Bidding on Elance: Here’s How Easily Freelancers Can Get Screwed

screw-1000pxFrom my very first blog post back in 2008, I’ve advocated that freelance writers avoid mass bidding sites such as oDesk and Elance.

This past week, I learned in an unexpected way just how easily freelancers can get ripped off doing writing work through impersonal, third-party platforms like Elance.

Because I got ripped off, big time.

Here’s how it happened…

My first sign something was wrong was a series of emails I got from several different India-based SEO writers applying for “the post of content writer.” Asking if I would hire them.

I assumed they were interested in my writer’s guidelines for guest posting here on the blog, so I sent those over.

But something about it was weird. Just the way they were phrasing it didn’t seem right to me.

But I didn’t write anything for you…

Next, on the day after a religious holiday when I was out of the office, I got this odd email:

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 4.43.29 PM

I assured her that I had never started article writing for her, and certainly wasn’t going to continue. I didn’t even have any idea what topics she was having articles written about!

When I asked what the deal was, I got this reply:

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 4.43.10 PM

So there you have it, sports fans: An imposter created an Elance profile using my name, my photo, and my writer website, and was trying to get writing clients based on my reputation.

And if this one client hadn’t smelled a rat, who knows how long this might have gone on.

How’d they pull that off? They used a different, London-based Skype number and a different email address than my real one, thereby funneling responses to them rather than me.

And Elance was clueless.

Obviously, I was pretty steamed, given how strongly I’ve advocated for writers to avoid using places like Elance! I was quick to post about it on Facebook and Twitter, and start spreading the word around that I am not really hiring writers on Elance, hoping to warn prospective clients that they weren’t really hiring me.

I was hoping that would help resolve the problem.

But instead, things got worse.

Writers get sucked in

If the news that I was being impersonated on Elance so that someone else could earn a few bucks made me mad, I can tell you I totally hit the roof when I saw the next set of emails and Facebook messages that came in:

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 4.55.07 PM  Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 5.00.41 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 5.05.26 PM
The complete picture emerged: Someone was impersonating me on Elance, getting clients, and then subcontracting out the work to other writers.

The final insult? The rates! This imposter was charging $20 a post…I opened that spreadsheet the client up top had sent over, and that was the per-piece rate.

I shudder to think what this person might have been paying the writers they hired to do the actual work. If, in fact, this fraud paid anyone at all.

Will writers get paid?

I contacted Elance immediately about all this, and it took them several days to get back to me. They let me know the bogus profile had been removed.

I think it’s notable that there wasn’t even an apology made for the damage to my reputation here. But OK — I’m breathing and letting go here, because suing is not a positive way to spend my time.

Who was the imposter? Elance isn’t saying. But I know they’re overseas, which would make legal action difficult to pursue anyway.

What about the writers who went busily to work, thinking they were writing for me? Given that Elance allowed this fraud to take place, will they be compensating the writers for their work?

Elance’s security team wouldn’t tell me how the writers would be dealt with…but one of the writers responded to me directly, saying they were told Elance’s payment protection policies would cover them — IF they could document their work to Elance’s satisfaction.

Here’s hoping Elance does the right thing and pays all of these freelancers for their writing.

Elance did indicate that it reached out to at least one freelance writer to warn them to stop writing for the imposter. But at least one other writer told me they got the word to stop work from the imposter, not Elance!

I guess it’s nice that Elance alerted at least one writer it was a bogus account, but from what the writers had to say above, it seems like the damage had already been done. Several writers had already wasted their time writing dozens of articles which may or may not be paid for.

It just makes me sick to think about how these writers were excited to be writing for me, and then had to find out it was all a scam. Even though I’m only an unwitting participant in this ripoff, it really rankles.

Fighting writer exploitation is the core of my mission here on the blog! And then, this mess happens. I run a Google alert on my name, but it never turned this up. Makes me wonder what more we can do to monitor our online reputations.

The bottom line

This whole experience was a sad reminder that when you go on platforms where it’s easy for clients to mask their identities, you really don’t know who you’re dealing with. Which means it’s easy for that client to disappear without paying you.

Just another reason to go out and find your own clients instead of hanging around bidding on Elance for gigs posted by clients who may not be who they appear.

Ever gotten scammed on a bid site? Leave a comment and tell us what happened.
The Freelance Writers Den: Grow Your Writing Income! Sign Up

Tagged with: , ,
121 comments on “Bidding on Elance: Here’s How Easily Freelancers Can Get Screwed
  1. uday says:

    here is one thing that i want to discuss with you regarding bidding on odesk. i am a freelance on odesk under agency and when i bid i mostly use to draft the cover letter for the respective project and it needs me to go through the whole job posting every time and i do and after getting the requirement and create the cover letter to bid ,every time i see that already 20-30 bids are placed on that project ! and i am sure this quick response time is due to the copy past cover letter even freelance with good reputation use to do that .
    Can you through some rays on this matter and get me a way to ride out of this problem . i am a freelance web designer and developer and i also have a blog on networking tutorial.

  2. Kim says:

    I know that this thread is not so recent, but I just wanted to add into this that while these sites are sooooo tempting to start with (not just Elance, but Freelancer etc as well), it really truly is a waste of time IMO. Not only are the fees pathetic (I just saw a job posted for $1 payment for 1000 words…. now that is just… it just makes me depressed actually…), but the people on there are generally less than honest. It’s not a forum for building up a sustainable business. I had one client last year on there, and I still haven’t gotten paid for half of the work I did for him. While he was “honest” with his payments on the site (with escrow etc) outside of it… not so much.

    I really would love to take part in some of the Writer’s Den courses, but some things are holding me back. Mainly the cost because I’m still finishing off studies so I don’t have the time to get enough business to put money aside for it. But hopefully this will change :).

    Thanks Carol, for always being so positive and generous with thoughts and advice. Keep it going!

    Kim

    • Bex says:

      “While he was “honest” with his payments on the site (with escrow etc) outside of it… not so much.”

      Only one of many reasons to not break the Elance Terms of Service, which explicitly state that you must be working with a client for more than two years before you can accept outside payment from them.
      Bex recently posted…Sex+ Monthly Roundup: Is Your Yoga Feminist?My Profile

      • Kim says:

        Hi Bex.
        I wasn’t aware of that. I have looked through the legal documentation, but it is quite a lot. So are you saying now that in order for anyone to work with a client outside of Elance, they’d have to have worked for 2 years with the client on Elance only first?

