Freelance writing can be exhausting. To be successful, you have to source new clients, grow your brand and build your reputation through your pieces. Once at the top, the struggle does not end. You now have to maintain that status, as well as protect your identity from being stolen.
Identity theft is not a new phenomenon to freelance writers. The web is home to thousands of devious individuals who are always ready to take advantage of your identity for monetary gain. These people often target authority writers, and it is not news that identity theft is one of the most common cyber-crimes. It may be more of a surprise to learn that in many places, you can’t legally do anything if the person who stole your identity didn’t commit a crime in the process.
This should not imply there is nothing you can do. We have put together six strategies which you can put in place to protect your writing identity online.
Avoid phishing scams
Identity theft is usually carried out when you least expect it. Most of the perpetrators target freelance writers, because they believe them gullible to traps. They might masquerade as organizations which are hiring writers. They will then ask you to send in your information, including your website, portfolio and experiences. Once they have this information, they are free to use it as they please.
To avoid this, be careful when you are sending out your information. Do proper background checks, and always ensure they are legitimate. A quick search on the internet can show you who you are dealing with. Many scams are detailed on forums so you might find one of these posts.
You can also take advantage of freelancer writing groups. There are many groups, with like-minded writers, available all over the web. Before you submit your information, check with other writers about their authenticity and whether anyone has worked with that client before. If you unearth bad experiences other writers may have had, it’s a good indication to stay far away.
Protect your passwords and information
One of the best ways of preventing identity theft is by changing your passwords regularly.This ensures no one can access your profile information. It is also important that you don’t put personal information on social media sites. Social media platforms are a great place for phishing identity information.
Some scammers go to great lengths by asking you to join their blogging sites. They ask you to sign up, and in the process obtain your password details. Always make sure you use different passwords for different sites. This will prevent scammers from gaining access to your other accounts if they get hold of one of your passwords.
Regularly monitoring your identity online
If you don’t want your identity to be stolen, you have to start by monitoring your writing identity online. It is better to mitigate the issue hours after it has occurred rather than wait for a long time, because it can tarnish your reputation.
So how do you check your identity? There are many ways through which you can monitor it. One is by directly searching for articles that have your name or photo. You can filter your results by a particular time frame to be more precise. This is a good option if you have a common name, but if your name is uncommon, you can simply set a Google alert. This alert will notify you of any articles that have been found on the internet bearing your name.
Another way you can monitor your identity is by checking social media platforms, and looking for any links to articles that are attributed to your name. Some people go to the lengths of opening social media accounts using your name, and then posting their content to access your network of followers.
Conduct business in reputable sites
As freelance writers, there is always the lure of finding work from any source whatsoever. The main disadvantage of working away from legitimate freelancer sites like Freelancer is that you don’t know whether the identity information you give to your client might be reproduced without consent. As a writer, your name is your brand, and your work is the end piece. Therefore you need to take care of your brand by being careful with whom you share it.
Sites like Freelancer give writers the freedom to enter into a non-disclosure agreement with clients where certain conditions can be agreed upon. Such an agreement allows you to know how your information is used, and whether you’ll be writing in a ghostwriting capacity or using your own identity. Again, it’s important to understand what each option means to you.
Contact the editor of the blog
What should you do when you find out someone has used your identity? One of the best measures is to contact the editor of that blog directly. There is a high chance the editor was not aware of the identity theft when they were posting the article. They might have assumed it was you all along. When confronting the editor with what’s happened, it’s prudent to have all available details which prove your identity. Once your identity is confirmed, ask them to take down the article and share their correspondence with the identity thief with you. By doing so, you will be able to contact the identity thief to let them know you are on to them.
Agree on a safe payment plan
To avoid scammers who might want to phish your details, always make sure you agree on a payment plan before work commences. This is a sensible measure, especially if you have a broad portfolio of past work in your name. By doing so, you will be sorting the scammers from the serious clients. Established writers usually prefer having retainers from customers, or having the entire work protected by escrow payments. This way, the writer is certain the client will not disappear with their work, and identity.
These six measures will help protect and prevent your identity from being stolen. It's always better to think twice before sharing your information, even if it's hard not to (considering that you want to get paid). If you are a well-established writer, make sure you protect your identity as you would protect one of your properties. Clients will hire you because of the work you have done before. If they Google your name and find sub-standard work attributed to you, they will definitely think twice about hiring.
Has your writing identity ever been stolen? What did you do? How did the whole experience turn out? Share your story with other freelancers in the comments section below.