I Got Scammed

To start off, let me just say that no, no one stole any of my money. I was too smart for that to happen 😉 My scammer left before I could waste any more of his time or energy. So how did I get scammed? I guess you could say I was scammed out of my time and energy. I put in a lot of both before I realized what was happening, and when things ended, I was left with six thousand words on the topic of alcohol abuse and nothing to show for it. Let’s jump in.

The Invitation

I’m on LinkedIn. That’s how my scammer found me. He sent me a very professional-sounding proposal through the messages feature on the platform, along with a basic outline, pay rate, and expectations of the project. Because he was so thorough, I wasn’t as suspicious as I would have been, had I got a message like any other scam offer. My scammer wanted an article:

  • on the topic of “The Effects of Alcohol Abuse”
  • 7,125 words long
  • for an audience age 17—45
  • to be used as for a seminar presentation
  • informative yet captivating
  • detailing the history of alcohol, its effects, its chemical makeup, and preventative measures for alcohol abuse
I asked questions to make sure I was capable of writing such an article before proceeding. Each question was met by a thorough answer. Information and help were provided at every turn. The conversation held a professional tone.

The Offer

$1/word. For a 7k word article. Do the math yourself.

The rate is quadruple what most beginner freelancers can get. It’s also something that was too good to pass up, given that I had plenty of time to spare, and my circumstances made it an easy choice. Thus, I accepted the original message and got down to business. I was asked to create the article in the timeframe of three to four weeks. However, I replied that I’d be able to get it done much quicker (one or two weeks instead). As soon as I got all the information I needed, I started researching and got down to business.

Suspicions and Expectations

I knew from the beginning a scam was a big possibility. Getting contacted for a job is rare unless you already have some  clients under your belt. Being contracted for a big project by a big company for a high rate is even more suspicious.

So I went in with my suspicions. I knew it was most likely a scam. However, as someone who didn’t have a job (yet), I had plenty of time on my hands. If happened to be a scam, I was fully prepared. Either way, no one was about to get any of my money. I made sure of it. Being told I’d be paid by check, I thoroughly explained how check scams work and then proceeded to talk about my concern with scams and how I was uncomfortable accepting check. I was then assured that no, this was not a scam, and no, I had nothing to worry about. (Spoiler alert: they lied.)

Anyway, I went against my better judgement and accepted the proposal. I knew the risks and was ready to put in a whole lot of work for nothing. If the offer turned out to be real, the pay was too good to pass up. If it didn’t…well, then I benefitted substantially. It would be a free push into the world of freelancing, and it would be a great place to start from. Besides, I wanted the full experience of researching a completely new topic and writing an article on it. My first time freelancing. What could possibly go wrong?

The Article

I started with an outline. Said outline quickly grew into a long, long first draft. By the end of day one, I knew so much about alcohol, I was convinced I’d be able to answer almost any related question. I’d researched almost everything imaginable on the subject. Effects, history, components, addiction—you name it.

Day two, and I’d read way too many stories on Reddit concerning the horrors and technicalities of alcohol abuse. Then some stories about addiction and first-hand accounts of how difficult and different everyone’s experience with it could be. And then some.

Day three, and I was done. I felt like an alcohol expert. I didn’t want to do any more research. This is where I ended the article and finished the first draft at over 6k words.

True Colors Revealed

I took my rough draft and messaged my scammer with the request for a review to make sure we were on the same page. I’d been told the article was for an important event. Thus, (with such a long piece), I wanted to make sure the article covered everything it was supposed to, and that I wasn’t expanding where it wasn’t important. I’d kept things pretty straight-to-the-point. At 1k words less than the intended amount, there was quite some room for improvement.

I got no response. For a couple of days, I brushed it off. It was Christmas; perhaps he was just on holiday. A fresh new article in my hands that no one other than a few of my friends had seen, I kept hoping. However, as Christmas passed, and the New Year rolled around, my hopes went down. I began to let things go. The silence felt intentional. It didn’t look like I’d be getting any pay, and the article (still in the first draft stage) hadn’t been shared with my scammer. It looked like I was on my own.

The Moment of Truth

Days passed. Maybe weeks passed (I don’t know). I forgot about the article and moved on in my head, not wanting to feel the disappointment lingering with the hope that maybe he was just on holiday still.

Then I got a message. On LinkedIn. From a completely different person. The message, however, was completely identical to the one I’d received, asking me to write a 7k-word article on the topic of “the effects of alcohol abuse.” Every singe word matched. Even the typos did. The only difference was that, instead of “alcohol abuse,” there were the words “cigarette abuse.”

I knew immediately that both had been/were scams. The offers were identical, and the messages matched in a way that couldn’t possibly be a coincidence. Just for the fun of it, I asked the second scammer questions. I pushed and pried, telling her about the identical offer I’d received and asked her to explain it. At first, she said she knew my first scammer. He “was on sabbatical.” She was the project manager, and since the first scammer had vanished for the moment, she was contacting me with an update to the project (which, in the first place, you can’t hire someone to write something and then just change the entire topic halfway through).

I kept questioning her. Soon enough, her answers changed. According to her, she didn’t know my first scammer; it was all just a big coincidence, and I should just accept her offer because it was a good opportunity. I confronted her about her lies. I showed her how her logic didn’t work. First, she was defensive. Then aggressive. Then, she vanished.

The whole ordeal over, I laid the article to rest (mentally) and accepted the fact that I’d never be paid for the thousands of words and hours of research I’d just gone through. I’d had my first freelancing experience. Although it wasn’t actually an authentic one, there was a lot to glean from the experience (besides the obvious “don’t accept random suspicious commissions off of LinkedIn”).

Feelings, Regrets, and Consequences

I don’t regret doing it. I think it was a good experience, and as I didn’t have a job at the time, I didn’t have much to lose besides a few days’ worth of time and energy. I’m mad at the scammers, granted. I’m kind of mad at myself for letting them get the best of me. However, I think it was a good learning experience, and at least I got to delve a bit into psychology and the human body (two of my favorite subjects).

In the end, I’m just wondering what the scammers hoped to get out of me. Right off the bat, they knew they weren’t going to get my money; I made that quite clear from the start. They weren’t getting my information, and they weren’t getting any money, so my best guess is that they realized pretty quickly I wasn’t worth their time, and after setting me up to do all the work for nothing, decided to vanish into thin air. Seriously. I can’t even find their profiles anymore.

My key takeaway from this whole thing? If you value your time and energy, don’t waste it on scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t squint so much that the red flags look green.