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Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Hiring Freelance Help? Watch Out For Imposters

Better Business Bureau

Small businesses looking to hire a freelancer online: beware. Scammers are creating fake accounts on platforms like Upwork. They use photos and resumes of real professionals and entice businesses with low rates. They may even contact freelancers directly and ask to use their profile in exchange for payment or promise of future work.

Here’s how this scam works. You’re looking to hire a freelancer, such as a software developer or graphic designer, to help with a project for your business. You decide to post the gig on a website, such as Upwork or Freelancer.com, where you can connect directly with independent contractors. On that site, you find a freelancer who looks perfect for the job. According to their resume, they have the knowledge you need and years of experience. And best of all, this freelancer’s rate is far below what other similarly qualified people charge. You decide to hire them and pay a deposit up front. 

Your new contractor seems to get to work. But weeks pass, and the project still isn’t finished. In fact, your freelancer stops responding to messages. Unfortunately, this "qualified freelancer" is likely an imposter. 

Before hiring a freelancer, do some research on the standard hourly rate for the position you want to hire, and watch out for rates that seem too good to be true. If an experienced candidate is advertising a price well below the standard – for example, a professional web developer who charges $25 an hour – it’s very likely a scam. 

Do a video interview before hiring. Always speak with top applicants over video chat first. Make sure they match their photo and have the knowledge and experience they claim in their profile. Put that requirement in your job post to help weed out scammers. 

Look for your freelancer’s LinkedIn profile, portfolio website, or social media presence. This will help you confirm their identity and experience. You can even report suspicious accounts on Upwork by clicking the “Flag as inappropriate” button.