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Tips for Recognizing Job Scams

Elance’s moderation team and tools are working 24 hours a day / 7 days a week to monitor and remove jobs that we suspect of being fraudulent. However, you may still come across situations in which job postings and other site activity raise concerns. If a member request or other site activity seems suspicious, we encourage you to check with Elance directly before proceeding. Site monitoring and member education can help defend against fraud, but ultimately sound judgment by you is the best prevention. See below for some examples of activity that is against policy and should be reported to Elance.

What's the risk from receiving payments off the Elance platform?

The Elance platform is designed to protect Members from payment scams.  We have a team focused specifically on fraudulent activities to ensure that Members don’t fall victim.  As a result, fraudsters will most often ask to take payment transactions off the Elance platform where we cannot protect our Members.  Elance encourages our members to:

  • Never comply with a request to submit payment outside of the Elance site, as this is most likely a scam and a violation of Elance policies.
  • Report any jobs posted on Elance that violate our policies or are of a fraudulent nature
  • Only make and receive payments on the Elance website for work performed and agreed to as part of your project terms and milestones
Members who received funds from fraudulent parties will typically be held liable by issuing banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions.  In addition, Elance will also hold the participating Members responsible for violation of Elance policy which can result in immediate termination from Elance.

How do I avoid counterfeit check and money order scams?

Counterfeit check or money order scams involve sending a fake check or money order and requesting that the recipient send some amount back via wire transfer or another payment method. While the check or money order may initially appear to clear, it will ultimately fail (often 2 to 3 weeks later) and the bank will reclaim the funds from the victim’s account. Never accept payment for any service via check or money order as they are easily counterfeited. These fake cashier's checks and money orders may appear to be authentic, including the name of a legitimate United States bank and even containing the magnetic routing codes that appear along the bottom of the check.

On Elance, this may begin with an client offering to pay a freelancer a large sum of money outside of the Elance site (by sending a check or money order) and then requesting a refund by wire transfer or some other payment method. In another possible scenario, a freelancer may approach an client and request that they help them “cash a check". They may even request that payment to be made back to them through Elance once the check has cleared.

For additional information on fraudulent money orders, call the Money Order Fraud Hot Line, run by the Inspection Service's Criminal Investigative Support Center, at (800) 372-8347.

How do I avoid refund fraud?

Refund fraud is a variation of the Money Order Fraud scheme.  In the cases listed below, the scam artist will attempt to make a payment to the victim using a fraudulent payment source such as a stolen credit card. The victim is then requested to submit a refund back to a ‘client’, their company, or a third party using an untraceable, non-recourse payment agency, such as Western Union or MoneyGram. In some cases, the scam artist may request a refund via a traceable, but still non-recourse, payment source, such as wire transfer or PayPal.

Never agree to receive funds outside of Elance. If you receive money from a scam artist, you will be responsible for the reimbursement of funds.

Example 1 - Refund our clients

An client posts a job soliciting a freelancer to assist with the processing of refunds owed to their clients. The client typically claims their clients paid those funds, but for some reason cannot issue a refund directly to their client. Note that if a legitimate client can receive money from their client or make payment to you, they can also refund their own clients.

Example 2 - Canceling of services

A client may post a job on Elance, make a payment to a service freelancer using a fraudulent payment source, and then tell their freelancer that the job must be cancelled. Rather than requesting that the funds be returned back through the proper channel on Elance, the client asks the freelancer to make a refund to them outside the Elance system.

Example 3 - Overpayment

In this case, the client will attempt to purchase services from the freelancer and then overpay for those services through Elance. They will then claim the payment was an error and request that the freelancer issues a refund outside of the Elance system.

To ensure the security of your account, only make and receive payments on the Elance website using Elance's Escrow service. Release funds from Escrow only when the required services have been performed satisfactorily and all deliverables have been received. To request a refund of funds held in Escrow, adjust the Terms of the job to reflect the new amount as agreed upon by both parties. Once the other party agrees, the funds will be returned to the client’s original payment source.

How do I avoid job fraud?

Never provide work samples for free and never pay up-front money for a job opportunity. These types of jobs are against Elance policies and should be reported immediately. If a client is offering 100% commission or requires that you purchase certain goods or services as a condition of the job it is most likely a scam.

Example 1:

“Tremendous work from home opportunity! Earn up to $200 per hour simply by browsing the Internet! Once you are awarded the job, you must purchase a small manual that will guide you in your daily tasks. The manual is a small investment compared to the returns you will receive through this opportunity. I will give more specifics to the winner of the job.”

Example 2:

“We are an early stage start-up looking for a highly motivated individual to be a major contributor to the company's success. To start, you will be paid based on your performance solely on a commission basis. Top performers typically earn more than $5k per week.”

Example 3:

Long term opportunity for the right fit. To be considered for this job, you must submit at least 10 complete articles in the following subject. The winner will be paid $300 per article after they are chosen.

Other common promises intended to lure you into working for free or below your market rates:

  • “This should be an easy job for someone who knows what they are doing.“
  • "If things go well, this will be a long term opportunity with greater payoff down the road."
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