspended due to citing an […]

16 12 2013
5 ways to check if your Freelancer is fake | Lisa A. Martin - Freelance science copywriter/editor

[…] One thing you can try is to copy the profile picture image URL and run it through the TinEye Reverse Image Search. Unfortunately, TinEye can’t check Facebook profiles, which is where I suspect a lot of images are stolen from, but it did help me prove that the account Rachel902 was fake and I successfully got it shut down (see here: https://lisaamartin.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/where-did-you-say-you-were-from/). […]

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