Independent Contracting? Proceed with Caution

Scouring through the myriads of social networking sites and job boards, it finally struck me that the position I want is seemingly not accessible in Colorado Springs.  Well I can’t say, not at all, but there isn’t a large market for it being advertised.  However, I have had a little breakthrough in finding a site that allows me to bid for jobs, which I can work from home, so I joined.  The site is called Upwork and is a site that allows employers and individuals to post job openings for those who want to do work as an independent contractor.

They do have some safety measures in place to protect both parties from scams and business misconduct, and they have both free and paid services.  Depending on how much work you want, you can go with the paid service, which allows you to bid for many positions, or the free service allows you to bid on ten proposals per month.  I registered for the free one to see how it goes and have made bids on four jobs so far.  They have many opportunities including writing, programming, administrative, web and graphic design, and customer service all of which can be done from the comforts of home.

Now, I realize this is somewhat contradictory to my article titled Random Insanity,” but let me just give some insight.

Random Insanity was based more on the unsolicited emails we receive from people either looking to scam us or steal our identities through the offer of working from home, and/or the odd jobs we apply for online.   Often times there is no clearly defined job other than their random blathering about becoming a transfer manager or wasting time and money posting ads for some “company” located in a foreign country (usually Nigeria).   In these positions they want you to transfer funds and/or post ads to sites you pay for with promises of being reimbursed within a certain time frame.  The emails are usually very misleading and the grammar and spelling is awful to say the least.  They try to con people into setting up bank accounts, which they have access to for the purpose of wire transfer from their clients in the United States to them.  They also request other personal information such as a copy of your driver’s license, your marital status, and your birthday.

No legitimate work-from-home company should be requesting any of this information, as a legitimate work-from-home opportunity or company will only ask for a W-9 for tax purposes.  The following information regarding W-9 forms is quoted directly from

“Form W-9 (sometimes miswritten as a Form W9) is a document issued by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for certain taxation purposes. While W-9’s aren’t filed with the IRS, they should be collected by clients or companies that hire independent contractors, or freelancers. W-9’s are also used for earnings received by financial institutions. Employees are not required to fill out a W-9.

A W-9 is used to gather information about the independent contractor. The form requires information as to the freelancer‘s name, address, and social security or tax payer identification number. A substitute Form W-9 may be developed if it is substantially similar to the actual Form W-9. Check the IRS’s instructions for the Form W-9 for more details on this.”

I researched a few of these so called companies and read comments from people who actually engaged in this type of work and were in some cases swindled and bilked out of their entire life savings.  These stories of deceit, stolen identities, and loss of financial stability were absolutely atrocious.  As it turns out, many of these transfer manager positions are just a way for these internet thieves to support terrorist activities, launder money, and steal from hard working people who just need an income to support their families.  I don’t want to tell you what to do but I do recommend that before you take on any form of independent contracting, you do your homework and research the company history very thoroughly.

I have a little story of my own to share regarding an independent contractor position.

I applied for a job a few days ago as an administrative assistant and was very dismayed by the response I received.  The ad was posted on Craigslist, which has somewhat of a bad reputation but sometimes they do have legitimate companies posting jobs.   I felt that since I’m writing this article, I should share this response and you can judge for yourself why it is so important to guard your personal information and be cautious about whom you do business with.

This is the response letter: (Respondents name and email were left out intentionally)

Good Day,

How are you doing today? Thanks for applying to the post. Actually the position for a Personal Assistant is opened now it would be a great pleasure to have you as my assistant.

My name is (last name, first name) I live with my lovely Wife and have 3 Beautiful daughters. I’m an Interior Designer. The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology, including research, analysis, and integration of knowledge into the creative process, whereby the needs and resources of the client are satisfied to produce an interior space that fulfils the project goals. I design health care, medical spaces, commercial office space, hotel renovations, multi-family /condos.

I’m looking for someone that can be trusted and reliable to work very well and with good understanding.

Basic wage is $500 weekly ($2,000 monthly)

Duties and Requirements:

Organized and able to take instructions well, Dependable, Reliable, Trustworthy a must

Must have good attention to detail

Must be a problem solver and not a problem maker

Have great work ethic and attitude, as well as people skills

Pay-attention to details, capable of multi-tasking, and works well under stress at times.


–  salary is guaranteed .

– Yearly performance bonus

– Paid vacation/sick/personal days

– Medical benefits

This position is Home -based and flexible Part time job, you can be in any location because you will be working from your home doing all the activities….Am out of the state for a business trip and I will be back before the end of the Month, Pending my arrival I want you to start working for me and I have a number of things you could help me with this week or next week if you will be available to start. This will serve as a stable foundation to our working relationship.

I have the first task waiting for you, I just need know if you are ready to work. I have been checking my files and what I would want you to do for me by next week is to run some errands out to some Foster Homes, You will be making some donations to them as I always do every month, I just want to use this to test your efficiency.

Funds required to make the Donations will be sent to you from my client in any form of Payment mostly in (Money Order/Cashier’s Check)…I guess you will make arrangements to buy some stuff for the kids in the nearest store around you and mail them out to any given information I provide for you.

If you think there is a way you can do the required work while also attending to your other obligations, kindly send the details below

* Full Name:

* Home Address:

* City:

* State:

* Zip Code:

* Cell Phone Number

* Home Phone Number

Kindly send the details to (email left out), If you have any concerns feel free to email me Once I have received your contact information, I will get back to you with the task for Next week.

I will await your response.

Last name first name

RED FLAGS!! This had so many red flags and warning signs I promptly emailed and declined the offer.  I was not applying for a job as an errand runner and frankly going to foster homes to give disadvantaged children money in the form of money orders/cashier’s checks seemed a little hokey to me.   Maybe I was being a bit overcautious? No I don’t think so!  Also, there was no business address, no website, and no contact number where I could reach him and just the fact that he was “out of town” was an indication to me that this job probably doesn’t even exist as a legitimate source of income.  Furthermore, why would he be telling me about his family or use last name first in the introduction and in closing?  Lastly, I noticed how he stated he is an interior designer and further explained to me what that is when I have a degree in interior design, which was in my letter of intent as well as my resume.  I just found that a bit laughable.

I think it is important to understand that being an independent contractor can be very lucrative and there are many advantages but proceed with caution.  Keep in mind, not all opportunities are legitimate or safe and as the old adage says…If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is; so be wise in your decisions and cautious in your dealings.  If your instincts are telling you “don’t do this,” or you get a bad feeling or vibe from an offer or email, pay attention and heed the warning, as it is most likely true.

I know there are times of desperation during periods of unemployment, but it is better to be unemployed and hopeful that something will come along, than destitute and sorrowful because you jumped into a bad business deal.

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