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Beware odesk fraudsters!

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Active Member
Thomas K Member Since: Jan 26, 2011
1 of 28

What is the problem?
   Contractors falsely claim to be from European (and other) countries.
   Fake reviews
   Work diary bypassing programs
 
Why doesn't odesk stop them?
   Odesk doesn't care. They still earn money and therefore odesk earns money.
   
Why is it bad for you?
   Poor quality work
   Who is really doing the work for you?
   
What can you do about it?
    Demand a short video conference.
    Demand photographs of contractor with something local such as newspaper.

Why is this important?
    Having fraudulent accounts undermines the very credibility of Odesk's platform. Apparently they are not screening their candidates so its up to each of us.
    
   
I have used odesk for a number of years now and have been mostly happy with the results. However, in the last year or so I have noticed a greater number of fraudulent contractor accounts responding to my job listings. I'm writing about this to warn others and to offer suggestions on how to spot the frauds.

The big problem I see is Odesk does not appear to be concerned about the fraudulent accounts. After all, they still earn money and hence Odesk earns money. Why would they banish them? I have alerted Odesk to some of these accounts and included proof and essentially no action was taken. The loophole used is typically the contractor refunds your money and hence your review is eliminated. Does Odesk care that the account is still active and able to trick other clients? Apparently not. Because of this I have to take extra steps to verify any applicants background and potentially lose the benefit of using a platform such as Odesk.

First off, what are the frauds I'm talking about? Well so far I have found a few accounts claiming to be from Europe (Netherlands, Poland, England) were in fact handled by persons not from that country. How do I know? I first became suspicious when the contractors were working hours that didn't correspond to their countries hours. Working at 3am? Sure people are hard working but how could they always be working off hours? I then asked some candidates to write some sentences in their native languages. It became apparent that they were using google translate. So I then asked some friends to give me some sentences in the native language to test them. When asked to translate them the frauds typically tried to explain their inability to speak their own native language!

I did mistakenly hire one fraudster before I became more diligent. That person used a program (FocusProxy) to bypass Odesk's screen capture system. When I asked him about it, he claimed his computer had a virus. Hmm. Really? The code quality by this contractor was terrible and I eventually cancelled the contract. Because this person was under the Odesk money back guarantee I was able to get a refund. HOWEVER, my review was NOT posted and this fraud continues to get jobs! I sent Odesk the screenshots along with explanations to no avail.

I've read other posts of people who were defrauded and it's the same message. Odesk doesn't care! The loophole often used is they refund your money and therefore wipe your review away. Most of these fraudulent accounts have 5 star reviews. No doubt falsely generated.

What can you do about these frauds?

First off, the simplest way to verify a person's identity is to require a skype video conference. Often the fraudster will make an excuse such as low bandwidth, living situation etc. A voice call is a secondary solution to verify someone althought not as effective as video.

Another solution I use is to request photographs of the candidate. If they have an odesk profile image I match the photos. Otherwise I request two photos. The first I request is something with a local restaurant or something in the background. The second is with a newspaper or publication. The fraudsters will quickly make an excuse about having too many jobs or such and move on to the next sucker.

Don't accept excuses! Often they'll claim their living situation doens't allow video conferencing or their camera is broken. But they can always go to an internet cafe. Or they can send photos using a cellphone.

It's too bad we can't post reviews on these people but until we do, everyone has to remain diligent!

Community Manager
Garnor M Community Manager Member Since: Oct 29, 2014
2 of 28

Hi Thomas K,

We agree diligence is important when hiring and managing work online and this includes oDesk. However, we don't benefit when customers like yourself have a bad experience and we certainly don't benefit when fraudsters penetrate the marketplace. This hurts our business by hurting our customers. Our team takes fraud very seriously and we'll continue to maintain a proactive review for fraudulent behavior along with reviewing and reacting to any reports submitted to our team. 

 

Should you come across any questionable behavior, we encourage you to report this to us so we can address it. 

Active Member
Thomas K Member Since: Jan 26, 2011
3 of 28

I submitted proof of fraud to odesk when it first occurred and they allowed the contractor to keep operating. All they had to do was check the screenshots by odesk's own work diary tool to see the contractor was bypassing their system using FocusProxy. Why was the account not suspended?

Community Guru
Natasa M Member Since: May 8, 2014
4 of 28

I am not oDesk representative, just a freelancer.

 

Quote:"Why doesn't odesk stop them?"
   Odesk doesn't care. They still earn money and therefore odesk earns money."