        • Bex says:

          Yep. I’d venture that Elance makes way more money from escrow fees than memberships. If you meet a client and take them off Elance for payment before the two years are you, and the company finds out, they can take legal action to recoup money totalling the amount of fees you would have paid on the money you received. And they’ll almost certainly remove you from the site.
          Bex recently posted…Sex+ Monthly Roundup: Is Your Yoga Feminist?My Profile

          • Carol Tice says:

            Bex is right — if you’re using bid sites, you do want to follow their rules, or you could find yourself banned. And if you’re relying on that platform that would be a major disaster for your income, as it takes time to prospect and find your own clients.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Kim — not to sound like an ad, but it’s just $25 for a whole month in the Den and access to 100+ hours of trainings and our 1400-member community on the forums. You *can* join for a single month, too — there’s no obligation to stay for a set amount of time. Though we find most people DO stay on. 😉

  3. Linda says:

    Thanks Cherese, it took some work but he’s gone.

    Good move on kicking Elance IMO. This blog post showed me that I’m lazy and using my bid mill as an excuse not to market. So now I’m working on marketing and got a call from someone who found me through LinkedIn for a long-term contract. We talk Wednesday. Even if it’s more work it’ll be higher pay with better rewards.
    Linda recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  4. Cherese Cobb says:

    Linda,
    Brilliantly evil. I had no clue they could hijack the IP address. Thanks for the heads up! You’re right the free-ride is over for your techno pirate.
    Earlier, I said that I was going to stay on Elance because there are some good, scam-free jobs, but I decided to kick Elance to the curb. Personally, I feel that I have been using it as an excuse not to look for higher pay!

    • Carol Tice says:

      That’s the big problem with bid sites and content mills, Cherese — you get in the habit of browsing their assignments instead of prospecting. You don’t develop any marketing skills…and then your opportunities are limited to whatever you see on these platforms.

  5. Linda H says:

    Katherine,
    I can’t speak for everyone who uses the mills and says it’s lucrative, but I recall reviewing a person’s resume one time at an event and mentioned that he was working for Elance or a similar mill. I commented that as a freelance writer he could market himself to new and better places and make three-fold the income he was making there. I mentioned a number of options for him that I knew paid better and were more rewarding.

    His response was framed with an expression of terror, that I’d put a knife to his throat and that I was totally uninformed. He said he made approximately $700-$800/month and it was paying his bills. It was how he was surviving while he looked for new work. He was a writer seeking a writer’s position but for months had found no solid ledes or prospects in the business world. I suggested that he might be hurting his prospects by listing that writing entity as a source of income. He quickly said he couldn’t afford to not work for them, then thanked me and left. I have no idea whether he survived.

    My thought on your question is that people are afraid to step out of the comfort zone that’s been created in the bubble. They don’t know how to market themselves. They aren’t thinking outside the box. And marketing yourself to any company takes focus and time that many either don’t know how to do or won’t because they aren’t geared that way.

    I use a bid-marketing mill to generate some income. But when the well runs drive and so does my bank account, I’ve learned through Carol to reach out to other avenues, like creating a marketing package to send to local placement and contingency agencies. I’ve learned to take the step outside my comfort zone and just do it. It’s scary, but it brings in income and sometimes longer-term work that pays higher fees.

    Based on the client’s comment above my thought is that it’s easier to stay inside the trap than try to escape and find greener pastures. And as all hostage situations have proven sometimes you fall in love with your capture and believe (it’s) working to your benefit long term. It’s better to be “safe” than sorry.

    Just my two cents.
    Linda H recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  6. I’ve noticed that “content mill” and “bidding site” posts–at least the ones that elicit extensive conversation–always have a few “they work great for me’s” among the comments. Not to criticize those who do like and profit from them; in a world of 7+ billion-and-growing unique individuals, there will be a sizable number of exceptions to any rule. But Jenn Marie’s comment has me thinking: when your funds are low, you have no day job, and your income from the good places is growing slowly at best, how do you keep a no-quick-and-guaranteed-income-can-be-all-bad situation (which could apply equally to McDonalds-vs.-degree-requirer for a day job) from turning into a long-term trap? Some “stopgap” alternatives are so time-consuming, low-paying, and physically/mentally exhausting that they leave you little in the way of resources for moving toward anything better.
    Katherine Swarts recently posted…Drowning in DutiesMy Profile

  7. Tanya Adams says:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you, Carol. And, now I have another illustration as to what a scam Elance is. I was thinking about lurking there to see if there was anything since I haven’t been able to market, but never mind. I’m going to keep with your teachings and off to market I go.
    Tanya Adams recently posted…Are Promotional Items Effective?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Sadly, I just tonight heard from another angry contractor wondering why “I” am not paying his invoices. Hoping Elance will help him.

      But to clarify — for you and Jenn Marie — I don’t think Elance is a scam, in itself. The problem is that it’s a place where scams can flourish…so if you’re using bid sites, it’s definitely writer beware.

  8. jenn marie says:

    I don’t know if it is fair to say all bidding sites are a scam… Are there scammers on there? Yes. Do people get away with paying writers less than they should? Absolutely. But people should realize it is a play at your own risk thing. Ive been using bidding sites (and craigslist) for the past three years. I live off of my income from them. I am also registered with a local creative agency, specializing in writers and marketers, and I have received no leads from them. I have to write to make money, and unfortunately, the ‘scam’ sites are the only option for me right now, the only clients that have been willing to give me a chance.

    I am now in the process of finding clients outside of the bidding sites, but its slow and tedious. I’ve only been scammed three times so far (out of at least 50 clients) twice on Freelancer and once on Elance. Odesk has done the best so far. I recovered my loss from the eLance scammer (repurposed the un-paid for work) and Ive gotten quite good at spotting the scammers. I’ll continue to use bidding sites until I can get a good flow of work elsewhere.

    Sites that require fees, and don’t deliver enough leads.. like People per Hour… now they should be called scams.
    jenn marie recently posted…I’m a Copywriter; So Why Am I Interviewing Freeway Rick Ross?My Profile

  9. What a nightmare, Carol! I’ve noticed recently that the Google Alerts I have set up don’t seem to be working any more. Several colleagues have noticed this themselves and one suggested an alternative to Google Alerts but that one doesn’t seem to be working either. I’d love to know if there are other alternatives that actually work.
    Susan Johnston recently posted…The Productivity Secret Every Non-Fiction Writer Should KnowMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Me, too!

      But I think in this case it would have been pretty hard to catch onto, because they call themselves “Troy” or whatever on Elance, but then when you start emailing with them as a writer to do the gig, all of a sudden their Skype is caroltice3 or some such, and caroltice.com is their writer site. So it’s in private emails.

  10. Carol Boe says:

    Carol, thank you very much for this advice. If these open bid sites are not to be trusted, then how can freelance writers find private clients, especially if we live outside of North America? I’m an American currently living in Turkey working as an English Instructor. I have an extensive writing background (journalistic, copywriting, and technical writing) in the U.S. I want to continue my writing career. We hear and read so much about being able to do freelance writing from anywhere in the world by going online. If we cannot trust the open bid sites like Elance and oDesk, then again, how do writers find the honest private clients?

