Revolution!!! Yes, that’s what we are seeing here- revolution in in the field of Information Technology. While I sit here and work from my small room, I am actually helping some company 5000 miles away, and the broker who offered me the job is probably 3000 miles away in another direction. All is possible now with a few touches on the screen of a hand held device. It has completely changed the way we think of our lives and do business, but just like any other advancements in science and technology, it comes with a price.
Millions of jobs are currently being outsourced to different parts of the world. When you phone your credit card company in the US, the call is answered by an Indian. While you browse through your favorite blogs in the UK, the contents that you read are probably written by some guy in Nigeria.
It is fascinating and no doubt a blessing in many ways, but one thing which technology hasn’t been able to improve is the human nature. Einstein never thought his “E=MC2” formula would be used to create nuclear weapons neither did Mark Zukerberg when he realized that Russians used his Facebook platform to influence US Presidential Election. Unless humans take responsibilities for their behaviors, no amount of revolutions can change the world we live in. Oppression, war, and hunger will always remain.
I make a living by working from home as a freelancer. Regardless of the weather or traffic conditions, I am okay as long as I have internet. It is undeniable that I’ve got a pretty good thing going for myself, but that doesn’t mean that I cannot be a victim of irresponsible human nature, and so can you if you’re not careful.
Two weeks ago, a guy contacted me for a writing job he was offering on Freelancer.com. It suited me, so I accepted it. He was specific about one thing only- I’d have to work under strict deadlines. We agreed upon a rate and my recommendation that all transactions be done via Freelancer.com since Freelancer claims that it is the safest. We even set an automated tracking and billing system that would track my work, create automatic invoices, and charge his credit card when it is appropriate, and happily, I started working.
I can write, but the only thing I was struggling with was the nagging about the deadlines. I had to constantly assure him that I was on time for the submissions and instead of asking me again and again, he could check the tracker since it was recording what I was doing. He just wouldn’t listen. I was spending more time reporting back to him instead of researching and writing.
However, since I did accept the job on his strict-deadline condition, I obliged, and continued working for him. After two days, I was seriously tired, but excited at the same time about the fact that the tracker was set to charge his card, and I would get paid. In two days he extracted from me a decent amount of work and when I calculated, the pay should have been proportionate.
An interesting thing occurred that day. At 11:59pm, just 1 minute before the tracker should charge the card, it was disabled by him (Employers can do that on Freelancer). When I asked why, he said that there had been some errors on his side of the tracker, but I had nothing to worry about because his credit card had already been charged, and I should see the balance on my account in 1-2 days. He immediately created a new tracker and pressured me to continue working since we were on deadlines. I’m the employee, so who am I to argue? I submitted a ticket to Freelencer.com about the tracker error, and went back to work.
The next two days were brutal. I had to put in 28 hours (14 hours a day) looking at my computer monitor, researching, and writing while hoping that my account would be credited with the money. All the while, I was also expecting some sort of response from Freelancer Support about the tracker issue. Alas!!! Nothing happened.
So, I had to stop and ask him if he had sorted out the error. He said he was still working on it. I asked him to forward to me the receipt, which should show that his credit card had actually been charged that day. He flat out refused and went on a rant about why I should trust him and focus on the deadlines instead of complaining. He said he couldn’t show me the receipt because it had sensitive information.
No receipts actually show full credit card numbers. I knew it was bullshit, so I had to contact Freelancer Live Support. To my surprise, they simply erased the project form the system and deleted that guy’s account. All my work record was gone. When I asked the Support why, she simply answered that it was a Freelancer protocol for fraudulent job postings. Freelancer deletes everything and deactivates the employer account. When I asked about my pay, the Support told me to contact the employer via other means. WTF!!! After 4 days of intense work, sleeplessness and nagging, I had not a single cent on my account.
No, I can’t stop this from happening, and I still want to make a living out of Freelancer.com, but what I can do is inform my fellow freelancers, especially the new ones, to take these few steps.
- If you are new to Freelancer.com and do not have high Employee Ratings, and you are offered a job with high pay, it is most likely fake. It can be real if you are a really pretty girl, and the employer is a guy and vice versa.
- Make sure the employer is verified on Freelancer. There are several verifications: profile, email, phone, and payment method. An old employer, who often posts jobs and pays, has everything verified and has Employer Ratings (3, 4 or 5 star).
- A relatively new employer doesn’t have ratings, but a real employer must have a verified phone number and a payment method. Those two are more important than any other. A fake employer won’t verify a phone because the employee or Freelancer.com can call him at home. Email verification doesn’t matter because anyone can create a new email address is minutes.
- If you use the Freelancer Tracker and it gets stopped or disabled by the employer, contact Freelancer Live Support immediately.
- Make sure that the employer is using his/her own name and picture on Freelancer.com. A true employer is not afraid to use his/her real name as username. Many employers want to transact outside Freelancer (Skype or other media), which is okay as long as their Skype Names are also their real names (not pseudo names), they have real pictures of their faces, and you can find them on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn etc.).
- Some employers might also use company names. In those cases, ask for the real name of the person dealing with you, his position in the company and the company address and phone number. In other words, verify your employer.
- If asked to connect via Skype, go through their Skype profiles, and you can see their Skype IDs, phone numbers, and where they are from. Fraudulent employers will not have a phone number (most likely), and will have minimal information. If you view my Skype profile, you can see everything (Name, Picture, Skype ID, Phone, Email, and Physical Address) because I have nothing to hide, if I’m bold enough to give you my Skype ID, I’m also not afraid to give you my phone number. After all we’re working together.
- Finally, and this is the most important thing, after two days of work, you must ask for your first payment. Many employers would want to pay you weekly, bi-monthly, or even monthly, and if you have worked with the same employer before, you have nothing to worry about. However, if the employer is new to you, you can’t work for more than two days without pay (At least for the first time). Once the employer has paid, you can trust him/her, and after that, you can even go on weekly or monthly basis. A true employer, who really wants to pay to get jobs done, should not have any problem paying you after two days of work.
I’m not saying that it is a full-proof method. Scammers are really smart people, and they constantly evolve to find loop holes in the system and abuse them. Nonetheless, these cautionary steps can protect you from becoming a victim 80% of the times.