SCAM ALERT: Fake LinkedIn "Clients"

FREELANCERS BEWARE. There's a LinkedIn-based scam going around that appears to be targeting freelance writers.

This scam is a variation on the ol "oops, we sent a check for the wrong amount, please wire the excess back to us" scam, but a lot more clever. In fact, the one thing that tipped me off is - sadly - that the "client" offered a rate of $1 a word. (Isn't it sad that a fair rate is a sign of a scam?)

A LinkedIn user with a since-deleted robust profile and copy (the profile had work history, an image, and a current employer attached – to the less-skeptical eye, there was no reason to doubt he wasn't a real person based in Florida, USA) contacted me asking to work with me on a project "for an upcoming workshop," promising a $1/word pay rate. It was at that moment I knew it was a scam - he declined repeated offers for me to share samples of my work, and only wanted to move forward with the work.

We exchanged email addresses for further communication, and he informed me via email that he was only able to remit payment via cashier's check. I gave him my PO Box address (which I use to operate a small Etsy store) and said he could send the check to me there. Per the contract I drew up and we both signed, I would only start work once 50% of the payment was made upfront.

The check arrived, and it was for WAY over the amount in the contract (double the amount, to be precise) and also came with a one-page letter instructing me to conduct a "Walmart Cashier Service Evaluation" which is essentially purchasing Visa gift cards with the "extra money" of this check. He also emailed me repeatedly to badger me about depositing the check and letting him know when it cleared.

I took the check to my local bank, where they were able to verify it as fraudulent and scanned it in to report to their fraud department. When I got home, I reported this person's profile to LinkedIn and contacted him via email, telling him that the check was confirmed to be fraudulent. I also stated that I am only willing to accept exact payment and that I would be sending back the check to the return address label on the envelope I received from USPS.

No surprise, crickets. I haven't heard from him since. Good riddance!

This scam has been going around since at least October 2020, and it's so sad to hear stories about innocent freelancers falling prey to this scam. Please share this article and story with anyone you feel would find it helpful, and stay safe out there!

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