 

Not true-they even care too much to the point of suspending/putting under review accounts that should not be suspended as a precautionary measure (although I hope this process will become more transparent with this newly introduced statistic-so each freelancer will know his/her standing and there will be no negative surprises.)
   

Quote:"Why is it bad for you?"
   Poor quality work
   Who is really doing the work for you?"

 

I don't think (being Eastern European myself ) that the quality of work has anything to do with location.
   
Quote:"What can you do about it?"
    Demand a short video conference.
    Demand photographs of contractor with something local such as newspaper."

 

It is your right  to 'demand' whatever you see fit; however I personally would find that type of  application process very intrusive and insulting and I wouldn't play into that (and beside-how is that related to the job that one supposed to perform??)

Quote:"Why is this important?
    Having fraudulent accounts undermines the very credibility of Odesk's platform. Apparently they are not screening their candidates so its up to each of us."

 

Of course it is up to you to screen you freelancers as much as it up to me to screen you as a client. Odesk is not a hiring agency , but a platform that connects people.You need to assume responsibility for your own choices.
    

Quote:"The big problem I see is Odesk does not appear to be concerned about the fraudulent accounts. After all, they still earn money and hence Odesk earns money. Why would they banish them?"

 

They don't earn money if clients are unsatisfied due to poor quality/unreliability, etc., and they do take steps (even where they not supposed to.)If you are happy -you will stay and spend more money here; if you are not -they  will lose client and they are aware of that-so they do a lot to weed out flakes.


Quote:" I first became suspicious when the contractors were working hours that didn't correspond to their countries hours. Working at 3am? Sure people are hard working but how could they always be working off hours? "

 

I almost always work from 11 pm.to 6-7 am.

 

Quote:" I then asked some candidates to write some sentences in their native languages. It became apparent that they were using google translate. So I then asked some friends to give me some sentences in the native language to test them. When asked to translate them the frauds typically tried to explain their inability to speak their own native language!"

 

Ok-but how is that relevant? Should they translate something for you in Polish??Is that what you hired them for?

Quote:"Because this person was under the Odesk money back guarantee I was able to get a refund. HOWEVER, my review was NOT posted and this fraud continues to get jobs!"

 

Your review is removed just if refund was issued from freelancer personally and in that case it is not posted on his profile when he refunds you. If oDesk refunded your money under MBG, your review would be posted on freelancer's profile (that 's why I don't do hourly contracts with new clients anymore.)

Quote:" Most of these fraudulent accounts have 5 star reviews. No doubt falsely generated."

 

It doesn't mean that your experience is shared by everyone else. Some other people could have had a great experience with this freelancer-your own experience is not the measure of all things (and neither is mine , to be quite clear).

Quote:"What can you do about these frauds?
First off, the simplest way to verify a person's identity is to require a skype video conference. .. A voice call is a secondary solution to verify someone althought not as effective as video....Another solution I use is to request photographs of the candidate. If they have an odesk profile image I match the photos. Otherwise I request two photos. The first I request is something with a local restaurant or something in the background. The second is with a newspaper or publication. The fraudsters will quickly make an excuse about having too many jobs or such and move on to the next sucker."

 

I have no comment on this . Really.

Quote:"Don't accept excuses! Often they'll claim their living situation doens't allow video conferencing or their camera is broken. But they can always go to an Internet cafe. Or they can send photos using a cellphone.
It's too bad we can't post reviews on these people but until we do, everyone has to remain diligent!

 

Lol, I don't know when you even get a chance to actually start with work,  after conducting such elaborate, prolonged selection process. I imagine all participants  must be very tired before the actual contract even starts.From my point of view, I don't think this is rational or time-efficient.

Active Member
Thomas K Member Since: Jan 26, 2011
5 of 28

 

Quote:"Why doesn't odesk stop them?"
   Odesk doesn't care. They still earn money and therefore odesk earns money."

 

Not true-they even care too much to the point of suspending/putting under review accounts that should not be suspended as a precautionary measure (although I hope this process will become more transparent with this newly introduced statistic-so each freelancer will know his/her standing and there will be no negative surprises.)

 

This is false from my experience. I have reported with proof and the account is still active. I've read some other posts by people who complain negative reviews are removed after money is refunded. It's a loophole that is exploited.


   

Quote:"Why is it bad for you?"
   Poor quality work
   Who is really doing the work for you?"

 

I don't think (being Eastern European myself ) that the quality of work has anything to do with location.