  11. I’m really surprised to be reading this. I never really thought this kind of thing could happen. It’s just amazing to know how some people think — going as far as impersonation! Gee.

  12. Hi Carol,
    I’m feeling sick as I write this. I am currently working for someone claiming to be you on Elance. They have also hired four others on the same project:
    https://www.elance.com/j/40x-word-articles-on-various-niches-hiring-now/63046013/?bidid=63065763

    I guess I’m not going to see any money from this but the worst thing is that I gave my job up as I believed this was a full time job for six months.

    On the plus side, I will now have to write to sink or swim. When the going gets tough – the tough get going.

    I was also sent the Elance Dispute Notice by the imposter and told that it was meant for another person on the same project, so I stupidly ignored it.

    I will tell Elance straight away and will notify the other writers that the imposter has hired.

    I’m so sorry that they’ve done this to you – and VERY sorry that they did it to me.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Uuuuugggggghhhhhh!

      I am SO sorry you’ve been caught up in this. And you’re the second writer who’s said something to me about it being for six months…I gather this imposter is telling people that’s how much work there is.

      Please DO let Elance know. They have contacted me by phone and I can also talk to them about it again.

      What I’ve heard from Elance is that if you did the work as the contract specified and there was money put into an escrow account for it, you should be able to get paid for what you’ve done.

      But by all means stop working on this account.

      Please email me — I’d like to give you some mentoring and help you out, given what’s happened to you.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I just checked that listing and it’s now marked as “closed”…so we’ve at least made progress.

  13. Great point about Elance’s lack of cooperation, Linda. Any entity truly interested in up-and-coming talent should be cultivating good relationships with those who already have influence in the field. If they’re equally content whether the recognized experts are posting glowing endorsements or denouncing them on every available social network, that just proves that their primary concern is for quick money from everyone EXCEPT the real potential up-and-comers–who are smart enough to look at what the experts say before they believe every possibility that talks big on its own behalf.
    Katherine Swarts recently posted…Confused and MisusedMy Profile

  14. Linda says:

    In reading the ongoing comments from so many users and those who were scammed through Elance my overall attitude with this and oDesk is not to use them. Carol shouldn’t have to be concerned about protecting her celebrated name as a freelance writer because she’s successful. She should receive support from Elance to cultivate a better relationship with her so she’ll promote the website and what it provides clients and users. Instead, I see a website that cares little about the writer showing me it cares only about making money.

    Also, the lower prices that writers are paid–if paid at all–shows me that Elance perpetuates the low-paying writer cycle that successful freelance writers fight and work against all the time. If I’m writing any size article or post, I want to ensure my name is associated with a notable product or service that enhances my marketability. From what I’m seeing here, Elance does the opposite.

    The takeaway for any up and coming freelance writer through this post and it’s ongoing comments is don’t participate with services like Elance. You need encouragement, support and positive examples for your writing portfolio. Rather than try your luck here, like putting a coin in a slot machine, learn to do your own marketing, find better markets that pay living wages, and secure those gigs. In the long-term you’ll gain more and earn more.

    As for getting scammed, hacked, or pirated for having a successful writing career and a noteable name, learn the tools to police the Internet and curb whatever you find that happens. Most websites are supportive of you and will delete fake profiles and phoney use of your name or image. Those that don’t can be identified on social media as places to avoid.
    Linda recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  15. Cherese Cobb says:

    This seems to be a really hot-button issue. I agree with Spike that Carol’s name was used because she is a celebrated writer; Elance should require all users to provide a copy of their license to prevent this. I was trying to decide whether to “X” Elance, and after reading this post, I came to this conclusion. Elance can be an opportunity as long as you as Carol put it to me earlier “use your gut.” You shouldn’t have to write an article for $20 bucks, and there are some clients on Elance who understand that “you get what you pay for.” This can supplement your income while you wait to hear back from trade and consumer magazines, as well as, big name blogs.

  16. Spike says:

    That’s nothing to do with Elance, really. It’s just one of those things when you have a public identity: you can expect people to use it to cheat unsuspecting clients. Much like stealing a credit card, giving a false name on a job application or anything else, really.

    The alternative is to have Elance checking abso-freaking-lutely everything… and if you’re already considering time tracking as spying on you, you’re not going to like them prying into your personal identity.

    Never, ever had a problem with Elance (or oDesk, for that matter) in the years I’ve used it. Great place to pick up clients who become regular, direct employers, too!

    This is just the cost of your celebrity. A negative mark for the scammers, not the system they use to scam.

  17. cj_callen says:

    Absolutely NOT true! At this very moment I am still waiting to be paid $156 from an hourly job I did a month ago. Time tracker with work view was used and all status reports were submitted on time.
    I’ve been in contact with Elance several times. Each time they claim to investigate the matter (there’s a problem with the clients account) but they can’t tell me the outcome because of privacy issues. On my billing page it shows my invoices and under the amounts says “overdue”. I don’t think I’ll ever see a dime of it.
    I’ve used oDesk fr years, never had a problem, actually do quite well there.
    This is the first time I used Elance. Though I’d try it, since oDesk bought Elance recently. Obviously, oDesk has a lot of work to do to get Elance in order.
    I was told my payments were guaranteed, but obviously not. I’m still waiting.
    cj_callen recently posted…Eating Write: Brain Food for WritersMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      NOT happy to hear that, CJ. I get the sense there are so many flaky situations on these platforms. I feel happy that a few people have managed to do well on these platforms, but it seems like in the main, it’s not worth it.

  18. Bex says:

    Hourly jobs actually do have a payment guarantee if you are using the Work View platform and your hours are within the “maximum weekly hours” set out by your contract.
    Bex recently posted…The Absolute Man and Woman: sexual shame and passive desireMy Profile

  19. Bex says:

    “…and there’s always the risk of getting hosed by some client who’s not what they appear to be.”

    Not if you actually use the site properly…. It’s an escrow service. There is absolutely no reason not to use it as such. Never has a client refused to put the agreed upon funds into escrow.

    I will concede that it can be a real “buyer’s market” there, but I’ve never found it difficult to specifically target clients who are looking to pay for quality over quantity there. It’s easy to search the site by budget or desired hourly rate.

    I’m not trying to convince people who don’t do well there to try using the site again- whatever, do what you want, people! It would just be nice if every time this came up on the blog, there wasn’t someone here in the comments trying to prove how much better they are than those of us who have had success there.
    Bex recently posted…Sex Positive Feminism is in Critical Condition (or, the one where I apologize for being a “Not all….” feminist)My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Not all the gigs *use* the escrow service, Bex. But this experience definitely taught me that you don’t want to do any work on there without it!

