Hands up if you feel safe and secure on the internet. If you put your hand up, go write, “I will not be gullible” 100 times – by hand. (I’ll wait) Hopefully, everyone understands that nowhere on the superhighway is safe. However, you usually have a few spots that allow you to breathe easier than others. And that goes double for the freelancers of the world. We know where to hang out when networking or looking for clients. So when we get hit by things like this LinkedIn scam, it hurts. HARD.
The LinkedIn Scam: Introduction
I heard about this new disaster a few months ago – on Facebook. (I know. Who expects social media feeds to cross streams?) A friend posted a story of their woes. They outlined a fairly sophisticated tale, too, involving bank fraud.
And, no, no one contacted them to suggest they were the long-lost prince of an unidentified country, either.
It was a slick operation starting on LinkedIn. LinkedIn, of all places. The holy ground for freelance writers. A business center that deletes you if they discover you have more than one profile. The strict oversight promises freelancers a haven in which to network, research clients, and find new work.
Who expects to get taken in by thieves in such a safe spot? (Please refer to my opening paragraph)
I filed the details in my mind and (honestly) forgot about things.
Until this week.
The Inmail I received sounded strange. The person wanted me to ghostwrite a piece on healthy eating habits. (Okay, that’s not strange – stop laughing) What tripped my first alarm bells was the work details. He said he worked for a company that didn’t appear on his profile.
(Note #1: If you DON’T review a client’s profile, you’re already playing into an unknown number of LinkedIn scams)
However, I know people can be slow to update things, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I was reasonably confident he couldn’t afford my rates, though. So I sent him to my (private) page that offers examples of my pricing and allows potential clients to schedule a consultation with me. It helps me weed out Red Light clients and saves me from wasting valuable time.
(Note #2: If you don’t have one of these pages, consider making one)
I then went about the rest of my day, confident I’d handled the problem.
Until he responded – and NOT by setting up that meeting.
No, I received an enthusiastic response. He was setting up a seminar and needed a 6,000-word piece broken into three phases. The competition date would be in 8 weeks, but he’d like to see the first phase in 4 weeks. He then offered crucial elements every freelance writer wants to see from a client:
- Target audience
- An outline for the topic
- His rates for the project
That’s when my gut instinct took over. He was offering $1/word.
$6,000 for an exceedingly simple piece. The number sounded too familiar, and that’s when I remembered that Facebook post.
LinkedIn Scam & Bank Fraud
Now, I won’t discount that freelance writers out there make $1/word. But I’m not one of them (yet – I’m going to make sure I add that word). It’s not on my pricing examples (which I guarantee he never looked at, but that’s beside the point). Hell, that’s the rate you get from The New York Times or National Geographic.
We’re talking BIG LEAGUES.
But plenty of newer writers have seen the number and jumped – to their detriment. And the person always seems legit, drawing up contracts and signing agreements. Then they send a fraudulent check written for MORE than the agreed-upon amount. And either you (and your bank) catches on, or your end up wishing you’d known better.
I didn’t get that far, luckily. Because I’d heard of unfortunate people who HAD. And that $6,000 stuck in my brain as a major red flag.
So I decided to call his bluff and ask for additional details regarding the “seminar.” I wanted the theme and the site to ensure I wouldn’t duplicate information anyone else would be writing.
I got the same message he’d already sent with the information he wanted to be written.
Hello, LinkedIn scam.
(Note #3: When something sounds weird, it probably is)
Avoiding Potential Scams
Unfortunately, when I reported him to LinkedIn, their response to me was that he didn’t violate the community standards. (Gee, thanks) Members have written about this scam since 2020 and brought it to the attention of the freelance writing community, but it’s okay for it to continue happening?
Way to go, LinkedIn.
That means it’s up to writers to continue spreading the message ourselves.
Now, I didn’t fall prey to the scam, but I also don’t want to see anyone ELSE in trouble, either. So I’m calling attention to the message and asking you to spread the word.
I’m also adding tips to help you avoid getting snared by one of these thieves.
- Research EVERY client. Look up and READ their profile. See what they post, how they describe themselves, and who they list for companies.
- Look into companies. LinkedIn allows you to look up a company. You can see the number of employees at a minimum. (If you have a Premium account, you’ll see more) And Google will let you find even more.
- Maintain a healthy level of skepticism. “If it sounds too good to be true, it is.” It’d be awesome if we didn’t need that rule, but this is reality. Don’t throw a party or dance; squint at the screen.
- Ask smart questions. I’ve been to conferences. I know they have a central theme every year. So asking for that information – and a website – allowed me to pinpoint the lies. An actual client isn’t going to get upset if you show you’re intelligent and thoughtful.
- Share. We’re all in this together. Let other freelancers know if you’re approached by someone with this LinkedIn scam (or ANY such scam). That’s how we break the cycle.
Stay Safe Out There
Wouldn’t it be amazing if people kept their word?
Never perpetrated fraud?
Unfortunately, we don’t live in an elementary school book. So it’s up to you to stay alert and remain vigilant. You don’t need to barricade your heart behind cement walls (you need it for the astounding writing you do), but you’ve got to keep your brain with you.
It’s smart. And it can help keep you out of trouble.