 

My point was not correlating quality of work with location. My point is when you hire a 5 star person, you expect that person to do the actual work. With these fraudulent accounts you have no idea who is doing the work. And at times the work quality can be low as I found out. The person who was doing the work I requested was quite a beginner actually and I had to trash the code.

 


   
Quote:"What can you do about it?"
    Demand a short video conference.
    Demand photographs of contractor with something local such as newspaper."

 

It is your right  to 'demand' whatever you see fit; however I personally would find that type of  application process very intrusive and insulting and I wouldn't play into that (and beside-how is that related to the job that one supposed to perform??)

 

Again, if I think I am hiring someone, I have a right to actually hire that person. Not someone who is using an account, or persons who are sharing an account.



Quote:"Why is this important?
    Having fraudulent accounts undermines the very credibility of Odesk's platform. Apparently they are not screening their candidates so its up to each of us."

 

Of course it is up to you to screen you freelancers as much as it up to me to screen you as a client. Odesk is not a hiring agency , but a platform that connects people.You need to assume responsibility for your own choices.


It seems you want to stress it is our responsibility to investigate the contractors and yet its not necessary to do a video conference. So what are we to rely on? The reviews? The statements by the contractor? My point is it seems these are not reliable. 

 

Quote:"The big problem I see is Odesk does not appear to be concerned about the fraudulent accounts. After all, they still earn money and hence Odesk earns money. Why would they banish them?"

 

They don't earn money if clients are unsatisfied due to poor quality/unreliability, etc., and they do take steps (even where they not supposed to.)If you are happy -you will stay and spend more money here; if you are not -they  will lose client and they are aware of that-so they do a lot to weed out flakes.

 

Not true. They make money when contracts are completed, not if someone is satisfied. If I rate someone 1 star vs 5 star they make the same money. You're point is I can take my business elsewhere. But my point is I stay on Odesk but I have to spend more effort (needlessly) vetting the contractors. Odesk is more than just a portal to list employers and employees such as Craigslist. Odesk provides an escrow service for services and fees as well as a reputation system to enforce quality. However, their system is lacking and they are not addressing the problem.

 


Quote:" I first became suspicious when the contractors were working hours that didn't correspond to their countries hours. Working at 3am? Sure people are hard working but how could they always be working off hours? "

 

I almost always work from 11 pm.to 6-7 am.

 

I have used Odesk for 4 years and the majority of my contractors work hours corresponding to their timezones. That doesn't mean they don't work odd hours such as noon to early morning. But my point was this merely aroused my suspicion and it turned out I was right.

 

Quote:" I then asked some candidates to write some sentences in their native languages. It became apparent that they were using google translate. So I then asked some friends to give me some sentences in the native language to test them. When asked to translate them the frauds typically tried to explain their inability to speak their own native language!"

 

Ok-but how is that relevant? Should they translate something for you in Polish??Is that what you hired them for?

 

So apparenlty you don't think it matters if people lie on their profiles.



Quote:"Because this person was under the Odesk money back guarantee I was able to get a refund. HOWEVER, my review was NOT posted and this fraud continues to get jobs!"

 

Your review is removed just if refund was issued from freelancer personally and in that case it is not posted on his profile when he refunds you. If oDesk refunded your money under MBG, your review would be posted on freelancer's profile (that 's why I don't do hourly contracts with new clients anymore.)

 

False. I was refunded money after filing a claim under MBG and my review was removed.

 


Quote:" Most of these fraudulent accounts have 5 star reviews. No doubt falsely generated."

 

It doesn't mean that your experience is shared by everyone else. Some other people could have had a great experience with this freelancer-your own experience is not the measure of all things (and neither is mine , to be quite clear).

 

Sure not all reviews are false. But its quite easy and common for contractors to generate positive reviews. I've had quite a number of contractors request I allow someone else to work under a different account.

Quote:"What can you do about these frauds?
First off, the simplest way to verify a person's identity is to require a skype video conference. .. A voice call is a secondary solution to verify someone althought not as effective as video....Another solution I use is to request photographs of the candidate. If they have an odesk profile image I match the photos. Otherwise I request two photos. The first I request is something with a local restaurant or something in the background. The second is with a newspaper or publication. The fraudsters will quickly make an excuse about having too many jobs or such and move on to the next sucker."

 

I have no comment on this . Really.

Quote:"Don't accept excuses! Often they'll claim their living situation doens't allow video conferencing or their camera is broken. But they can always go to an internet cafe. Or they can send photos using a cellphone.
It's too bad we can't post reviews on these people but until we do, everyone has to remain diligent!