      • Bex says:

        Elance specifically warns people not to take jobs that don’t use either escrow or work view. The vast majority of jobs are flat-fee escrow jobs and there is nothing stopping a freelance from posting in their proposal that they would rather work on a flat-fee basis than with the hourly Work View. And competition with people willing to work for bargain-basement rates doesn’t mean none of the clients there understand value.

        Example:

        Last month I bid on a job for 10 short, easy blog posts in my niche. I was the highest bidder on the job with a rate that would most definitely be considered “professional” by the folks here. The poster initially hired two writers who bid less than 1/4 and 1/6 of what I did.

        A month later, I got an email from the client. The initial job had never been completed. The email basically said, “Your bid is higher than everyone else, and I assume this means you are better. If you’re still available, I’m ready to put the funds in escrow right now.”

        And he did.

        Just like pretty much every other freelancer who uses other means of finding and securing clients, the people who succeed on Elance are those who know which clients are the ones they actually want to work with, are willing to ask for a rate that supports them, and who know how to set work boundaries (like, I only do Escrow projects).

        As I said, Elance has its place in my freelance work and I don’t see why people need to call names because they don’t like using a service that works better for others.
        Bex recently posted…Sex+ Monthly Roundup: Is Your Yoga Feminist?My Profile

  20. Krystal Hart says:

    I am so glad you posted this! I am new to freelance writing and was considering setting up an Elance profile. Thanks for the reminder that seeking my own clients will pay off!

  21. Linda says:

    Well, on the positive side it means they recognize you as a highly successful freelance writer, mentor and author. On the other hand, the fact that it’s still ongoing despite efforts to stop it s concerning. This entire scenario has made me realize how important it is to monitor your name and image at least monthly, and to stay away from companies like Elance and oDesk. Truly has motivated me to move away from a bid mill I use at the moment and get more marketing on my own done.

    Good luck with it all, Carol. I feel for you.
    Linda recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  22. Mel says:

    That really sucks, Carol! I was lucky to find a couple of reliable transcriptionists on Elance who are taking the pressure off of me by taking over that task, but I’ve never looked for work there. I know being honest and transparent and prompt to pay puts me in the minority, which is unfortunate.

  23. Lindsey says:

    That is so crazy! I have never used Elance or oDesk and was considering building a profile on there as another way to attract clients. Guess I will continue to steer clear of those places! Hopefully whoever did this will be penalized and Elance will pay those poor writers for the work they did — or if not, that they can resell the work elsewhere and earn something for their troubles.
    Lindsey recently posted…Novel Revision Strategy RoundupMy Profile

  24. Dawn Roberts says:

    Carol,

    The impersonation is continuing.

    I am going to call you today. On Friday the 12th I was hired via ODesk for a job listed by “Mourine Bluster”, but when they contacted me for the hire they used your name, referred me to your website and communicated with me on Skype using your name and a photo that looks similar to you.

    They ended up hiring me through Elance, and the funding source is verified. From our Skype interaction I realized that English was not the person’s native language and I told the person I thought it was not you, and not even a woman from the tone and cadence of the communication.

    I wrote 8 articles for them over the weekend, 4000 words total. I feel quite foolish, because at first I was talking to the person on Skype and suggesting we work together on bigger writing projects. I was told that this person was getting the writing jobs from scripted.com.

    I am very sorry that your name was dragged into this, if I had not checked your Facebook page I would never know exactly what was going on.

    Best,

    Dawn

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ugh — would you please report them to both Elance and oDesk? Be sure to supply them with all relevant links to the profile and job listings.

      I hope they pay you!

    • Carol Tice says:

      It’s really so frustrating…I search that name on both Elance and oDesk and get nothing. It’s amazing how slippery people can be with this. Probably they’ve already renamed themselves something else now.

  25. Rob S says:

    Elance does have clients put funds in an escrow account, so the writers were probably compensated. I haven’t been back there for nearly four years and dread the thought of ever having to for four reasons:

    1. It’s almost impossible to find decent paying gigs
    2. They try to keep you locked into their system
    3. Clients aren’t always very professional in their outlook or expectations.
    4. It doesn’t really look that great on your portfolio.

    My daughter is a producer for a successful lifestyle site. They occasionally hire through Elance for low budget content. On the upside, if the writer is good, they give them better paying jobs outside the Elance system later. That happened to me with 3 (out of 50) clients and enabled me to escape the trap.

    On the third point, I sometimes felt like I was ripping clients off because they had unrealistic expectations. I wrote an entire book for one client. I tried to tell him how unlikely it was that he would get it published or that it would magically sell like hotcakes on Amazon, but he didn’t listen. I suggested he start a blog and promote his book before it was finished. He offered me a commission on sales if I blogged for him for free. I turned down his “generous” offer. About two years later, he told me he should have listened to my advice. Even though he paid a pittance, I made far more than he did on the book.
    Rob S recently posted…Leo Tolstoy on LoveMy Profile

  26. Donia Moore says:

    Another one to really watch out for is “Scripted”. I wrote for them for quite a while, and at first everything went well. Low pay and I was writing like crazy, but enough to matter if I wrote 5-6 articles a day for them. Some of the editors are rude and contradictory but I needed the work at the time.

    Then they assigned me a some articles but didn’t pay for them. This happened three times before I called it quits, but not without a fight. I am glad to say that I finally did get paid for all but two articles, but it was a fight. Fortunately I had kept emails that validated my claims that they had hired me to write the articles. Stay away from these writing mills unless you have no other options.

  27. Abby says:

    If you feel like doing an expose, iWriter would be a good topic. They pay $3.80 for 500 words. That’s not even the worst part, though. The client has the right to reject your work for any reason, and you have no recourse. I have never written there because I refuse to work for that amount and get treated like that.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Abby, I’m working my way through a series of posts about major platforms…but it sounds like you’ve pretty much said it all there for iWriter.

      What writers need to understand is these sorts of platforms are set up for dabblers, not professional writers. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can somehow turn it into a living.

  28. Mary says:

    iWriter is a bit different in that you pick available jobs and just start writing them. There’s a set $ amount for the work and you get paid (or maybe not) after you complete the article(s). There is no bidding here…just do the work and the buyers can accept & pay, reject or in my case, say “That’s great…but not what I was expecting in my mind,” and then you’ve wasted your time typing for $0.

    You are an extremely approachable person!! I’m so happy that some of those writers did reach out to you and put an end to the nonsense over there.

  29. I always avoided sites like elance mostly because I felt it was difficult to make a name for yourself there, especially if you were just starting out, but what happened to you is just terrible! Hope you catch this person.

