Fake 'freelancers' preying on needy Burnaby businesses

As our province continues to reopen, many businesses in Burnaby are reaching out to freelancers for cost-effective solutions to their marketing, graphic design, website and other business needs.

However, the Better Business Bureau says that as small business owners search for potential freelancers online, they need to exercise caution. Scammers are creating fake accounts on platforms like Upworkand Craigslist, using photos and resumes of real professionals and enticing businesses with low rates, the BBB says.

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How the Scam Works

A small business or individual may be looking to hire a freelancer, such as a software developer or graphic designer, to help with a project. You decide to post the job opportunity on a website or job platform, where you can sometimes 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 required. Best of all, this freelancer’s rate is far below what other similarly qualified persons are charging. You decide to hire them and pay a deposit upfront as instructed. Your newly hired freelancer advices that they have started working, however, weeks pass, and the project has not been completed. In fact, the freelancer stops responding to your messages.

Unfortunately, this 'qualified freelancer' is likely an imposter. Scammers are stealing the photos and resumes of real independent contractors and posting them on freelancer and job sites. In the past, BBB has received reports where scammers will even contact freelancers directly to use their profile in exchange for payment or promise of future work. 

Tips to Spot a Freelancer Impersonation Scam

  • Watch out for rates that are 'too good to be true'. Before hiring a freelancer, do some research and confirm the standard hourly rate for the position you want to hire. If an experienced candidate is advertising a price well below that amount, it could be a scam.
  • Do a video interview before hiring. Always speak with top applicants over video chat first before selecting someone for the job. Make sure they match their photo and have the knowledge and experience they claim in their profile. Include the video interview requirement in your job post to help weed out scammers.
  • Find your freelancer on other platforms. Look for your freelancer’s LinkedIn profile, portfolio website, or social media accounts. This will help you confirm their identity and experience.
  • Report phony accounts. Notify the platform where you encounter suspicious accounts so that they can conduct investigations. Also, report it to BBB.org/ScamTrackerto help protect other consumers.

Freelancers, make sure you are not being impersonated. Scammers can steal your photo, portfolio, and resume from sites like LinkedIn. Keep tabs on all online activity in your name to make sure that someone is not impersonating you and hurting your reputation.

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