Monday, September 22, 2008

Writing Sample Employment Scams

One of the more frustrating scams a writer can come across involves the hiring process. It’s quite simple and nearly impossible to determine from a legitimate job offer.

Occasionally an online employer may anticipate a high number of job applicants. To avoid going through all the applicants’ resumes and emails the employer comes up with a sample assignment. The assignment is given to all of the applicants and whoever best completes the writing assignment gets the job.

Speaking from personal experience, writers hate this process. I send in over 2 dozen applications a week and the majority of them I never hear back from. If I had to write up a sample for every one of those applications I’d never get anything done. Simply put, this process is a time waster for the vast majority of job applicants. Only one person gets the job, the other couple thousand writers just worked a few hours for free and will be completely unable to use the material they wrote for publication elsewhere.

As frustrating as it is, if a writer is desperate enough for the money, which pretty much sums up every member of the profession, he/she will do it anyway and write the damn sample. Herein lies the capacity for someone to take advantage of you.

A good scammer will know his/her mark. The scammer will know that writers are used to being turned down and rejected, putting in applications and still attempting to find work in the face of insurmountable odds. At times I don’t know if that makes us stubborn or stupid, probably a little of both. In any case, this presents the perfect opportunity to run a foolproof and almost undetectable low-key scam.

The scammer takes on a number of automated bottom-rung writing jobs like the kind that can be found on Textbroker. He then uses Craigslist or another job forum and writes up a post looking for writers. The post includes mention of a decent paycheck, acceptable telecommuting, and loose deadlines for basic informative or copy (advertisement) writing. The post also says that a sample essay will be required prior to hiring.

Whenever a writer applies for the job, the scammer provides them with a unique assignment from Textbroker. The writer, not knowing the assignment is not identical to what other writers will receive, will complete the assignment to the best of his/her ability and submit it to the scammer posing as an employer.

The scammer simply turns in the writer’s work as his own, making a couple bucks for his trouble from Textbroker. The writer never hears back from the employer and assumes he/she was turned down for the position like usual.

This may seem like an awful lot of work for the scammer to go through for a few bucks, but let’s think in terms of bulk. There are thousands of online freelance writers applying for jobs like the one I’ve described every day. If each one wrote an assignment that ended up paying $2 that would total several thousand dollars worth of work that the scammer got for free over the course of a couple days.

While this type of scam does not take much from the individual writer, it is still a violation of one’s trust and theft of one’s work. To make matters worse, there is absolutely nothing which can be done to detect this type of scam as it follows the exact same channels as legitimate employers.

The only way to avoid being taken in by such a scam is to refuse to apply for any job which requires you to write a sample article specified by the employer. This of course will negate any possibility for employment if the offer turned out to be genuine. Whether or not you want to take the risk of having your material stolen is entirely up to you.

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