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Identity Fraud and Safeguarding Your Privacy

A sneaky fraudster.

This is a topic that smacked me right in the face in the very recent past.  I had the misfortune of experiencing fraud, not once or twice, but multiple times in the past three weeks.  The worst ones all happened on well-known freelancing sites.  When I applied at one website I was surprised by their level of security, with the requirement to prove my identity by photo ID.  Now, I understand why. This is a story of the two main fraud attempts and my lessons that I learned from it.

Instance Number One

This website does not require photo ID to verify who and where the person is in the world.  In one instance I was convinced by a “developer” that I hired, that he would need server access.

Foolishly, on my part, I did not make a backup of the website.

But I became suspicious and booted him off the server.  I checked the security logs and discovered that he was from a different countr, instead of where he said he was from.  I immediately raised the issue with the freelance site.  I said that, based upon past experiences, I would not have allowed someone from the country where everyone is a prince and needs my help in recovering money.  You know what I mean?    However, instead of doing something about the fraudster, they accused me of racism and xenophobia.  Last I looked, the fraudster still had a picture of some blonde model, but did change his country.

Instance Number Two

The next instance was on the site that required photo ID, among other things, to prove who I am in real life.  The “company” that wanted to hire us for work turned out to be scammers trying to get personal information.  Fortunately, only one email address was shared.  This time they were not from Nigeria, but instead it was a different country in that part of the world.

Fool Me Once Shame on Them, Fool Me Twice Shame on Me

How very sad it is when a few bad apples spoil the entire barrel.

But how can a person be expected to keep trusting people from a particular group when taken advantage of so many times?  It’s not fair to anyone, especially those who are trying to make a living in those areas of the world.  It’s their responsibility to take the fraudsters to task and deal with them decisively.

The Lessons I Learned

I learned some valuable lessons after all those close calls.

  1. My advice is to always ask for proof of identity from those involved when your data is on the line.
  2. Always make backups of your data regularly and, especially, before someone does work on equipment storing that data.
  3. Always use WordFence or similar plugins to protect your blog platform.
  4. Demand more from sites like the first one above.

Number four above is really important.  Websites that ask for us to trust their freelance employers or workers should be responsible for making sure the fraudsters are kept at bay.  Bank account and photo ID verification should be the minimum requirements, and they are solid ones.

I’ve been bitten too many times by phishing sites or other means.  The reality is that I will need to be open-minded and allow opportunities for people in all countries to do good work and show that not everyone is going to try to defraud me.  Maybe some day, but not right now.