Update 17 Nov 2015: Information about the genuine freelancer affected by this story has been removed on their request.
My quest to get the many fake profiles on Freelancer.com shut down ramped up a gear today, as I made a very disturbing discovery indeed. I’ll explain…
The Freelancer profile ‘Asaffron‘ has been on my Watch List for a few days now – I was initially suspicious because some of the user’s feedback was negative and criticised ‘her’ professionalism, but when I dug a little deeper I found that the content of Asaffron’s profile was plagiarised from the Elance profile of a genuine freelance writer from the US.
I managed to find this writer on Twitter and gave her a heads-up on the plagiarised Freelancer profile. She wasn’t happy, as you can imagine! In fact, she posted a cease and desist project, specially for Asaffron!
But it doesn’t end there.
Luckily, Google Images has a nifty reverse image search function that is just perfect for this sort of detective work, so I uploaded Asaffron’s photo to the search engine and hit Search. I wasn’t quite prepared for what I discovered!
Turns out, the girl in the photo is Madison Scott, a young Canadian woman who has been missing since May 2011. Maddy, who was 20 when she vanished, disappeared after camping out at a party by Hogsback Lake, near her hometown of Vanderhoof, BC. She hasn’t been seen since. You can watch a documentary about Maddy’s disappearance here (53 mins): http://vimeo.com/82034871.
Of course, it is entirely possible that the person behind Asaffron’s fake profile didn’t know that the photo they’d chosen to hide behind was a missing person, but whether they did or didn’t, it highlights just how serious this problem of Freelancer identity theft is becoming. This isn’t some harmless little scam, ‘borrowing’ an identity to make out that you are more qualified than you really are, or that you are from a native English-speaking country when you are not. At best, this is copyright and identity theft. At worst, as we have seen, this has far more serious ramefications.
Find out more about Maddy Scott at http://madisonscott.ca/.