By : Ngulli Kyallo
A couple of months ago, a friend showed me how to set up a Google alert, and for the fan of it I set up my name and forgot the whole ‘crap’ of the tool. Recently I got a pop-up notification alert on a literature piece I had been tagged on as the author. But then I can swear I had never posted the piece on the ‘strange’ blog though I could remember writing the article at one point. In a recent social media discourse, a freelancer was conned of seventeen pieces by a client who just disappeared. BEWARE OF the Identity Thief and the Scam Client who like in any other business are always out prowling to eke from other peoples’ sweat. The next question is how do you spot them and protect your freelance writing business. The two are;
The Identity Thief
This thief targets the seasoned writers and will use your name or even picture and post articles pretending to be you for financial benefits. The tricky bit in handling this situation is the balancing act between building an online authority and protecting yourself, besides the law being an ass on this. However, at the very primary level protect your online accounts by changing passwords periodically and creating a second tier protection like a security code authentication.
To bust an identity snatcher, conduct a search on articles using your name or picture preferably using Google Alert functions. With a keen eye on social media outlets, on articles attributed to you and a look out for ‘strange’ activities on your online accounts, you can most certainly find the thief.
The next step would be to stop the thief from using your identity further by getting in touch with the blog editor and demand the article be pulled down. Of course, you will need to produce all your proof. Screenshots of your earlier drafts or correspondence you had previously on this article with friends or other editors are certain proofs. Get as much information as possible from any discussions that the editor may have had with the fake guy. Further, alert other editors you work with about the false identity and the possibility of being contacted by the scammer if not yet.
Nothing scares off a thief like knowing that they are busted. Next, send a mail to the thief and tell them you are aware of the vices and that you would expose them at all cost. At this point be cautious of a libel suit especially if your article was non-copyrighted and the thief smartly had outdone you on this.
And since this may not be the only situation that you may have been conned off, repeat the process above to pull down all other similar cases on such articles.
The Scam Client
Those targeted by this second cadre thief are writers who deal with direct customers, content mills pick or bidding gigs. Since most of the work submitted is without a byline, it is near impossible to claim ownership once submitted. Nevertheless, if you understand article ownership and how to sniff potential scammers, you will be able to avoid them as early as possible. These guys come in different forms;
The plagiarist will want you to rewrite other people’s content without your knowledge or express authority from the original owner. The risk herein is a writer stands chargeable for secondary liability infringement besides being blacklisted or tarnishing your reputation on such authority sites as Google. Often this client will give meager payment offers, and it is best turning them down at the earliest time. A simple first-hand solution is to run the article on a plagiarism checker.
The reluctant player will be very uncomfortable when you bring up payment discussions. Usually, they will want to push these discussions to a later time and will not be clear about the milestones payments or deadlines. Such clients when pushed will want to use payments systems that are unpopular, complicated or you are not comfortable with. It is best to run if such discussions keep on dragging or the client becomes noncommittal.
The ‘go-easy-contract’ guy is probably the easiest potential scammer to identify. Such thieves will avoid signing a contract deal, often citing time constraints or the unnecessary hustle involved. You will notice how they often hurry the whole process and ask for unpaid test samples at first. Any client, who does not email a contract within the first hour of an agreement or insists on unpublished article samples, is not worth your precious writing time.
The mind snifter who keeps changing his mind or instructions multiple times is easily noticeable through a history of canceled contracts or weak writer reviews. This scammer either is not sure of what he wants or is out to fleece extra information from you other than what the project requires. If such a client is not willing to pay for any extra work, then your time is best committed to the other gig in your line.
That, as it may be, does not mean that honest clients do not exist, they do, and many do value their reputation and business that they would keep off such dirty games. While an encounter with the two scammers I pointed out can be de-motivating , sink or kill your writing business, it is healthy to face up to them as experiences and lessons learned.