Marketplace scams every hiring employer should know

You're always looking for new talent to work with as a client. Whether you're looking to hire a software engineer, designer, or web developer, the internet can provide many options – and that's where the trouble starts.

With so many freelancers out there who are actively seeking developer jobs, it's only natural that some people will be less than honorable about their methods for getting them. If you're new to this world (or just looking for a refresher), here are some of the top warning signs and red flags to look for when hiring freelancers.

Freelance impersonators

Freelancers impersonating someone else is one of the oldest tricks in the book. This is when a freelancer pretends to be someone else – usually a well-known freelancer with an excellent reputation – to solicit work from clients. This is usually done by setting up a profile with the same personal information as the person they're impersonating, so make sure you check out the freelancer's portfolio before accepting any job offers from them.

These impersonators are also known for sending out fake résumés with strong job titles, including references that don't exist and counterfeit websites with no contact information.

And if you dig a little deeper on forums, it's very easy to find some experiences that attest to these cases. Here is something we found on Hacker News:

"The past few days I started getting interview invites from companies and people I had never heard of. I initially shrugged it off as aggressive spam, but after declining one of the invites, one of the emailers followed up to confirm that I was the same person that they were talking to on Upwork. I had never set up an Upwork profile before so I said no, after which they responded with a link to a profile of someone that was completely impersonating me. They had scraped my LinkedIn page for information and were interviewing me under the guise of being someone they were not (they were even using my picture). I talked to Upwork support, and after about 36 hours they deleted the impersonator. However, I just did another search and there is already someone else impersonating me again (this time they changed the face on the picture). I only discovered this because the first impersonator was too lazy to change my resume they downloaded it from my website and kept my real email on it, so some companies had used that email to contact me instead of their Upwork registered email. I would recommend everyone search for their name on Upwork (I had to wrap mine in quotes to find the matches) and make sure they aren't being impersonated. In the meantime, Upwork really needs a better validation mechanism. As engineers, we really have no recourse, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to prevent this from happening."

For several employers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trusting a potential candidate based on their portfolio. However, during the interview stage, requesting them to turn on their camera can be your saving grace in determining whether they are a fraud or not.

Another user added that they had made the mistake of hiring fake people.

“I've been on the other side of this, hiring fake people. As an example, I recently hired someone who showed his face on video and had great communication skills. Next time we did a call, he had no video and sounded totally different. It turned out to be a subcontractor impersonating him.”

Fake reviews

This one is pretty sneaky – and very common. Scammers often pay others to leave fake positive reviews on their profiles or websites so that potential customers will trust them more than they should. It's best to trust your gut when it comes to these types of things because it's easy to fall victim to someone trying to take advantage of you.

An employer posted on Quora about his experience when hiring someone based on their stellar reviews. This is what he had to say:

“We tried different criteria to hire freelancers via Upwork for some simple frontend implementation tasks on Wordpress. To be frank, we were amazed by how fast we could hire a freelancer who looks amazing in terms of reviews, past experience, and communication. But then all of them failed for different reasons. The worst one was someone who broke our production site and went to sleep. We had a mess for 8+ hours to fix the problem internally. He had a lot of 5-star reviews at a fair price.”

Taking your money and not completing work

Some scammers will take your money but do nothing with it – they just pocket your cash and run! This is especially common if you've hired someone through bidding sites where they don't have to verify their identity before accepting a job offer.

On the other hand, some sites will take money off you to submit your job posting on their site or pass it along to freelancers. They make no guarantee that they'll find you the ideal candidate or even find anyone at all, so if these sites aren't charging you anything extra (like a premium subscription fee) and seem like a good deal at first glance, think again. On the other hand, some sites will require you to pay for a listing with your credit card before one of their "partners" has even seen your job posting – and some will even charge you for this service without telling you about it! The worst part is that if this happens to you, your listing could be taken down before anyone ever sees it.

Getting people's passwords under the pretense of doing social media marketing

Giving out passwords are never a good idea. Sometimes, it’s inevitable that you would do so if you have someone doing social media marketing for your company. A general rule of thumb is to change your passwords frequently to avoid hackers. Here’s what a Quora user had to say regarding sharing passwords and it later backfiring:

“People who offer token services (e.g. Instagram ‘marketing’) that are just excuses for them to get passwords, which they use to drain your PayPal account. Here is the fact pattern. They hustle you (call you ‘mate’, tell you how ethical they are). They deliver an extremely shoddy product. A few days later, you get an unauthorized charge to your PayPal account and possibly other accounts. Pretty much assume that every password you give someone on Fiverr will be used to rob you.”

How to avoid falling victim

There are several common freelancer scams on the internet. Freelancers are particularly vulnerable because it's so easy for scammers to impersonate them and take their jobs. Here are some ways to protect yourself from scammers:

Make sure they're not using a fake profile

Before starting an engagement, do a quick Google search of their name and see what pops up on the first page of the search results. It's easy for other people to hijack someone else's name or picture on freelance marketplaces, so it's essential to make sure you aren't being scammed by someone who isn't even who they say they are! If a freelancer's profile picture looks fake or like it could belong to anyone else, it probably is. This also applies if their name sounds like something from a science fiction novel (e.g., "Elvira Bachendi").

Check their reviews

If a freelancer has no reviews, it's probably because they haven't been around long enough to have any. If they do have reviews, however, read them carefully. Do they sound like real customers? Are they full of praise, or are they more neutral? If you see that there are reviews for your potential freelancer, read through them carefully and make sure that what people say about their experience with this person matches up with what you're looking for in terms of skills and expertise. If it doesn't match up, then it's probably time to move on.

Check their portfolio

Does it look professional and well-thought-out? Or does it look like something was thrown together in 30 minutes last night? You want to see examples of previous engagements done by them so you can get an idea of what kind of quality they deliver on average before hiring them.

Use a reputable company, such as Proxify

You might have heard the stories of clients getting scammed on freelance marketplaces.

But here at Proxify, we are dedicated to ensuring that doesn't happen to you.

Our system of pre-vetting and testing developers means that we know who you're working with and what their track record is like. We test their skills by giving them a few coding tests as part of the application process. This ensures that when you hire team members through us, they can do the job they've been hired for – and do it well!

We also have a dedicated manager for each client, so you can be sure that your interests are being looked after throughout the process.

All of this makes hiring tech experts from Proxify a safer bet than hiring one off of other open websites – the people at Proxify know what they're doing and want to ensure their clients are happy.

Ensure you have direct communication with your freelancer before making any payment

We send all of our client's dedicated managers who can answer any questions or concerns they may have about their engagement while it's in progress. They'll also follow up with you after the job has been completed so that you know exactly what happened during the process and how much money was paid out in total (including taxes).

Finally, before making any payments, remember there is no guarantee that a freelancer will deliver what they promise – even after receiving payment! Always get everything in writing before hiring someone on a freelance marketplace, so there aren't any surprises later down the road.

The freelance marketplace is a great place to find work. But like any other business, it has its pitfalls.

The bottom line is: if it sounds too good to be true (like an unclaimed $2 million inheritance), it probably is. If something seems like a scam artist's dream come true, then chances are it is one.

Find your next developer within days, not months

We can help you deliver your product faster with an experienced remote developer. All from €31.90/hour. Only pay if you’re happy with your first week.

In a short 25-minute call, we would like to:

  • Understand your development needs
  • Explain our process to match you with qualified, vetted developers from our network
  • Share next steps to finding the right match, often within less than a week

Not sure where to start?

Let’s have a chat

First developer starts within days. No aggressive sales pitch.