 

Lol, I don't know when you even get a chance to actually start with work,  after conducting such elaborate, prolonged selection process. I imagine all participants  must be very tired before the actual contract even started.From my point of view, I don't think this is rational or time-efficient.

 

You are right! It is not time efficient. I'd hope Odesk would clean up their act so I don't have to do such ridiculous things. However, it seems that even up til today, it remains necessary.

 

 

Community Guru
Natasa M Member Since: May 8, 2014
6 of 28

Look,to cut this short-  my point is that you are completely entitled to your own point of view and your selection process-I mean I absolutely believe in your right to set your own rules and if you find someone who is willing to play by them, even better ! However, it seems to me that a lot of people in general (clients as well as freelancers)   don't quite grasp the concept of this environment-the point is nobody comes with guarantee neither in real life nor in freelancing. In  real life, I hired people who have Ivy League education with  4.00 GPA and came in with bunch of recommendations and well-checked references from high-profile employers...And guess what? Things just didn't work out.

 

So I looked at my own selection process and eventually I learned how to recognize red flags but at the time when I made mistake I didn't blame the hiring agency (and by the way and again-oDesk is not a hiring agency) , because I made the final decision to hire them.I couldn't know how well they will work out and neither could agency. I also had my share of negative experiences here but I don't think it is Odesk's fault -that is just a life and sometimes one encounters great, awesome people and sometimes not.But I think,that with selection process you have, you are far more likely to attract people who have low skills. Again, this is just my opinion.

Active Member
Thomas K Member Since: Jan 26, 2011
7 of 28

I think you're missing my point. If Odesk is providing a system for judging reputation then they should make sure it's working properly. I don't believe it is.

 

Allowing contractors to misrepresent themselves is wrong. Do you disagree with this?

 

Also, IMO, allowing contractors to remove poor reviews by refunding money is wrong. The result is similar to grade inflation where everyone has 5 stars. What's the point of having a rating if they're all 5 stars?

 

And thirdly, if presented with evidence of fraud by a client, they should take action.

Community Guru
Natasa M Member Since: May 8, 2014
8 of 28

Ok, this is the last thing I will post on this topic and by all means-do whatever works best  for you - it is your business, your money and your choices.

To answer some of your questions:

 

Quote:" I think you're missing my point."

 

I think you 've missed my point as well.

 

Quote: "Allowing contractors to misrepresent themselves is wrong. Do you disagree with this?"

 

I don't disagree. I just stated that  there is no situation in which I 'd  allow myself to be subjected to the strange requests that are completely irrelevant to the job that I applied for (such as sending you two  photos of myself following scenarios you've created.)

 

Quote: "Also, IMO, allowing contractors to remove poor reviews by refunding money is wrong. The result is similar to grade inflation where everyone has 5 stars. What's the point of having a rating if they're all 5 stars."

 

No, it is not- because there are clients who will leave bad feedback out of spite or for whatever other reason in spite of getting excellent results. However, if freelancer issues a lot of refunds , he will be put under review sooner or later.

 

Quote:"And thirdly, if presented with evidence of fraud by a client, they should take action."

 

They do take action. If you reported freelancer, and if there are more people who also reported him, they will put him/her under review , which is only fair.

The same thing is with clients-I reported client who is still here and posts jobs and I feel sorry for his prospective freelancers but ,at the same time, I understand that just my word is not enough (as it should be.)

 

When I was hiring assistant, giving a short, paid trial work always worked better than having a lengthy interviewing process..For me that was the best  possible way to make selection-better than all educational records, awards and honors, glowing references and chit-chatting.

 

 

 

 

Community Guru
Gerry S Member Since: Nov 23, 2014
9 of 28

Regarding "refunds":

 

Some clients have the attitude that "I never give 5 stars".

 

If someone prides themselves on going the extra mile, does all they can to satisfy the client, who then gives the contractor a mediocre review because "that's just how I operate", I would be grateful for the opportunity to"buy back" my reputation (because one has no other option).

 

And speaking for the other side (contractors):

 

I typically avoid clients that never give anyone good feedback; have no payment method approved; like to "post" but hire infrequently; won't spend the time to compose a coherent project proposal; use "text-speak"; invite more than 10-20 contractors at a time (spam); invite contractors whose stated skills have no relation to the posted project (more spam); say "I want ..."; use CAPS; insist on web cams (creepy); etc.

 

 

Community Guru
Isabelle Anne A Member Since: May 19, 2014
10 of 28

Thanks Natasa for saving us from having to retort. I can't believe his post.

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