Scams and frauds are among the most common concerns of both employers and freelancers who work on freelance writing sites like oDesk or Elance. Getting scammed on Elance, Guru.com or oDesk is a distinct possibility, even if these freelancing websites have systems in place which protect honest people from getting conned by unscrupulous individuals.
One of the reasons for which people are being fooled by freelance scams is the complexity of freelancing sites like oDesk. For some, there are simply too many options to set, too many things to watch for, and so on. oDesk has a comprehensive system in place to avoid frauds. Their motto is Verified Work — Guaranteed Payment, but unfortunately even their escrow system can’t completely protect people from falling victims to shrewd individuals.
If you’re a contractor, here are a few tips to avoid falling victim to oDesk scams:
- If you’re working hourly, you’re pretty much safe. The escrow system of oDesk (or Elance and Guru) guarantees that you are paid, as long as you’re working on what you were supposed to, you’re billing the time in the dedicated application (oDesk Team), and you’re justifying your work with memos. A memo is a simple description of what you are doing at a specific moment. E.g.: Writing article about oDesk scams or Completing landing page for website. It’s a good idea to be thorough about memos… you never know when a bad situation can develop.
- Most oDesk scam attempts appear when working on fixed fee projects. Actually, oDesk specifically asks you to confirm that you understand the risks of working on fixed fee projects, before applying to such jobs. In fixed fee projects, you don’t have any guarantees about when or if you will receive your money.
- Check the employer’s feedback — when you apply for a job on freelance sites, you can see the history of the employers — check their overall rating, and read the comments of fellow freelancers, who worked with the employer before. If you spot something suspicious, or many negative comments, it’s a sign that you’re dealing with a bad employer or a downright scam attempt.
- If the employer is new, consider the job offer — when you are offered lots of money to do a simple thing, think thoroughly why that happens. It may mean that the employer is inexperienced or naive, but sometimes it can be a lure set by a fraudster.
- Ask for upfront or milestone payments — a small upfront fee paid by the employer may be a sign of good faith, but many employers dislike upfront payments, because they too are afraid of oDesk scams. Another option, suitable for long-term fixed-fee jobs is to negotiate a schedule of milestone payments (partial payments), as the project advances.
- Communicate only via the freelance site — oDesk and Elance have their own messaging systems, which is usually enough to communicate with an employer. To be extra cautious, you should only communicate with the employer via these systems; avoid instant messaging for important messages.
Hopefully, these advices should help you avoid fraud attempts. If you do fall victim to an oDesk scam, don’t panic. File a ticket on oDesk support and explain the situation as detailed as possible. They will analyze the situation and if you’re lucky you might get your hard earned money.