Freelancing is a great way to sell your skills and expertise without the overheads that accompany a traditional business. One can build a successful business working from home.
Building a freelance career takes hard work as one seeks to become a reputable worker. It takes hours of practice, networking, pitching and customer service to land and maintain a client. You want to build a lasting, working relationship that will see repeat business for your freelancing career.
However, when you spend a lot of time online, there are risks. Identity thieves can deprive you of income, and they can ruin your reputation. Some cyber-criminals use stolen identities on dating sites and other sites you would not want to be associated with, while others extort money from people.
Identity theft is a common cyber-crime, and there is very little one can do legally unless the thief has engaged in criminal activities using your identity.
Identity thieves can do much more than pretending to be you; they can rob you of income. They can contact your clients pretending to be you, and take work that was intended for you.
How Do You Protect Yourself From Identity Thieves?
One way to stay safe is to avoid sharing photos and personal details online. That does not work with freelancers as they need to build a personal brand. Clients work with a real person, not a faceless profile. Therefore it’s easier for identity thieves to steal your identity if you are a freelancer.
Freelancers’ email addresses, photos and personal information are in the public domain. All an identity thief needs to do is to open a new email address that is very close to your own, so it will be difficult to tell them apart. They already have your photo and personal information, so they can contact people while pretending to be you.
Your published articles are accessible to anyone who cares to look for them, so it is easy for a cyber-thief to know who publishes your work, and contact your clients.
One way to combat this issue is to understand how cyber thieves work, and use that information to beat them at their own game.
Passwords Are the Locks That Protect You
Hackers are thieves who break into your personal space and steal from you. The best way to combat this is to use complex passwords that are hard for hackers to break.
Passwords are padlocks that protect you, so think safety before convenience. Do not choose passwords because they are easy to remember, but because they are strong enough to keep you safe.
Avoid using any of your names, your date of birth, the name of your blog, where you come from or anything that is linked to you. These are the first things hackers will try. Some hackers even use software that tries all words from the dictionary, so such words are not strong enough.
Use words that no stranger can guess, such as the name of your childhood friend or nanny, or something else dear to you like a pet you loved as a child, your favorite grandmother’s nickname or the little-known village where she was born. Change your passwords regularly.
Make it difficult for cyber thieves to get your information and they will give up.
To stop thieves from accessing your property in the real world, you keep an eye out to make sure you detect attempts to infringe on your security. As a freelancer, you need to be equally vigilant online.
Make conducting online searches about your identity part of your regular activity. Your routine could be once daily or once a week, but you have to do it often. Set your search tools to conduct searches for articles posted in the past 24 hours or one week, depending on your chosen search schedules.
Conduct searches on social media as well, in case there are articles attributed to you that are shared on those platforms.
Thieves don’t like hard work so get rid of them. When you come across anything published in your name by identity thieves, contact the editor promptly and explain the position. Be prepared to prove your identity should it be required.
You could request the email the thief used to get in touch with the clients, and use it to contact the thief to let them know you are going to take legal action.
Once you confirm that your identity has been stolen, do not take chances. Contact your clients and let them know the situation, just in case the identity thief plans to contact them pretending to be you.
Do Not Fall Into Traps
Exercise common sense while working online. Avoid falling into traps such as phishing websites. Cybercriminals set up ad pop-ups or websites that look genuine, and they get your details when you freely give it to them.
Do not give personal information in response to emails, even if they are from your bank or clients. Reputable organizations do not ask for details via email, so be wary if that happens. Contact them on the phone instead, and find out if they have requested the information. Cyber-criminals can impersonate organizations you deal with, and you might not notice the difference.
Avoid clicking website links or copy-pasting them but instead, go to the browser box and type them out yourself.
Be extremely cautious about who you trust with your information online. Cross check businesses to ensure they are safe before you submit your personal information. Only share your information if you have initiated the communication yourself, even if they are requests for quotations. Always check websites to ensure they are secure. The first part of the website should read https:// and not http://, because this means that there is an extra level of security on the website that helps protect its visitors, as well as its own content.
Invest in reliable scanning software for your computer to protect you from cyber criminals. This is usually known as anti-virus software and can detect spam emails, unsafe websites and can block viruses entering your system that have the ability to retrieve your personal information.
Do Business via Freelancing Platforms
One way to protect yourself while you are getting started in your freelance career is to use reputable freelance platforms. Freelancer has thousands of freelance jobs and has reliable safety features to keep you secure. You can bid for jobs within the platform itself. You also become a member of a community of freelancers where you learn from the experience of others.
As you grow in your career and become more experienced, plan to set up your own freelancing website. Position yourself as an expert and drive traffic from your social networking accounts. Have your website professionally designed, and invest in security. Never compromise on making yourself secure.
The internet has transformed the world of work, enabling people to build careers without working for someone else. The anonymity provided by the internet, however, makes it easy for cyber-criminals to thrive. By taking steps to protect yourself online, you can minimize the chances of having your identity stolen. Sharing this safety information with others will contribute to making the internet safer for all of us. No one should make it easy for cybercriminals.
Has your identity ever been stolen? How did you deal with the thief? Let us know in the comments section below.