Stealing profile bios: The truth about freelancing

Before reading this article, if you haven’t already, please read the first article in this series, as this one sort of continues where that left off. You’ll find it here.

In my last article, I wrote about my blog posts being plagiarized, and mentioned that other “bits of my writing” have suffered the same fate. I didn’t mention what those pieces were, because I think that’s a whole another topic – one which I’ll write about, in part, today.

Once, when I visited a suspicious looking account to see if they really were all they claimed to be, I discovered something shocking. Their profile bio looked familiar. In fact, I remembered where I’d seen it before. I visited the other account, and sure enough, there it was – the very same bio I’d just read.

Now, the second person here happened to be a fairly active member who’d been working on the site for a while. The first account, however, seemed dodgy, and had completed no projects till date. So, it was obvious that Mr. Sketchy had stolen the second person’s bio. I reported them immediately, and that was that.

This incident informed me of the fact that profile bios were being stolen. So, I Googled snippets from my own bio, to see if anyone had stolen it. Unsurprisingly, they had. So, I reported their accounts as well, providing a link to my own profile for reference.

This problem was especially rampant on the website where I usually work, but there were instances across other platforms too. I was surprised to find that support staff on most websites were extremely responsive. I was able to contact them through Twitter in most cases, and a quick Google check a week later turned up no results except my own profile. I have since been regularly checking to see if anyone else has tried the same trick. If they have, I report them. So, that’s how I deal with this.

Now, let’s discuss how they obtain my profile bio, because that might point at how to prevent the problem from occurring. I wasn’t able to pinpoint an exact way, but I think it’s either by posting fake projects, or by searching for profiles by entering a random name, and copying whichever one looks good enough.

Fake projects are (as defined by me) projects posted with no intention to actually get any work done. These might be to ask around for the current charge, out of plain curiosity, or with more nefarious intent. My hypothesis is that they post a project with relevant skill tags, skim through the bids for profiles they like, and then copy the profile from any one person. So, I’ve started being more selective with the projects that I bid on, avoiding new accounts with no reviews.

The second is self-explanatory. In my case, it must be particularly easy, because my name is a very common one in my country. And I hate to admit this, but in most cases, people copying my bio have been from in or around India – therefore, my name would likely be among the first few they’d try. I’d be surprised if a few weren’t using my image as well. But that’s for another time.

Stay tuned for my next article, which will be on bid proposal plagiarisation – where people use your experience, your skills, and your client hook to try to find work.

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