  30. Thanks for the heads up on membership closing, Carol. The Freelance Writers Den looks like a great resource; I’ll have to keep my eye out for future membership opportunities when your circumstances and mine are better aligned.

    All the best,
    Michael

  31. (Not sure the Reply function is working quite right. I meant for my comment above to show up directly under Carol’s “You’d think anyone would know from reading my blog…”
    Katherine Swarts recently posted…Getting Into the Right MindMy Profile

  32. Well, Judith Martin has said regularly for over 30 years (in her popular Miss Manners column) that she has the lowest possible opinion of party hosts charging guests for what they eat, and she STILL gets letters asking for the most tactful way to do just that! A lot of readers only see what they want to see.
    Katherine Swarts recently posted…Getting Into the Right MindMy Profile

  33. Linda says:

    Thanks for the information Cherese. If the person who was copying my image is who I think it is, s/he has realized I’m on to them and will likely stop. Free ride’s over.
    Linda recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  34. Linda says:

    Cherese,

    Pulling up Carol’s Elance scammer may not be because of low ranking. To my knowledge page ranking has nothing to do with whether you find a scammed link or image. The tool looks at the IP address and also at other data I won’t mention here to prevent scammers from knowing it. Carol’s Elance scammers may have listed it under a different name, thus it won’t pull up under Carol’s name. That can pose the problem, but it also shows the scammer knows what s/he is doing. Using Carol’s information is likely been doing by a pro who is scamming for the writing to use either from another website. If they’re good enough they can pirate numerous IP addresses and names to perpetuate the scam until they get caught, then move on to another set of information. It’s a clever and brilliant scheme, unfortunately it’s for the wrong reasons.
    Linda recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  35. Who knows if they’ll get paid. Elance policies are easily ran through.

    For hourly jobs, you MUST use the work view, where they monitor your screen, or you would not be paid if the client protested.

    For block jobs, okay, as long as you do the work you’re supposed to be paid, but if the client (this goes for hourly jobs as well) cancels their credit card or otherwise blocks the charges, Elance won’t pay you. You don’t get paid.

    Soooo they suck. The imposter sucks. That really makes me mad.

  36. Cherese Cobb says:

    Linda, I am glad I could help. Carol, it didn’t show your Elance scammer–in fact, it didn’t show any of my selfies either. I think the pages has to rank pretty high in google.

  37. Carol,

    Elance’s only known criterion for qualifying job posters is money in hand: a verified credit card.

    For what it’s worth, a colleague on Elance—one of a small group of us who manage to get professional gigs there, and who collectively bemoan its steady decline—shared your post with us. I’ll be looking at joining the Writers’ Den as soon as I’m through morniing correspondence and coffee. Perhaps others will find likewise find their way here.

    All the best,
    Michael

  38. Oludami says:

    Wow, this is very serious. As someone already pointed out, however, getting ripped off like that is natural to you being successful.

    I only hope the scammer isn’t one of your “loyal” audience here on this blog.

    I also hope someone tries to steal my identity someday too – and definitely get caught.

    Congrats! Lol
    Oludami recently posted…The Simplest Guide to Writing an About Page That RocksMy Profile

  39. Linda says:

    Thanks Cherese, I used it just now and found #11 where the same individual was using my image for her profile. Same person. It’s two years old last Thursday, but I contacted that website owner and let them know about the image fraud and unauthorized us. The other posting using my image was on a website where I guest posted seven blogs in years past. The website owner begged me to come back, but after some shady incidents I quit guest posting for him.

    Thanks for the link. I’ve saved it and will use it again occasionally to see if the picture comes up anywhere else.
    Linda recently posted…What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?My Profile

  40. Cherese Cobb says:

    Find out if your pictures are being used by other people here. I found Carol’s selfie from this page 4 times, and the one from her writing website 30!
    http://www.tineye.com/

    • Carol Tice says:

      I just recently learned about that site…but it still didn’t turn up the headshot the scammer used on Elance. I recognized the other uses of my photos — most are accompanying interviews or guest posts I’ve done.

  41. Linda says:

    This doesn’t just happen on Elance, my identity was used on LinkedIn and 10 other sites globally by a scammer. I found out when I realized someone was trying to hack my website address through Google Webmaster Tools. When my website developer investigated to see what was happening, she discovered my image from my LinkedIn profile had been pirated and someone was using it with a different name in LinkedIn to scam people of financial investment money.

    I notified LinkedIn about it, providing the person’s name for their profile and also, out of anger, InMailed that person saying they needed to remove my image. LinkedIn took two weeks to finally delete that person’s profile totally.

    But then I discovered my image was used by this person on 10 different website and networks. I had to join three of them to connect with their tech support to report them. Then I had to provide proof that I was me sourcing my website and other networks before the person was deleted for fraud or changed their image. Always wondered if it was a true image or another pirated one. Never pulled up on Google Alerts because my image was pirated not my name.

    The scam was clever but frustrating and time consuming. And my web developer and I think we know who was behind it, but can’t and won’t take the time to prove it. It’s done.

    I totally understand your ire and frustration Carol. This stuff is never fun and with your situation, the potential damage to your hard-earned reputation makes it worse. Now for sure I’ll never write for Elance!

  42. Cherese Cobb says:

    (Blush) One to many zeros…Although, 700 is quite the accomplishment! I agree I would know it’s not you based on reading your blog, and I have only been reading it for three months.

  43. Susan says:

    Carol, Wow! I am so sorry this happened to you but I am also very grateful that you shared this with all of us! The subject of content mills has come up over and over again in the many writers forums on LinkedIn. I do wish you would post your story on LinkedIn, using the Aspiring Writers forum.
    Thank you for everything you do to help us newbies get on the right track!
    Susan Hudson
    Susan recently posted…It’s Not An Obesity EpidemicMy Profile

  44. Bex says:

    And I really don’t know why commenters here feel the need to call names at those of us who have used the site successfully. I am neither “desperate” nor “ignorant” tyvm. Elance has given me several clients with whom I am able to make between $100 and $150 USD per hour, all while living in a place with a significantly lower cost of living than the US.
    Bex recently posted…Unravel My Bones: humanizing misogynyMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I do know a few people who’ve used Elance to earn a decent living…but the key word there is few. It seems like for the most part, wages are very low — and there’s always the risk of getting hosed by some client who’s not what they appear to be.

