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Freelancers: Scams on Upwork, other job sites could cost you

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Hackers have gotten pretty crafty, going to great lengths to trick people on job sites – and they’re getting away with it pretty readily.

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Toto, we’re not on Craigslist anymore

Anyone who has freelanced for more than five minutes has learned to be on guard for potential scams. On sites like Craigslist, you’d expect to find scams, but more and more, suspicious activity can be found on freelance job sites such as Upwork. And it’s not as simple as companies trying to dupe you out of the wage you were promised – nowadays hackers are even using freelance sites to install malware and steal personal information.

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Worst interview ever

Emilie Syverson at Hackernoon reports that she was recently fooled by a “relatively well-disguised” scam on Upwork. Syverson is a copywriter who responded to a job post, only to discover that a keylogger (malware that steals your passwords) had been installed on her computer.

The ad seemed legit, although Syverson did note that the company was new to Upwork and that their payment method had not been verified.

After applying, Syverson was contacted for a Skype interview. During her interview with “Judith,” she was sent a .zip file that contained a document about formatting guidelines, as well as another file that appeared as a shortcut, but did nothing when you clicked it.

“Judith” convinced Syverson to temporarily uninstall her antivirus software, claiming that Skype must be blocking the file. When the file still didn’t work, Syverson became suspicious. “After going to ‘Properties’ and seeing that weird-ass file path, I was definitely suspecting some kind of malware infection attempt,” she says.

Always ask questions

Next, Syverson took a screenshot of the “Judith” and ran a reverse image search. She found that the person in the picture worked for a company that was not the company listed on the Upwork ad, suggesting that the photograph was stolen.

Syverson began asking too many questions and “Judith” dropped out of the conversation.Click To Tweet

Reddit users who’d fallen for a similar scam warned Syverson that her computer was probably infected with a keylogger. She was forced to reset her laptop and use a second device to change all of her passwords.

Luckily, Syverson was able to make these changes before any of her personal information was stolen. Her advice to other freelancers for avoiding such scams?

“Always be careful with Upwork clients. Make sure you know who you’re working for, and don’t be afraid to ask them for a company name, a LinkedIn profile, or anything else to show you that they’re a legitimate person or agency.”

Ask questions and never click on strange links or open .zip files without knowing their legitimacy.

#UpworkScam

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Shelly Steward

    February 16, 2017 at 11:52 am

    This has happened to me, as well. I never had any issues on odesk, and they were pretty great to work for. But I found that upwork is a scam in itself because of the outrageous fees paid by both client and contractor. I just avoid them at all costs period, anymore.

  2. Pingback: Transitioning from corporate life to freelance life - The American Genius

  3. Don

    June 20, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Be Warned! Upwork is now scamming US freelancer’s banking info! They have started a new policy of requiring additional info above and beyond your current financial data to “prove” you are a US resident for a new option for clients to request only US workers. They refuse a driver’s license and want your banking info…which does NOT prove residency. So all you guys overseas, start looking for a fake address and setup a bank account I guess. It looks like a bank scam. I contacted them, went through 3 levels of support before they said they were not interested in me proving where I live, but want my bank info!

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Business Entrepreneur

How to effectively share negative thoughts with your business partner

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You and your business partner(s) are in a close relationship, and just like a marriage, negative emotions may play a role in the relationship.

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You and your business partner are in a relationship. Your business was born when you shared a common vision of the future and became giddy from the prospect of all you could do together that you couldn’t do alone. Now, you spend much of the day doing things together in collaboration. The stakes are high; there are obstacles to overcome, decisions to make together, deadlines to meet, and all the stresses of running a business.

It’s no wonder a business partnership can often be just as complicated and emotional as a romantic relationship. If you are struggling with your business partner, you might find helpful advice in resources originally targeted towards troubled couples.

Relationship expert Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein has explored how to share “toxic thoughts” with your partner. In a linked article, Bernstein describes toxic thoughts as distortions of the truth that cause us to overemphasize the negative attributes of our partner.

Some examples of toxic thoughts include blaming your partner for larger problems that aren’t really their fault, inaccurately assuming your partners intentions, or resenting your partner for not intuiting your needs, even if you haven’t expressed them. The defining characteristic of these toxic thoughts is that, although they may be based in the truth, they are generally exaggerations of reality, reflecting our own stresses and insecurities.

Just as much as in a love relationship, these toxic thoughts could easily strain a business partnership. If you find yourself having toxic thoughts about your business partner, you will need to decide whether to hold your tongue, or have a potentially difficult conversation. Even when we remain quiet about our frustrations, they are easily felt in the awkward atmosphere of interpersonal tension and passive aggressive slights that results.

Dr. Bernstein points out that being honest about your toxic thoughts with your partner can help increase understanding and intimacy. It also gives your partner a chance to share their toxic thoughts with you, so you’d better be ready to take what you dish out. It might be hard to talk about our frustrations with each other so candidly, but it might also be the most straightforward way to resolve them.

