When you sign up for a Freelancer.com account, you are required to agree to the site’s terms and conditions and a code of conduct, which includes:
- 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
But some people are abusing these terms of trust and falsify information to try and improve their chances of being awarded projects.
It’s not always easy to spot these scammers, but here are a few tips to help sort the wheat from the chaff.
If you’re thinking of using Freelancer to find a worker, please bear these tips in mind when selecting your provider!
1) Check feedback
A handy feature of the Freelancer profile page is that you can sort a user’s feedback ratings from low to high. Do this to quickly check if a person a) *has* negative feedback, and if so b) what the negative feedback says. Genuine misunderstandings do happen, but if I had the choice of hiring someone with a clean sheet versus someone with negative feedback, I’d pick clean sheets every time!
But negative feedback isn’t the whole story – you also need to check a user’s *positive* feedback! Why? Because scammers sometimes try to hide or dilute negative feedback by having multiple user accounts and using one account to leave positive feedback for the others.
Does a user’s positive feedback come from lots of different people, or do the same usernames crop up again and again? Do those usernames appear on my Watch List of fake profiles? Does this feedback relate to what seems like genuine projects, or are they ‘custom’ projects with very little visible information? Be suspicious!
2) Check a person’s nationality/hometown
To improve the chances of being picked for a particular project, users will sometimes falsify the country flag on their profile. I see this a lot on writing projects where the buyer will only hire people from the UK, US, Canada or Australia.
There are some tell-tale signs. One (surprisingly!) common error is that the user’s profile will give their correct city but the wrong country. Recently I have seen users claiming that Marbella and Lahore are in the UK (Marbella = Spain, Lahore = Pakistan), and Craiova, Brasilia and Mirpur are in the United States (Craiova = Romania, Brasilia = Brazil and Mirpur = Bangladesh).
Another word of warning: buyers can require users to pass an English test before they can bid on a project. In theory, this is supposed to ensure that only users with a certain level of English can bid on projects for which good spelling and grammar is important, and ‘certifies’ a user’s skills with a profile badge. In practice however, the answers to these tests are all over the internet!
3) Google the profile text
Go to a user’s profile page, highlight the first few lines of the description on their overview page, and copy it. Now paste into Google. Any hits?
Of course, you’ll find the various regional versions of that same Freelancer profile page, but check to see if the same text comes up anywhere else; on a LinkedIn profile, or another freelancing website perhaps? If so, do the profile pictures match? Is it the same person, or has the Freelancer user just stolen text from a real person? You can read about a particularly good expose of this scam here: https://lisaamartin.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/beware-the-fake-freelancers/.
4) Check the profile picture
It almost goes without saying that fake profiles often have fake profile pictures. Sometimes these will be generic logos, celebrities (I have recently found Miley Cyrus and Kristen Stewart loitering as awful writers on Freelancer!), and sometimes they will be stolen from other websites or online profiles.
One thing you can try is to copy the profile picture image URL and run it through a reverse image search such as TinEye or Google Images. 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/).
Another observation… I know there is a lot of global movement these days, but I didn’t realise how many young, pretty, blonde-haired white girls live in Bangladesh and Pakistan….! 😉
5) Check the English
Of course, even people genuinely living in English-speaking countries may not be able to write or speak English well, but if you are looking for an English writer or a proofreader, why on earth would you pick someone with poor skills?
Take this user as an example: writemedown. ‘She’ (is it really the girl in the picture??) claims to be a professional content writer and has all sorts of strings to her provierbial bow. In her resume, she proudly declares: “I won the contest of writing which were held under B.A.C. and holds the certification of excellence in writing.”
This makes absolutely no sense! I certainly wouldn’t trust this so-called award-winning writer to do any work for me! (Or I would seriously question the validity of the award!)
Sometimes the English looks good on the overview page (often because it is stolen from elsewhere), but don’t forget to check other areas of a user’s profile. Good places to look are: any samples uploaded to the user’s resume, any responses they may have given to feedback (especially negative), and the resume section.
Any other handy tips from my fellow Freelancers?