  45. Bex says:

    It’s pretty difficult to get ripped off on Elance using the escrow service as it’s designed. That’s actually the main reason I still use the site – not to find new clients, but as an escrow service with my existing ones. My clients often opt to pay the extra % to cover Elance’s fees for the security of using escrow.
    Bex recently posted…Sex+ Roundup: writing, the wage gap, and man-hating mythologyMy Profile

  46. Patrick says:

    This is an extremely important entry Carol; I hate that this happened to you but I’m glad to have read this. Tread carefully and all that…

    Thanks,

    P

  47. Too bad this happened. Unfortunately scammers are everywhere it seems. I’ve had my share of “interesting” experiences in this freelance writing life, some from bid sites and some from private clients. I know that bid sites and other types of content brokers have a bad reputation and you work hard on this site to help writers avoid that. But I just have to add that I have never had a problem getting paid from an escrowed project. On time. No issues. No “the check is in the mail,” but funds sent directly to an electronic account with the click of a mouse. But there are more issues than I can list here with my big private client, who for obvious reasons will remain nameless here. I’ve never had an escrowed project fail to pay – on any site I’ve worked on But writers have to be careful and do due diligence too.

  48. Mary says:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you, Carol. However, your good reputation is strong enough to overcome this mess…especially when writers were so excited when they thought they were working for you. Anyone who really knows you should have realized you would never go anywhere near Elance, and I’m sure they won’t get conned by that trick in the future. I do hope they get paid.

    And let us not forget iWriter. As a fill in, I typed a few articles over there because if you’ve got more stars, you can apply for the higher paying gigs. I wrote 3 articles, over 500 words each for 3 different clients in a row. Each one told me that the articles were “great,” but “not what I’m looking for.” I never got paid for any of them.

    When I complained to support at iWriter, they told me there was nothing they could do and I should be more careful to select better clients in the future. Of course, it was my fault!

    All 3 of these clients had 4-5 stars, received good reviews and according to their profiles, had been around for a while.

    Stay away from all of these bogus sites!!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ugh, not liking that iWriter story at all. I don’t really know much about that platform.

      I’m just glad my profile online is high enough that I DID get some personal reach-outs from the writers. I’m glad I’m seen as an approachable person, too! Otherwise, who knows HOW long this could have gone on.

  49. Penny Taylor says:

    I use them. I actually got one of my largest jobs off Elance. (including four zeros after the first number). I ONLY work escrow jobs and I only start work after the funds are placed in escrow.) I only bid on jobs where the money is decent and I don’t underbid just to get the job… I just let those go. I shy away from a lot of the jobs out of India and other countries where there is no concept of the value of the dollar or a living wage. The one time I was uncomfortable about the job was after escrow funds had been deposited, but before I started work and the client wanted to change terms. I simply said no, told him to cancel the job and the funds went back to him. I also look at a client’s history profile. How long they’ve been with Elance, the percentage of jobs they posted and how many were completed, and how much they’ve paid over a certain period of time. It gives me an idea of their track record. If a client has posted 25 jobs and only completed 2, then I’m looking at a “wanna be idea person” and not a good candidate as someone to work with. Unfortunately, there are scams everywhere these days. So sorry that this identity theft happened to you. Because you have such a fine professional standing and a high profile on the internet it unfortunately makes you a target for scumbags like this one.

  50. Seena Mary says:

    Hi Cherese,
    It smells a rat. Don’t take it up unless you know this client well. Hourly work has no payment guarantee, and when the client offers to pay fixed price for the hourly work, you have nothing left to fight with.

    May be you can afford to lose the time spent on two articles, but it feels terrible when you get cheated. I’ve been there, so I know!

  51. Seena Mary says:

    Hi Carol,

    I was ripped off once when I worked for a faceless, addressless client on hourly basis through Elance.

    Afterwards I realized that hourly jobs have no payment protection; only fixed price jobs have that, and that too only when the escrow is funded prior to commencing the work.

    If the escrow is not funded, these clients with dubious reputations just cancel the credit card attached to their accounts and disappear!

    Why do people still work through these sites?

    Probably you don’t know that English is the first language and the only language many Indians can write in, thanks to over 200 years of British rule in the subcontinent. But they are excluded from the elite ‘native English speaker’ category, an apartheid practiced in broad daylight!

    So, if you happen to be an Indian who wants to write, you walk a narrow path whether you are writing part-time for a bit of extra income or you want to make a career out of it.

    (I have come across an earlier post where you discuss this matter, so I know where you stand on this issue.)

    It sucks, but a lot of things in this world do, and the scams on Elance is just one of them.

    But your post has been an eye opener.
    I do feel sorry that this identity theft happened, but the upside is that your speaking out about it might save someone else from getting duped. Thanks for the post.

    Seena Mary

    • Carol Tice says:

      I learned through this experience how important this escrow account is on platforms like Elance. As you can see, you don’t really know who you’re dealing with…and if they’re not willing to put the money up front, it’s probably something to stay away from.

  52. Daisy says:

    Thank you Carol, and I am sorry about what you had to go through. However, your good reputation precedes you.

    While I am not a freelance writer, nor do I offer my services on these sites, it’s great to have this kind of an exposé, so we can warn others.

    I never used Elance, but have used oDesk and Fiverr.com on and off for a few years. I purchase services (admin/transcription/graphics), and haven’t had problems with oDesk in terms of quality of work.

    With oDesk, I pay a set fee, rather than bids, but that’s after I have looked extensively on their work and feedback. I also pay much more than they ask.

    With Fiverr, I purchase their extra gigs, and it’s usually for someone to create an infographic. HOWEVER, last year while scanning the site, I decided to hire one of their members (who had a 5-Star rating and lots of testimonials), to write a 300-word blog post for me because I was in a rush. When I say it was utter nonsense, read it as an understatement. There were so much repetition of words and phrases lumped together and not making sense. I didn’t even respond to her, but learned a valuable lesson – sometimes you get what you pay for. I missed my own blog deadline, carved out some time and wrote the article myself.

    My advice is that people should adopt a ‘buyer-be-ware’ approach when using these sites, if they want to.

    Thanks for the information,

    Daisy
    Daisy recently posted…Comment on Meet Daisy Wright by Is your resume being read…by a human?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      You think only sometimes you get what you pay for? I’d say that’s the deal 90%+ of the time.

      But that’s the mythology of these mass platforms…companies are lured there by the intoxicating idea that maybe they could get a $150 blog post for $20. Most learn the hard way that’s not going to happen. Elance has no magic that makes you get great work for a pittance. Generally, you get crummy work for a pittance, and then have to decide if that’s good enough to represent your brand.

  53. Cherese Cobb says:

    Carol,
    I am so sorry that this happened to you. As writers, we work hard to build our reputations. You have written over 7,000 posts here and would never advicate paying a writer only $20 for his or her piece. I do hope that Elance pays these writers. I completely understand why they were so happy to work with you though–your writing shows great compassion and a brave spirit.

