If you haven’t heard yet, cybercriminals posing as representatives of The Atlantic have been targeting freelancers. You can read the full press release here, but there’s an excerpt below.
Really quickly, I want to give you three tips to help avoid issues like this:
- There’s really no reason anyone should be asking for your social (U.S.) unless it’s on a W-9. I don’t care how good a job sounds, if someone is asking for information that personal, it’s time to move on.
- Don’t work with or reply to any organization that doesn’t have its own domain…that means if they’re emailing you from a free account (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) roll right on past. If someone hasn’t done the work to invest $20 in their business, they’re suspect and you can do better.
- Be ready to ask for payment upfront. For lower paying gigs this doesn’t always fit, but you should at least be willing to put the topic out there. The response will tell you a lot.
I can’t say scams like this are a huge issue in freelancing (in 6 years doing freelance work, I’ve never been scammed), but we still have to be careful out here. I’m also going to take a gamble and say people like this target less experienced freelancers, so the faster you can get familiar with the freelance landscape (and expand beyond the gigs and names that attract the most public attention), the better.
Across the last few months, individuals posing as our editors and senior leaders have sent fraudulent job offers to unwitting freelancers or jobseekers looking to work with The Atlantic. The impostors have created numerous misleading email accounts, including gmail addresses in the names of editors, gmail addresses that include the Atlantic’s name (e.g., recruitment.atlanticmagazine@g
mail.com), and addresses employing fake domains (e.g., @atlanticmediagroup.net). The aim of the scam is to obtain personal information such as social security numbers, addresses, and bank account information from the intended victims.
The perpetrators have gone so far as to conduct job interviews by phone and gchat; to require signature on employment agreements, direct deposit, and tax forms; and to mail fake checks to individuals (in the hope that these “advances” would be cashed, thereby providing the perpetrators with bank account information and/or credit card information). To date, we’ve been contacted by more than 50 would-be victims, and the names of at least six of our top editorial leaders have been used.