April 6th, 2009
Of the many the FBI warns against, my personal favorite has to be those package forwarding or product reshipping jobs listed online. If you’re lucky, your so-called employer will merely neglect to reimburse you for the shipping fees on all those electronic goods you’re repacking and reshipping. But if you’re unlucky, you could get caught up in a criminal investigation, as many of the goods these employers are hiring home-based workers to ship are stolen.
You may think that having viable a freelance skill to sell over the web and in person makes you immune to such scams. “Only rebate processors and envelope stuffers get taken for a ride,” you may tell yourself. “Not writers, web designers, and software programmers.” But I beg to differ. (Seen Craigslist lately? Or those useless “paid in promotion” — aka, PIE — gigs?)
When it comes to listing my most-hated freelance scam, I’m torn between all those “Will pay $50 for a 2500-word article/five-page website/three-city PR campaign” project listings polluting the web and those heartless do-it-on-spec-and-then-see-if-anyone-will-deem-you-the-contest-winner-and-reward-you-ten-bucks-for-it sites. (Exhibit A. Exhibit B.)
Perhaps “scam” is too strong a word here, as these outsourcing practices aren’t illegal, only insulting, not to mentioning damaging to professional freelancers who need to earn a living wage. Still, part me wishes there were some regulatory labor body that required such sites and ads to prominently display a “Hobbyists, Apply Here — Pros Who Want to Eat, Steer Clear” graphic at the top. Then those hiring managers without a clue would more quickly come to the realization that you do indeed get what you pay for.