If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is

Beware of Online Job Scammers

By Adrienne Moch


online-scammer_cropChoosing to be a freelancer is a bold step, especially if you don’t have an entrepreneurial bone in your body. While you may have great talent—as an editor, for our purposes—you may find the marketing side of the business to be rather challenging. For that reason, when you receive an unsolicited offer of a job, you tend to do a happy dance.

Unfortunately, scamming seems to be rampant everywhere on the Internet, so those who choose to secure work from online (and unknown) sources best beware. Those of us who’ve been around for a while—and perhaps have even fallen for something that seemed too good to be true—can usually spot a faker right away. For those of you who are newer to the industry, or are still too trusting to a fault, here are a few things to look out for in email solicitations:

  • Sparse signature. Beware when getting an “out of the blue” job offer from “Stan” or “John,” etc. You’re left with no way to vet the sender. Someone from a legitimate company is going to provide full contact details.
  • Extremely poor writing. Sure, this potential client is allegedly coming to you with editing work, but emails that are close to unintelligible are likely from scammers. Couple this with no contact information, and you should definitely move on.
  • A huge payday offer up front. Like the headline says, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Vague job details with a request to commit right away—especially when the sender ignores your request to schedule a phone call to discuss specifics. Serious clients will be happy to speak with you about their project.
  • Email solicitation isn’t addressed specifically to you. If someone really visited your website and was impressed with your work, that person’s email should start with your name, for example, “Hi, Adrienne.” If that’s not the case, it’s likely a faux job offer sent to scads of people.

Also, don’t let your guard down when screening potential clients through online job boards like Thumbtack. While that service is pretty good at weeding out frauds, some do get through once in a while.

How to Protect Yourself

When you have the chance to do business with a new client who comes to you via the Internet, you must complete thorough due diligence. Here are some things you should do to help protect yourself:

  • Get the contact person’s full name and company so you can check out his or her website. Plus, search to see if any fraud complaints have been filed against the person or the company.
  • Make sure the email address being used seems legit (name@companyname.com or even name@gmail.com, for instance).
  • Ask for the person’s phone number and suggest discussing the job on a call. Many scammers will ignore this request, and you should consider yourself lucky that you didn’t waste any time on them.
  • NEVER provide tax information (like a W-9) or banking information (for direct deposits) to someone you haven’t thoroughly vetted.
  • Use your common sense and run, run, run if something seems fishy to you. Unfortunately, there are plenty of less-than-scrupulous people out there who would like nothing better than to give you grief—and it’s not personal; they’ll try to scam anyone.

2 thoughts to “If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is”

  1. Great tips!

    Here’s another–if someone gets through that initial screening he or she may still be out for no good. If someone overpays and asks you to reimburse them for the difference? Run, don’t walk–this is a scam! Their check isn’t good, it won’t clear and you will be out the money you’ve “refunded” them.

  2. One other tip: ask them how they heard about you. If they can’t answer in any specific way (beyond, for example, “I found you online”), then you may be just one of many potential “marks” to them.

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