    I am on Elance. A client has asked me to write two Halloween articles, but he has yet to assign me the job. He wants to pay me a fixed price, but the job is hourly. He is still not responding to my emails; I am starting to get suspicious. What would you do?

    • Carol Tice says:

      It’s 700 posts here, actually…just seems like 7000 (boy, are my arms tired!).

      But yeah, who really believed I was subbing out $20 a post work? You’d hope they’d know better from reading my blog…and actually, some of the writers didn’t bite because they did know my philosophy of fair pay for writers.

      Cherese, in this business you have to trust your gut. Any time you get a bad feeling about a prospect, you should probably move on.

  54. cj_callen says:

    I feel for you, in a big way!

    I’ve been freelancing for nearly 11 years, and work through oDesk since 2009…have never had nary a problem. Seriously, I think I’m really lucky.

    A while back I signed up (again) with elance…because oDesk bought them, or they merged, or whatever. I thought it would be okay…boy was I wrong!

    The very first gig I got, I was ripped off, and am still…elance is looking into it (not expecting much).

    So beware…there is a guy in Africe preying on newbies. You see, I appear new to elance, and so he thought I was the perfect catch. He was Wrong. Sadly though, before I caught on, he had done it to a group of others through the same job posting.

    It just makes me sick! And get this, he had the nerve (even after elance delisted his account) to creat another elance account under another name and invite me to come work for him again.
    I had not been paid for the delisted job, so I accepted his offer and promptly invoiced him for the unpaid work from the previous work. Well…as you can guess, nothing!

    I did some research and found that he’s even different people on Linkedin! God knows where else.

    The point of my reply is simply this…if your new to freelancing, or new to a site…beware! Do not accept any work from Ghana. or Guyana, etc… and never from someone who’s identity is unverified! Even if the payment method is verified, no name verification, no deal.

    Best,

    CJ
    cj_callen recently posted…I was Freelance, when Freelance wasn’t CoolMy Profile

  55. Judith says:

    For those of us who need to hire a copywriter, etc. but can’t trust Eloance/odesk, where do we find people to hire? I would assume that the atrocity that happened to you could also happen to someone who wanted to hire others.

  56. Shahrukh says:

    Hi carol,

    After reading this post, i can only say that you are a brave woman. I understand that there are too many fraudsters out there but don’t let them creep onto your nerves. Keep doing your work, its great 🙂

    Wishing you the best for the future.

  57. Mai Bantog says:

    Carol, what a bummer! I’m sorry this happened to you.

    When I first read your blog, I was bidding on oDesk, in spite of the fact that I got scammed there more than once. The better clients far outweighed the crappy ones, I thought. But since being a member of the Den and getting all those info on what freelance writing really is, I’ve quit applying to oDesk jobs and instead looked for jobs outside of it. Now, I can see how little I was paid for during my early freelance writing years. I can’t say I’m where I want to be, but at least I’m a lot better off than where I was before.

    I still keep my oDesk profile because I have a couple of reputable clients there who are better paying than the majority, but I no longer advocate working there and other bidding sites, most especially after seeing what happened to you. You just really never know if the client’s legitimate or not. And there are so many writing jobs outside those sites; you just have to be resourceful and patient in marketing yourself.

  58. Danyelle says:

    Getting ripped off is actually a measure of success.

    A person of “dubious repute” always trolls for someone else’s success so they can ride on their coat-tails. It’s a royal pain, but such is the way of the world throughout the entire span of history.

    The lure of “easy money” will always bring out the dregs of humanity. But quality will always be quality.

    Looks like an opportunity to for an article: “How NOT to get scammed by industrialized platforms: find yourself, build your wealth”.

    I’ll write it for you.

    Let’s talk.

    (p.s. We can skip elance if you’d like)

    Danyelle Jorgensen is a freelancer writer and photographer in Flastaff, Arizona and proud member of The Freelance Writer’s Den.

  59. I’m sorry this happened to you. I want to say I’m surprised, but I can’t. Elance is set up to make this kind of thing easy. I used Elance for about 6 months when I started writing. You can get decent jobs on it, but they’re rare.
    One take away for your readers to remember is you want to work with clients who make your business better, so you can improve your writing and your business skills. Working on a site that practically encourages scammers may allow you to make a few quick dollars, but it’ll never help you build the career you want.
    Adrienne Andreae recently posted…Why You Should Stop Writing So Much & Watch More TVMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      SO true, Adrienne! Writers have to ask themselves — where is this all going? And writing $20 SEO articles about pet food or whatever…where does that lead? Probably not to anything good paying.

      Writers have to be intentional about the work they do so that they lay the foundation to move their career forward, in the direction they want.

  60. I am so so so happy that all of your wonderful teaching and hard work has reduced my time on Elance to practically nothing. I used to take all my work from the site. Thanks to what you’ve been teaching, I have only taken two jobs there this year…and that was during a time when none of my marketing seemed to be bearing any fruit and it was get some quick work or fail to make rent.
    Carmen Rane Hudson recently posted…Use Your E-Mail List to Enhance Your Online ReputationMy Profile

  61. Diana says:

    Carol,

    Apparently this scam is still going on. When bidding on this listing: https://www.elance.com/j/write-words-minutes-day-words-starts-now/63068950 there is a follow up requesting to add carol.tice3 on skype. It is a London based account apparently, sounds like the same thing others have mentioned. This listing was published on 10/5.

  62. Wow. I know identity theft is becoming more and more of a concern online, but this takes the cake. Shouldn’t Elance actually require some verification of a potential employer’s credentials? I mean, if you can get “verified” on Twitter, just to post random thoughts, I would certainly want verified profiles on a site that deals with people’s livelihoods! One more good reason to avoid Elance and find real clients. Thanks for sharing this story, Carol.
    Laura Roberts recently posted…#Booktoberfest: Enter my Montreal Mischief #giveaway for a chance to win Montreal-themed eroticaMy Profile

  63. Carol, if the posting is still there then Elance did not remove the buyer, and even if they did, it’s all too easy for them to just create a new account and start over. Elance is in California, and I would definitely report this to the CA Attorney General’s office, and the BBB.

    Full disclosure, I have gotten 5-6 clients through the old Elance of 4 or 5 years ago. It used to be probably the most reputable of this type of site and the clients I had were superb, paid well (up to $100 for a blog post) and were reputable U.S.businesses. Those days are long gone.

    The site has become a cesspool of phony clients, and Elance does not allow public display of the client’s actual name or physical address and seems to encourage working with some potentially shady offshore buyers.

    It doesn’t cost anything to report them to the authorities for engaging in what amounts to identity theft, if not outright fraud. If you don’t who knows how many people are going to steal your reputation?

