So, today I experienced something that is not at all uncommon for those of us who are looking for legitimate long-term remote jobs: a fraudulent job listing.
Even on revered platforms like Upwork, us remote professionals come across “companies” that pose as bigger companies in order to look like a legitimate opportunity. Today, I had someone claiming to be an HR representative from a Fortune 500 company.
Now I know I’ve been at it too long when I pick up immediately that the job listing is pure bullshit. But, as an experiment, I went ahead and played along as if I didn’t know.
Why? Because I was well aware that their pitch would fool someone new to freelance. The person I was chatting with even pulled up the LinkedIn page for the person they were impersonating, which I reported to the company and person they were pretending to be. What it led to was a two hour chat-based interview where it ended in them insisting I send a copy of my ID to an email address made to look legit. I promptly reported it.
So here are the steps I take to sussing out the validity of the clients that may approach you on a freelance site like Upwork (or avoid applying to them entirely):
1: Track Record On The Platform
This is my first go-to on Upwork and a reason I stick with them. Do they even have a confirmed payment method on file? If not, don’t proceed.
How much have they spent? If it’s less than $100, move on to someone else. Some companies will fake a contract to look like they’ve hired before.
Do they have reviews from past employees?
2: Can you validate them?
Legitimate companies usually at least provide a company name or real professional website……enough info that you can verify them yourself.
3: Keep the convo safe
What I mean by this is that if they urge you to email or contact them outside of the freelance platform, proceed with caution. Skype is a practical go-to but Upwork does feature the ability to do have text, voice and video conversations right from their interface. This is important because you can keep a record of all of your interactions there and ensure you’re safely speaking to someone. Be cautious if someone is insisting on speaking externally. Not practicing this is also how I unknowingly ended up being sexually harassed in the past via a “video interview”, which then became hard to report to Upwork to ensure no one else would be subjected to that.
4: No Voice, No Interview
While it seems incredibly appealing to only interview via chat when it’s offered, don’t. If a prospective client will not do a voice or video interview, that is one big red flag. It’s also indicative of a lack of standards, especially if you are being considered for a customer-based role.
5: External Pay?
If the potential client is asking to pay outside of the freelance platform, you also lose any security that comes with…..never mind the fact that it’s likely a violation of TOS for both parties. Upwork, for example, ensures that each hour worked is an hour paid and also has protections for the client/company. It otherwise puts your finances at risk. You could sink in a ton of hours and never get paid. Laws don’t fully protect the self-employed quite yet.
Yes, you can find wholly legitimate work from great companies, but unless you apply directly to the company itself you need to protect yourself and your information while playing in the freelance arena. And, as they always say….if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.