7 Ways to Catch a Scammer


Noted.co.nz, modified by Juliana Tjornhom

Hiding behind pixelated screens, online scammers intend to leave your pockets dry and your worries high.

Juliana Tjornhom, Freelancer

Beware. Money-hungry criminals are luring people in for quick cash. Hiding behind pixelated screens, they intend to leave your pockets dry and your worries high. These cowardly fraud scammers are the villains of the online world, and they are in full force now more than ever. With many freelancers swimming in the ocean of digital opportunities, these money sharks have a surplus of prey to feast on. This can happen to everyone. Here are some tips to reverse the role so that you can smell their greedy blood from miles away. 

These red flags are applicable to any freelancer platform, which include Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com.

1. Operating off-site

Scammers will often lure people off the secure platform. (As soon as they move negotiations off the app, the platform is not entitled to compensate for losses.) These invites will come in the form of interview requests, and usually happen on Skype or other messaging service providers.

2. Strange job requests / “seems to good to be true”

Trust your gut. If something seems off, it probably is. If a high paying job requires little experience, it’s probably fake.  Likewise, you should be skeptical of wages that don’t match credentials.  

3. Unprofessional language

In most cases, a reputable business will coherently and professionally present themselves; the company will use formal, precise language. Tone is another important factor. Scammers tend to reveal their motives by means of persuasion or by creating the illusion of desire for a job (for example, “there have been many promising applicants, so make your decision soon before your time runs out”). If they detect the slightest bit of hesitation on your part, many will immediately act docile or like a “mediator”, and tell you to calm down (“There is no need for stress of sort, Ma’am), even if there is no cause for alarm in the first place.

4. Vague description of business

A job description that is virtually identical to thousands of other offers deserves suspicion. Ask questions when the person administering the application process never or rarely mentions the business they are working with. Other times, scammers will conceal themselves through an actual business. In this situation, it can help to ask questions only an employee would know (but beware — these professional liars sometimes disguise their lack of knowledge deceptively well). Always contact the business or company, and ask if your employer exists or if they have any job listings on the platform that you are using.

5. Asking for confidential information

Scammers may ask for your bank account information to set up direct deposit or money transfers; they may even encourage you to open a new bank account. Others will ask for a credit report form. Identity theft scammers will attempt to get social security numbers, birthdates, and addresses.

6. Sending money or using personal bank accounts

People who have been victims of these criminals report that they received cashier’s checks that resemble their legitimate counterparts. They say they were directed to deposit the check, keep some money for themselves, and then send the remaining sum to someone else. Money launderers have also been known to ask to use your personal account to transfer money between different accounts.

7. Demanding payment for services or new software

A “business” or “company” may ask you to purchase their “necessary” materials in order to start working for them. This could be anything from specific computer software to an entirely new laptop. Scammers might also ask for payment to review your application, resume, or a credit report. These are all huge indications of a scam.