quarta-feira, 18 de Maio de 2011

oDesk Scams and Frauds – How to Avoid Them

I’ve been working on oDesk for some time now, and I never had any trouble getting paid for my work. but I was always aware of the possibility of having problems. After all, when it comes to money you can’t be too cautious. so far, I’ve been lucky.
Other people weren’t so fortunate. Do a simple search on Google for odesk scam or odesk fraud, and you’ll get a lots of examples of people complaining they’ve been scammed. in fact, the first suggestion offered by Google when typing odesk is odesk scam.
Disclaimer: Just to be fair, this is true for all major freelancing sites, but I know oDesk the best, so I’ll stick to it in this article.
The oDesk forums have plenty of threads where people complain freely about being scammed. Personally, I find it a bit ironic to see how many people use the oDesk forums to actually accuse oDesk of being a scam site J  Well, let’s look into some real cases. Let’s start with the employers.
One of the most active threads on the subject of frauds and scams on oDesk is this: Odesk is a SCAM Be very carful no buyer protection. I am pasting the initial posting here:
I have been scammed on odesk two times.
First User started and never finished my project. said his town got hit by a hurricane and told me to call him at a number maybe so i can call him and he can scam me more.
Second User started my project and demanded more money after little work and then completely ran off.
Please not if i have to spend 5k spreading this scam of policy of this website i will and i promise the owners of odesk would hear from me very soon very soon no legal action would be taken but if i can spread the word with my very popular website i will. and i promise you will hear from me again
I think that you will agree with me that the man is an idiot. Which brings me to my point: many people who complain about being scammed on oDesk don’t actually understand how freelancing works, and especially don’t understand how oDesk works. They complain that the contractor did not complete the job, or that they were charged for time spent watching videos or surfing the internet. like this guy:
I hired this guy about a week ago:*removed by admin* because we had an email convo and he said he has done projects similar to this before.
He ended up logging over 25 hours of “internet surfing (watching videos) and projects he did for other Buyers” and I had to pay for it.
The screen shots odesk provided also showed that he was watching tv, gaming and talking to other providers:
I can attach all the screens that odesk took in that 25 hour period and none of which was related to my project. he worked on it for 1 week, without providing anything and in the end I had to hire someone else to finish it in 1 hour. the rate he provided was around $17+/hour and my VISA was billed $400+.
It’s obvious that these people don’t know the simple mechanisms of control used on oDesk. or if they do, they are too lazy to actually use them. As an employer, you get to see a screenshot from the user’s computer, every 10 minutes. you have a review period, just for the purpose of checking the work done during the previous week. and if you spot something fishy, you can dispute the billing.
So, there are no excuses if you end up paying 20 hours of watching YouTube.
Now, I am not saying that it’s all the fault of the employer. the contractors who engage in this sort of oDesk scams are despicable, and they bring a bad name to the entire community. They should be punished severely.
I am just saying that, just like a foreman looks over his construction workers, oDesk employers should keep their virtual workers in line.
Many people say oDesk doesn’t make enough to prevent scams. some even allege that oDesk encourages fraudsters, because it receives 10 cents of every dollar paid through the site.
The truth is oDesk does not have to (or should, in fact) decide if the two parties delivered on their promises. It’s all spelled out in their Terms of Services, Section 4:
User expressly acknowledges, agrees and understands that: (i) the oDesk Platform is merely a venue where Users may act as Employers or Contractors; (ii) oDesk is not a party to any Service Contracts between Employers and Contractors; (iii) User recognizes, acknowledges and agrees that he/she/it is not an employee of oDesk and that oDesk does not, in any way, supervise, direct, or control User’s work or Services; (iv )oDesk shall not have any liability or obligations under or related to Service Contracts or any acts or omissions by Users; (v) oDesk has no control over Contractors or over the Services promised or rendered by Contractors; and, (vi) oDesk makes no representations as to the reliability, capability, or qualifications of any Contractor or the quality, security or legality of any Service, and oDesk disclaims any and all liability relating thereto.
In layman’s terms, it’s your responsibility to take care of your money.
How to avoid getting scammed on Odesk?
  1. First of all, do your due diligence before hiring. Carefully check the contractor’s profile. Look for inconsistencies, such as bad grammar in the profile of a supposedly expert article writer. Visit the links they provide in their portfolios. Look at their employment history. if you see many low ratings, or hidden feedbacks, it may be a sign of dishonesty and/or incompetence.
  2. Go small before you go big – trust should be built in time, so when working with new employers, give them some small projects to see how they do. Don’t pay big bucks to someone you barely no, you will probably fall victim to another oDesk scam!
  3. Pay reasonably – even if most employers come to oDesk for cheap workforce, you should still pay a reasonable fee for the services you receive. you can find great contractors who work for very little, but they are the exception rather than the rule. if someone asks just a few dollars for a job that would normally cost hundreds, your alarm bell should ring.
  4. Thoroughly follow the work done. ask for short status updates, and study the work diary. you can even set a few Skype conferences, to “feel” the contractor. if you don’t know how to evaluate the work of the contractor, consider hiring an expert that can. This is especially important for big projects, and it can save you a lot of hassle and money.
  5. Use the review period – each Monday morning, you receive an email with the weekly time log. It’s your only chance to file a dispute with oDesk. After the review period expires, there is nothing much you can do about an oDesk scam.
If all these tips on how to avoid getting scammed on oDesk fail, and if you really want to get back on the scammer, you can learn a thing or two from here. Long story short, after an oDesk employer fell victim to an alleged scammer, he set a “fan page” for him. :) Check it out, it’s quite funny (in a disturbed sense), and I think effective at damaging the scammer’s online reputation.