Outsourcing Scams You Need to Watch Out For


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If you are reading this, then I feel for you. I too have been a victim of outsourcing scams in the past. Getting sub-par work for an exorbitant fee. Hiring someone who doesn’t want to work hard enough for the job. The list goes on. To help you avoid these scams, we’ve compiled the most common outsourcing landmines and where they usually come from.

While freelancers get scammed as well, this particular article is for employers who are tired of having to go through the terrible experience of getting scammed out of their business capital. Before we go through the list of scams, let’s define what is a scam and what isn’t.

What is an outsourcing scam?

An outsourcing scam is a well-planned mode of getting employers to pay for sub-optimal work or none at all. There is a big difference between hiring someone who is scamming you and hiring someone who needs a bit of help to submit excellent work.

Some outsourced workers are just not experienced enough to perform as well as you would like. They are not scamming you. Truthfully, you scammed yourself when you decided to hire someone without experience and expected optimal results.

Bear that in mind before you fire an outsourced worker who is not doing a job well done. A true outsourcing scam is when the worker does not care about results. They only care about getting the money. They are not just limited to workers as well. Scammers can also be hiring managers and CEOs of companies.

Now that you know what a scam is, let’s discuss the latest outsourcing scams you will find online.

Common Outsourcing Scams Employers Encounter


Downpayment Scams

While it is fair to give a downpayment to workers while they perform their duties, it must be noted that there are some outsourced workers who will grab the downpayment and leave you hanging. You could also face a worker who accepts the downpayment and takes weeks or even months to deliver the work they promised.

How to avoid it: Instead of giving a downpayment for a huge project, start with small downpayments for small projects. Once you build trust and loyalty, you can opt to schedule a proper payment plan for your worker. While this is all based on instinct, you can always rely on a good employer-worker relationship to ensure that the money changing hands is always returned with value for both parties. Also, if you are curious about what outsourcing rates should be, check out our blog post about it.

Submit and Run Scams

This is quite similar to the downpayment scam. There are times when you hire someone, ask for work, pay them for submissions, and ask for revisions. The downside is when they fail to respond or disappear completely. 

Examples of submit and run scams are those when a writer submits an article that needs major revisions, but never gets to it. A designer sends in their final draft and doesn’t get back to you when you request for a revision. A virtual assistant does the work you asked for, but made mistakes and refuses to correct them. This is rare, but you should be wary of it happening anyway.

How to avoid it: Ask the outsourced worker to sign a contract where they will get a downpayment only and will get the rest of their payment after you are satisfied with their work. Some outsourced workers will allow only a few revisions, so you must ensure that you are paying for the quality of work you need. Holding their final pay makes it less likely for them to run out on you when revision time comes.

Content Mills

Content mills include writing companies, graphic design companies, and web developers who pose as a legitimate company, but hire underpaid workers to do the job you asked for. What you get from content mills are low quality work, plagiarised pieces or information, and a lack of communication with the producer of your content. 

This is considered a scam because you end up working with an unethical company who takes your money and gives you crappy work in return. Add the fact that they are underpaying their staff and you will end contributing to an industry that is akin to a digital sweat shop.

How to avoid it: Know your content producer. The best content creators are the ones who are transparent about who writes their content. They should also have good reviews on sites like Glassdoor. If possible, directly hire a writer or designer who has marketed themselves properly on their personal website or through LinkedIn.

Agencies Disguised as Freelancers

One of the most common scams you’ll find on job boards are agency managers posing as freelancers. They will promise you excellent work in exchange for a hefty price. What you don’t know is that a portion of that is going to someone else who will be doing the job promised. The problem with a scam like this is the dishonesty, lack of transparency, and duplicity. 

How to avoid it: Compare the first submission of work to their next submissions. You can also check the author of the documents submitted. For example, developers may ask someone else to log in to your site from another location. Secure your documents and assets so that you know who has access to them and you can prevent these hack agencies from outsourcing your already outsourced work. 

Sketchy SEO Link Building Services

I’ve tried this myself in the past and it was probably the worst SEO service I’ve ever encountered. I recently learned that the ideal SEO link building services are a bit more expensive than I first thought. Getting links and getting people to appreciate your content and link back to you requires a ton of patience and work. 

I was offered quick search engine page ranking success and lots of backlinks. What I didn’t know was that the links offered were the ones Google hates. Not only did I lose money, I got on Google’s bad side.

How to avoid it: Check the reviews of these services and the people who reviewed them. Sites like Authority Hacker has in depth reviews about SEO services and you can rest assured that they have tried and looked at the quality of links and outreach they were getting. Remember, outreach and link building will never be cheap. Pay $1000 instead of $100. If not, you’ll end up losing five to six figures when you get on Google, Yahoo, and Bing’s bad side.

Virtual Assistant Agency Scams

This is almost the same as content mill scams. While there are legitimate virtual assistant agencies out there, some of them are simply groups of untrained virtual assistants who bought a website. They could also be managers who hire VA’s out of nowhere when you ask for their services. When you become a victim of an agency like this, you end up with a lacklustre VA that has no training whatsoever, and you end up paying for the price of a high-end VA due to commissions.

How to avoid it: Check the reputation of the agency you are getting your VA from. They must be a registered business with transparent practices. Their VA’s should be using their real names as well. If you are outsourcing from a particular country, check the organisations there and ask if the company you plan to hire is a legitimate business.

Moonlighting Scams

We all know that some people need to work two jobs or more to make ends meet. However, when you pay for full time work, you expect full time work. When your outsourced worker lies to you about their work history, they may end up affecting your company’s overall performance. What’s worse is if you get the blame for any liability like overwork, illnesses, and work-related accidents. They may not think they are scamming you because they need money, but lying and working on another business on your dime is as scammy as it gets. 

How to avoid it: Before hiring someone, make sure that they are honest about their work conditions. If they have another job, they must say so. Check their LinkedIn profile and see if they are active with other companies. Do a background check and see when they last published their work. If it was just a few days ago, you need to ask them about it. If they are working part time, that should be fine, depending on what you need from them. 

It can be difficult for an employer to avoid these scams because you are doing most of the work online. Still, if you are vigilant about hiring the right person, you can avoid these outsourcing scams and help the virtual workers who deserve the job you are offering.


Amy King

Amy is the founder of Outsource To Success. She aims to provide digital agencies and creative consultants the tools they need to help scale their business, successfully hire a remote team and support a positive team culture.

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