Working as a freelancer, gig artisan or 1099 agent over the internet can sometimes be tricky. You appetite the work, but never appetite to abatement for a scam or assignment for a aggregation that won’t pay you.
When I started working as a freelance writer, I crafted what I hoped would be the ultimate writer’s contour on LinkedIn (we all can dream, right?) and began interacting with abeyant audience online, through groups and over email. Most were strangers I had never met. But as I acquaint added and added of my assignment samples online, audience began emailing me, allurement if I could assignment for them.
The botheration was, abounding would accelerate me tax forms that I’d accept to ample out afore I started the work.
Again, I didn’t apperceive these people. I didn’t apperceive if they accurately formed for who they said they formed for. Some of their aggregation names weren’t familiar. So I afraid about sending tax forms with my Social Security cardinal to absolute online strangers. I didn’t appetite to set myself up for possible identity theft.
“It’s so accessible for character thieves to actualize a apocryphal contour online,” Dominick Miserandino, CEO of the business and website consulting business Dysleximedia, said.
Once they get your Social Security number, thieves can administer for loans, administer for acclaim cards, get medical treatment, adjustment utilities, get your tax refunds, abduct your allowances and alike accomplish crimes application your character — which could entangle you in their bent history.
During the aeon from February 2011 to December 2015, the IRS articular about 1.1 actor taxpayers who were victims of employment-related character theft, according to an August abode from the Treasury Inspector Accepted for Tax Administration. The botheration is, unless you’re ecology your acclaim abode or attractive for signs that your character has been stolen, you ability never apperceive addition is application your number.
“An alone should be accurate about administration his or her number, alike back asked for it,” Darren Lutz, a spokesperson for the Social Security Administration, said. “People should ask why their cardinal is needed, how it will be used, and what will appear if they debris to accommodate the number. The answers to these questions can advice bodies adjudge if they appetite to accord out their Social Security number.”
Your Sleuth Toolkit
You appetite to be careful, but you charge the work, right? And you don’t appetite to aggravate what could be a actual legitimate, advantageous aggregation by alleviative them suspiciously. So you charge a toolbox to do your own sleuthing.
Ask For Their Business Information: This is a reasonable ask if it’s not already on the email they beatific you or on their LinkedIn profile. You’ll charge to apperceive their name, aggregation name, email address, concrete abode and buzz cardinal to verify they’re legitimate.
Consider Application an EIN Number: I’ve back abstruse that abounding freelancers abstain giving their Social Security cardinal by establishing an “employee identification number,” which can be acquired aural account through the IRS website. Once generated, it is a abiding cardinal that links your business with your Social Security number. It ability not leave you as accessible as if you gave your Social Security cardinal to a scammer.
“Security-wise, application an EIN would be safer because it’s not bond to you as a person. In theory, if your character was stolen, your aggregation would booty the hit, not you,” Miserando said. But accumulate in apperception that scammers can still use your EIN to get curve of acclaim and administer for loans.
Nix the Tax Form for Small Gigs: Some companies crave 1099s, but if it’s a job that pays less than $600 total, it’s not needed. “You could acquaint a applicant to abandon it until your accumulated pay is added than $600,” Miserando said. “It’s accidental paperwork for them. There’s no benefit.”
Do the D&B: “If it is over $600 and you’re ambidextrous with a ample contract, do your research,” Miserando said. You can head to Dun & Bradstreet’s website, which should acquaint you if the business exists. (For added research, a cable to the affairs is accessible and chargeless at some accessible libraries.) “But it’s not the be-all, end-all search,” Miserando said.
Search Through the State: If it’s a business in the U.S., acquisition out area it is incorporated, again do a Department of State, Division of Corporations chase to acquisition out if the business absolutely exists. “You can attending up any company, wherever it’s incorporated,” Miserando said. (To acquisition the appropriate website, Google the accompaniment name with the appellation “Division of Corporations.” Once you’re on the website, access the name of the business into the chase feature.)
Do They Pay Their Bills?: You’ll appetite to absorb a few added account on Google to see if the applicant is accepted to absolutely pay its freelancers, Miserando said, so Google your aggregation and the byword “non payment.” You can additionally ask about them on freelance websites acclimated by bodies in your profession, such as LinkedIn or Facebook groups. Be abiding to archetype and adhesive the email you accustomed anon into Google to see if a betray active has been issued about it. Googling the business name accumulated with “and scam” can additionally about-face up interesting information.
WHOIS Search: This can accord you advice about a company’s area and online presence.
Company Reputation: If you appetite to apprentice if the aggregation aing you has a acceptable or bad reputation, you can analysis with the Better Business Bureau to see any registered complaints. Yelp! is addition resource, but accumulate in apperception that bodies are able to Yelp! about places and casework they’ve absolutely never experienced.
If the Aggregation is International: Reach out to the American admiral or admiral accepted in that country for information, explain your bearings and ask for abstracts — such as the age of the company, cardinal of employees, revenues and reputation. Banks ability additionally be able to acquaint you if there has been a alternation of affairs over time, which a added accustomed aggregation should have. Additionally see if there is a biking active to the country you’re about to do business with, abnormally if you intend to biking there.
If You Do Get a Betray Email: If it’s over LinkedIn, the armpit wants to apperceive about it. “When this blazon of activity is detected, we assignment to bound aish it and anticipate approaching reoccurrences,” May Chow, a agent for LinkedIn, said. “We animate our associates to abode any letters or postings they accept are scams and advance our member advice center as a ability to brainwash and assure themselves from frauds online.”
Signs Your Digits Accept Been Tapped
If you appetite to analysis to see if bodies are alive beneath your cardinal and you’re over the age of 18, you can additionally analysis antithesis acquaint to your almanac on your Social Security statement, through the Social Security website, Lutz said.
So, let’s say you accidentally give your numbers to the amiss person. Watch out for these signs of aborigine character theft, per the IRS’ website:
You’ve attempted to book a tax acknowledgment and it’s rejected.
You accept one or added notices stating:
You can analysis your chargeless anniversary acclaim abode from the above acclaim bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and get two chargeless acclaim scores on Credit.com. If you’re alive over the internet, it’s a acceptable abstraction to accumulate a aciculate eye on your credit, because alike if your employer is legit, the email that acclimated to accelerate the tax forms can be hacked. When you assignment adamantine stringing calm freelance jobs in the gig economy, the aftermost affair you charge is for addition to blend with your acclaim or affirmation your tax return.
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