Then again, Bernstein points out, some people prefer to work through their toxic thoughts alone. By his own definition, toxic thoughts are unfair exaggerations of and assumptions about our partner’s behavior. If you find yourself jumping to conclusions, assuming the worst, or blaming your partner for imagined catastrophes, perhaps you’d better take a few minutes to calm down and consider whether or not it’s worth picking a fight about. Then again, if you’re self-aware enough to realize that you are exaggerating the truth, you can probably also tease out the real roots of any tension you’ve been experiencing with your business partner.

If you are going to get personal, shoulder your own emotional baggage and try to approach your partner with equal parts honesty and diplomacy. Avoid insults, stay optimistic, and focus on solutions. State your own feelings and ask questions, rather than airing your assumptions about their intentions or behaviors. Keep your toxic thoughts to yourself, and work towards adjusting the behaviors that are making you feel negatively towards each other. Your business might depend on it.

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Business Entrepreneur

Zen, please: Demand for mental health services surges during pandemic

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) 2020 has been an exceptionally hard year for many on a mental front. How has COVID-19 changed the mental health landscape?

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Man leaning against tree, affected by mental health.

As the pandemic stretches on, it continues to affect everything from jobs to plastic bags, but one major shift has come with mental health. According to the National Council for Mental Health, while demand for mental health services is up 52%, the capacity of mental health organizations have actually diminished. So…what does this mean?

Mental health startups get a boost

From tele-health to mindfulness apps, venture capital investments for mental health startups have already surpassed what was earned in 2019. And it makes sense; as more people are isolated for long stretches of time, there has become a greater demand for digital mental wellness services.

With COVID-19 predicted to spike again in the coming months, combined with shorter spans of daylight and less welcoming weather, the desire for these sorts of businesses isn’t likely to fade. If you have an idea for a neat app or website to help with mental well-being in some way, now is prime time to release it.

Companies increase mental health options

As the pandemic rages on, many companies have started to partner with mental health solutions for their employees. For instance, Starbucks has started offering free therapy sessions to employees through the mental wellness provider Lyra, and Zoom began to offer mental health seminars.

Of course, while smaller companies might not have the means to provide specific therapy, many companies have gotten creative with how they’re looking out for employees’ mental and emotional well-being. From providing virtual meditation sessions, to increasing self-managed leave, to connecting employees through book clubs or happy hours, there are a variety of ways that any company can help employees manage their psyche during these difficult times.

Resources are more accessible

Although therapy and similar apps do cost money (many apps include a monthly fee for the services provided), there are plenty of low cost alternatives available for those having a hard time. For example, many sites are offering free trials to services. There are also plenty of free or low-cost apps available to help you do anything from track your moods to manage your breathing. Or check out YouTube for videos to help with yoga or meditation.

While these resources are not a replacement for medication or talk therapy, they can help mediate some of the increased strain on our mental state that many of us are feeling right now.

In case of an emergency, there is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available by phone call or chat 24 hours a day. If you or someone you know is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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Business Entrepreneur

The success of your business could be tied to your succession plan

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You can’t spell ‘successor’ without success. In the age of COVID-19, are the two mutually exclusive to your ventures?

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Women at desk with laptop discussion succession.

“Heir” is a weighty term. A fun pun, to be sure, through the beauty of English homophones. But seriously, unless you’re already 10% and up rich, talk of heirs and succession does connote a certain heaviness you may not be used to.

For those choosing successors, it’s the heaviness of accepting mortality. For the potential promotees, it’s the heaviness of accepting a multitude of responsibilities. Or buying ear poison. Either way.

We expect to deal with familial succession. As eldest (assuming he doesn’t outlive me), I’m in charge of flinging Dad’s ashes into a nicer section of the ocean and distributing all of his Cosby sweaters amongst the sibs, and I take the role very seriously.

As a serial-small-business employee though, I’ve only just started wondering what would happen if my boss died. Of all the ‘lose your job’ scenarios I’ve had waking nightmares about, that one in particular only cropped up for me a year ago. And now, with the coronavirus taking up our attention, more business owners than usual might be wondering the same thing from the other side of the desk.

What’s going to happen to my employees if I’m too sick to work? Have I set things up so that this company can survive past me? Does at least one other person know the combination to the safes?

If your business is big enough to have employees and advisors on deck, these are questions you need to have answered… Preferably in written, notarized form to ensure smooth succession.

So where should you start? Probably with a good talk.

If you have a next-in-command standing ready, but don’t have a plan yet, let them know that if the inevitable happens sooner rather than later, that you’d like them to step in. A frank conversation about their future with your brand, and actually asking them if they feel up to taking the reins is a great place to start. Otherwise, consider your network— who you might sell the business to, and who might know someone who knows someone.

P.S. If your VP says they’d rather run off and sail the world if you got hit by an asteroid next week, please don’t hold it against them.

We all know that ghosts stick around because they’ve got unfinished business, right? Don’t let your literal business be the shade that haunts your team! Take a deep breath and get the ball rolling on THIS side of the dirt… Ouija boards can only do so much.

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