How to Identify Fraudsters on Freelance Sites

Freelancing has recently become a mainstream job opportunity, with platforms attracting millions of freelancers and clients. As with any booming market, scammers have taken to plundering freelance sites.


What started as a unicorn event has quickly spread and threatens to overwhelm the once lofty industry. Clients are nervous and wary, while freelancers work with their hearts in their hands, terrified of falling prey to a convincing scam. This article discusses freelancing scams and how to identify and avoid them. Here’s what you should look for:


Phishing links have been present on the Internet for many years. Receiving links in messages is quite common for freelance sites, which makes these scams all the more difficult to detect. However, with a little attention, you should be able to identify them.

Whether it’s a regular customer or a new customer, you could save yourself some hassle by using websites that verify link security. These sites help unroll shorthand links and display the final destination of each entry, allowing you to decipher if you have a scammer on your hands.

2. Communication with third parties

Independent platforms generally urge their users to restrict their interactions within the boundaries of the site. However, clients and freelancers have flouted this rule over time, creating a loophole for scammers.

Although freelance sites provide the required communication tools: messaging, text and video, sometimes users prefer to remove their business from the platform. Scammers quickly join the train by:

  • Solicit engagement outside of the platform: Users are unprotected and unmonitored outside the boundaries of freelance sites. Knowing this, scammers usually recommend interaction through apps and platforms with shady histories, such as Telegram, Skype, email, etc. Once they make you interact on these platforms, you are more susceptible to their tricks including phishing links, malware and viruses.
  • Sending files: Like links, files are endemic to freelance sites. Clients would usually send one to freelancers at the start of a project. The only way for the latter to get involved is to download and open the document. This can be a route for malware to enter your device. And the fact that clients can send documents to multiple freelancers further increases the likelihood of someone falling victim to it. However, you can use email security software to protect your inbox from viruses, malware, and other malicious attacks.
  • Poorly worded gigs: If you’ve ever read a phishing email and laughed at bad grammar, you’re not their target audience. These messages discourage the most knowledgeable reader from engaging with the scammer. While it might be easy to tell these email scams apart, freelancing sites present another challenge: language barriers. Not all customers are fluent in English, so you can expect a bit of incorrect grammar from time to time, which inadvertently allows scammers to thrive. So when you next see poor grammar, treat it with close scrutiny.

3. Huge financial incentives

It’s not what you want to hear, but many people check out freelancing sites for great deals. Can’t get the design store down the street to do a design on the cheap? Find websites that will help you connect with freelance designers. Every freelancer in the business has known for quite a long time that high-paying clients are often distant from each other. Thus, seeing one of the following pointers may be an indication of a scammer:

  • Show high budgets with ambiguous projects: If the client offers an extravagant amount but provides little or no details about the project, you are most likely dealing with a malicious individual. If, between the time you bid for the project and the time you start interacting, they don’t provide any factual information about the project and their intentions, beware.
  • Promise payment at the end of concerts: The point of a freelance site is that a third party serves as an escrow to ensure that both parties (client and freelance) fulfill their part of the agreement. So if a client promises to pay at the end of a job, roll your eyes and move on.
  • Request free trials to prove your worth: There’s a reason freelance sites allow freelancers to upload samples of previous jobs. So, customers who want to verify your prowess should browse through your portfolio. It is not uncommon for customers who want you to do a test to disappear after receiving the submission. This means that all of your hard work goes unrewarded.

You might also want to see what types of scams are most prevalent on a site like Upwork. This video details some of those for web developers.

  • Promises more jobs down the line: Don’t let anyone convince you to do a free job or lower your prices with promises of future jobs. Your bills won’t wait until the future, and it’s unclear if these jobs even exist in the first place.
  • Unverified payment methods: Freelance platforms like Upwork make it possible to review client profiles. One of the most important details to watch out for is payment methods. The platform typically uses “verified” or “unverified” to indicate customers who have filed in escrow or made successful payments in the past. While it’s possible for some new customers who don’t fully understand the platform to have the tag unverified, gigs from these accounts are best avoided.

4. Notice

Freelancing is built on reviews. The more positive and glowing reviews you get, the better your chances of attracting customers. However, did you know that reviews aren’t always organic?

There is a black market for freelancers and customers who buy reviews. How it works is that the latter creates a mock gig, accepts the former, and goes through the process. Then they reward themselves with rave reviews, automatically making customers and freelancers more attractive to their respective markets. While there’s no way to tell reviews apart, look for new accounts with amazing reviews within a few days of operation.

5. Multiple requirements

Some things automatically make customers terrible, even if they are not necessarily scammers, the main of which is the multiplicity of requirements. It’s not unreasonable for clients to expect you to be a writer and editor. However, it’s a red flag when they want multiple unconnected roles simultaneously. So don’t hesitate to boycott any offer that wants you to be an editor, videographer, programmer and aviator all at the same time.

Often these clients offer poverty wages with the promise of higher incentives upon completion, which is rather bizarre. Worse, when you try to protest the workload, they come up with compelling reasons why you’re made for the job. Don’t fall for their gas lighting. Finally, with many requirements, they easily slip phishing links or hidden viruses as files.

Stay safe and avoid freelancing scams with these tips

It’s enough hard work to be a freelancer without worrying about scammers blowing your neck every other day. While you might expect these freelance sites to crack down on security measures as harshly as they hold on to their percentage of your revenue, they seem to focus only on freelancers, while scammers are unscathed due to low barriers. at the entrance for customers.

These are some tips from the experiences of freelancers and how they have dealt with scammers in their space. If the platforms aren’t responding with agile measures, you owe it to yourself to stay safe.