Beware of freelance imposters, warns BBB

Owners of small businesses looking to hire freelancers should be aware of scammers who may advertise low rates, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

According to the BBB, scammers are creating fake accounts on online job platforms like Upwork and Craigslist, using photos and resumes of real professionals and “enticing businesses with low rates.”

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The organization says that a small business or individual may look to hire a freelancer, for example, a software developer or a graphic designer, and post the job opportunity online. On some sites, businesses can connect directly with freelancers.

On that site, the person looking to hire may find a freelancer that looks perfect for the job, with a resume outlining the knowledge and years of experience required for the role.

“Best of all, this freelancer’s rate is far below what other similarly qualified persons are charging,” reads a release from the BBB. “You decide to hire them and pay a deposit up front as instructed.”

However, while the newly-hired freelancer says they have started working on the project, weeks pass and the work is not completed, and the freelancer stops responding to messages.

“Unfortunately, this ‘qualified freelancer’ is likely an imposter,” reads the BBB release.

The BBB says scammers are stealing photos and resumes of real independent contractors to post online. The organization said in the past it has received reports where scammers will even contact freelancers directly to use their profile in exchange for payment or the promise of future work.

The BBB has some tips to spot a freelancer impersonation scam:

  • Watch out for rates that are 'too good to be true'. Before hiring a freelancer, do some research and confirm the standard hourly rate for the position you want to hire. If an experienced candidate is advertising a price well below that amount, it could be a scam.
  • Do a video interview before hiring. Always speak with top applicants over video chat first before selecting someone for the job. Make sure they match their photo and have the knowledge and experience they claim in their profile. Include the video interview requirement in your job post to help weed out scammers.
  • Find your freelancer on other platforms. Look for your freelancer’s LinkedIn profile, portfolio website, or social media accounts. This will help you confirm their identity and experience.
  • Report phoney accounts. Notify the platform where you encounter suspicious accounts so that they can conduct investigations. Also, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker to help protect other consumers.
  • Freelancers, make sure you are not being impersonated. Scammers can steal your photo, portfolio, and resume from sites like LinkedIn. Keep tabs on all online activity in your name to make sure that someone is not impersonating you and hurting your reputation.
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