  64. Steve Szubert says:

    Out of interest, I googled “elance scams”…. pages and pages of results. And consistently low user ratings on review sites. In their attempts to police their system, it seems that elance frequently shut down users with five-star ratings who have done nothing wrong, but “protect” out and out scammers. Looks like the job of running their system properly is beyond them.

    Thank you for opening our eyes to this, Carol, and saving us a lot of time and heartache.

    BTW … I learned that the companies behind elance and odesk merged last year. So maybe the problem is that there is no real competition to encourage them to deliver excellence.

  65. Penny Hawes says:

    Carol,

    I’m sorry (and outraged) to hear this. It’s like somebody rolling Santa and selling the gifts on Craigslist!

    While the writers who were sucked into this disgusting mire were certainly victims, they may have an easier time of it than you. While ALL freelance writers need to be paid, and those desperate (or ignorant) enough to write for the likes of Elance probably even more so, all they lost is cash (hopefully not to the extent of losing the roof over their head or food on their tables). In exchange, perhaps it will be a lesson that pushes them to write for better markets.

    For you, the damage is insidious. Your good name has been dragged into the slime, and you have little recourse. Fortunately, you also have a great bully pulpit from which to combat this whole mess.

    Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help. I’m tweeting this post to my (admittedly small number of) followers on Twitter, and hope everyone on here doe the same.

    Let us know if we can do anything else.
    Penny Hawes recently posted…Horse Sense, Book Learning and the Perfect Fruit SaladMy Profile

  66. Abby says:

    Coco, he never mentioned Carol’s name in the public project posting. He only mentioned it via private message, which wouldn’t be indexed by a search engine.

  67. Abby says:

    I am not sure a link will work unless you have an account and can sign in, but try this:

    https://www.elance.com/j/40x-word-articles-on-various-niches-hiring-now/63095173/

  68. Coco says:

    I wonder why your Google alert never turned up anything about this use of your name and your site? I wonder if there’s some trick the impostor used that we should all be aware of in order to protect our online identities?

  69. Irene Ross says:

    Carol: What a horrible experience and I’m sorry this happened to you.

    Something similar happened to me on the Guru site; luckily, I smelled a rat right away and contacted Guru; I have a feeling the same person who did it to you on Elance was the same one who did it to me (and others) on Guru. This person has been running scams for years and the authorities can’t seem to catch up with him. He’s bilked people out of thousands and thousands of dollars–and the fact that you said he had a London Skype number made me take note–he often uses London numbers.

    The lesson to all free lance writers is stay far away from all those sites. Actually, when I was getting back in the game, I started an account with Elance, read your post, never continued it and strangely enough, I got an e-mail from them days ago asking why so much time has gone by with me not using them.

  70. Williesha says:

    That’s awful. Is this the price of popularity? You’re busy aa it is to have to deal with fraud on top of that. I’m sorry, Carol.
    Williesha recently posted…Three Ways to Drive People Away from Your WebsiteMy Profile

  71. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate the education you provide in posts.

  72. Abby says:

    Oh, and I forgot to mention that the “client” never used your name in his project descriptions. He signed the job description as “Troy.” Then if you wasted your time applying, he’d send you a PM telling you to contact him at a Skype account with your name and profile photo. The PMs aren’t open to search engine indexing, so they would never trigger an alert for your name.

  73. Abby says:

    Carol,

    One of this “client’s” projects is still listed as active, but his profile link goes to a 404 page, so it might be worth checking to see if he really has been removed.

    Elance is awful about removing scammers. They don’t back writers because writers aren’t the ones paying. Every time I’ve reported someone, I’ve found the person’s profile still active weeks later.

  74. lindsay says:

    I do know someone who was scammed on Elance several months back. It was a person who wanted a bunch of SEO articles written, much like the person who was impersonating you, Carol. They promised a very healthy per-hour rate. Once the articles had submitted, the scammer disappeared off Elance and Skype and the writer never received payment.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ugh! Stuff like this makes me so mad. It’s really why I started my blog — anger over worker exploitation. And it never goes away.

      I feel horrified to have been part of this, even in an indirect way. And…I’d like to be a fly on the wall when someone is making a decision, “I know, I’ll impersonate Carol Tice and then I’ll get really great clients.” Who does that?

      Also…if you’re going to impersonate me, I’d like to ask that you please charge a LOT more. 😉

  75. Bex says:

    If the writers in question had funds in escrow, as they should have if they are using Elance, there is no reason they shouldn’t receive the funds promised them for work completed.

    This is the reason that Elance offers the ability to “verify” your identity and why it’s important to work with verified individuals. I know that most of the professional writers out there hate Elance, but some of my best clients have come from that site and if it is used with care, as the escrow service that it is, there is little risk.

    When I do work on Elance, I always get paid for the work I’ve done. In the five years that I’ve been doing this work, I’ve only lost out on Elance once, and that’s because I did work for which there were no funds in escrow – rookie move. But I’ve been ripped off by at least a few clients who were supposed to be paying me by Paypal.
    Bex recently posted…Sex+ Roundup: writing, the wage gap, and man-hating mythologyMy Profile

  76. Lee says:

    Wow, Carol. What a horrible experience for you! I’m glad they finally figured it out.
    Good to know these kinds of scams are out there; I will be watching my own profile more closely from now on.

  77. Barbara Alvarez says:

    Carol, this is exactly why I am working on adding private clients (not web-based) to my roster.

    When I get to the point that I need to hire any assistants, it will be so that I can have them do my research. I will do the writing! I plan to let prospective clients know that I outsource my research, obviously)

    I thank you for writing this and alerting all of us to what happened to you and so many unfortunate freelancers. I do have accounts with oDesk and Elance, but *rarely* use them.

    This is all the more reason to move my efforts away from there! Again, thank you.

    Barbara

  78. Outrageous, to be sure! As noted above, Elance pushes disclosure mechanisms on providers, although they are unrelated to professional identity or demonstrable competence. Meanwhile, Elance draws an ever more opaque cloak of secrecy around job posters—driven, they claim, by some of the high-dollar buyer accounts they boast of on their site. This is a well-established bias on their part, and a blanket invitation to unscrupulous and fraudulent buyers.

  79. Carol, I am so sorry this happened to you. It’s unreal how the imposter’s agenda flew in the face of principles you hold dear. With all the hoops Elance makes providers jump through, I’m surprised that didn’t arouse suspicion sooner.

3 Pings/Trackbacks for "Bidding on Elance: Here’s How Easily Freelancers Can Get Screwed"
  1. […] Carol Tice and found a thread on the real Carol Tice’s website, Make a Living Writing. The post was […]

  2. […] Another story on a similar issue from Carol Tice of Makealivingwriting.com. […]

  3. […] can read Carol’s post about the identity theft in its entirety at the site. It’s truly horrifying the extent the scammer was willing to go […]