Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls: Avoid LinkedIn Freelancer Scams

When entertaining potential clients found through LinkedIn, freelance writers must ensure they don’t become the victim of scams.

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls: Avoid LinkedIn Freelancer Scams
Photo by Robert Lukeman / Unsplash

Last week a potential client messaged me on LinkedIn. I set LinkedIn to advertise my writing services, so message requests and recommendations for opportunities occasionally flow into my box. The message the other week was a suggestion to apply for a freelance writing gig advertised on LinkedIn. Never one to turn down an opportunity, I emailed back and forth with the person a bit.

As a freelancer, I look for potential clients everywhere — a random LinkedIn connection is not out of the realm for landing work. I’ve connected with a few clients and know other freelance writers who find all their clients on LinkedIn.

I gave the person the same responses and questions I’d send to any prospective client. I asked for details about the project, the timeline, and audience, and their budget. The person had detailed answers for everything — a few thousand words for a conference happening in November, aiming for $1/word. While the $1/word is nice, it was also a red flag. The person did not ask for any clips or references and offered a fantastic rate. Is that possible? Yes. Is that my experience on LinkedIn? No.

Still, the person had answers to every one of my questions. I explained my contract and deposit process, and they were more than happy to comply — except for one slight issue. Instead of paying via Stripe (what I use to handle all payments), they insisted on sending a cashier’s check — red flag number two.

A quick Google search revealed there are scams just like this preying on freelance writers. They agree to send a cashier’s check, and one of two things happens: either they don’t send a check, or they send a fraudulent one. By the time your bank realizes the check is fake, work is done, and money is lost.

At this point, my scammer sense was through the roof. However, I wanted to give a genuine potential client the benefit of the doubt. I sent another email and insisted that I do not accept checks and will send a Stripe invoice instead. Again, they responded with their desire only to send a check, so I declined their offer.

I’m about 99.99% certain this gig was a scam. Maybe there is a conference, and they’re trying to scam freelancers into generating content. Perhaps it’s all a ploy to get my bank account information somehow. I don’t know. Either way, as a freelancer, I’ve learned to keep my guard up with all potential clients. It sucks, but it also keeps me vigilant and my money safe.

Do you get unsolicited client requests? How do you determine if they’re genuine or not? Hit reply and let me know.

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!