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How not to get scammed while freelancing

A guy pretended to be a client in need of a content writer, but just tried to infect my computer with malware.

I hate to start my blog on a negative note. I felt this is something that needs to be put out there. Staying safe while freelancing is not a topic I’ve seen all too many times out there.

As a freelance writer, a full-time content creator, I do a lot of pitching. I do a lot of communication and a lot of searching for new clients. I’m well aware that every potential client will research me, as well. They’ll find my LinkedIn and my Twitter profiles, maybe even Google my name. They’ll look for previous work.

You need to do the same for them, if you don’t want to take unnecessary risks. This guy posted a job opening at one of the more popular freelancing sites, and later approached me via Skype to send me ‘work guidelines’. That was a document supposedly carrying information on what needs to be done, and how. I only had to look at his account, to see that he had no previous job openings, paid for nothing, did nothing. It was a fresh account, and those are sometimes dangerous.

Risking a lot

Luckily for me, I had a strong antivirus set up. It instantly notified me that I’ve had three new viruses on my machine. Three! In a single file!

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a PayPal account (or something of sorts) set up. You have an account on a freelancing site, probably with some money lying around there.

By not keeping safe, you’re risking both your money and your identity stolen. If someone steals your email or Twitter, he can very well impersonate you. That can ruin your image.

Also, if you’re paid by piecework, losing precious hours fixing the damage also means financial losses.

It’s a jungle out there, people, keep safe!

A few tips

Here are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself from scammers:

  • Research every potential client – Do a basic Google search, see if you can find anything. If there’s a blog, try to find any previous contributing authors and contact them, see what they have to say. You can also do a [Client Name] [Scam] search, just to see if those two terms ever found themselves in the same sentence.
  • Set up an antivirus – This really goes without saying. There are countless free versions out there that do their job great, like Avira or Bitdefender. These can be your lifesavers.
  • Be careful about the files you’re opening – when people send you stuff, always keep an eye out on file extensions. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to spot a virus if it’s hiding inside a .pdf or a .doc file, but there are more obvious ones, like .exe, which you shouldn’t open.
  • Set up a system backup recovery file – Every operating system has a backup feature, reverting it to a version on a previous date. This can also be a lifesaver, especially if you’re in a hurry to get a project done and something like this happens
  • Keep your stuff in the Cloud – Services like Dropbox, Box, OneDrive and others offer free online storage for files you can access on various machines whenever you feel like it. Most of them have free versions that can work great as a backup storage. By keeping your files in the cloud, you can even lose your operating system, without worrying about your files.

I’d really love to meet one of those people going after freelancers to spread malware, to give them a nice pat on the back. With a metal pipe. Multiple times.


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