I got asked this today, but admittedly, I’ve been asked other times too. While our industry attracts mainly good clients, we do get the occasional one that thinks they can use a VA for their own evil purposes – namely to launder money or trick someone into doing the wrong thing and therefore losing money.
In the instance of today, there were many things in the emails sent to the VA that waved a red flag for me and I’ll share them with you. This is a portion of my reply to her.
- The client had mentioned that you, the VA would be his PA and Cashier. No VA is a cashier – the mention of this is a warning signal. He wants you to do something with money – VAs don’t generally handle money on behalf of clients. There may be the odd exception – but only after a good working relationship has been established and both parties know one another. Never process payments on behalf of a client, bank a cheque and then give them change back or similar activities. This could be a money laundering scam and you could end up in court and prison for this.
- The mention of seeking an honest person – he’s appealing to you in this way because he, himself is not honest. Why bring it up? Generally clients don’t.
- Likewise for the words ‘trusted and trustworthy’. Why is the client approaching a complete stranger and talking about trustworthiness? The client should be looking for recommendations via people he knows personally.
- Use of the word ‘applicant’. Did you apply for a job? If not, why is this person approaching you in this manner and how did he find you? VAs are self-employed, not employees.
- He mentioned a wage – again, VAs are self-employed. You set your rates, he doesn’t and therefore he won’t be paying a wage, but rather paying on invoice or by contract.
- Why does he need to know your age and sex? This is discriminatory and no client should be asking that information and is certainly not relevant to any role a VA might take on.
Other things to consider: this particular new VA doesn’t yet have a web presence and isn’t listed with any VA networks. The ‘client’ had found her because she’d advertised via one of the freelance websites. Genuine clients usually make contact asking if you can help them and how much you charge. They never have a list of questions for you to fill out regarding your address, sex, age, etc and they won’t tell you what your wage will be.
When you’re new at this business and eager for work it is often easy to overlook the very things that should be warning signs to you. I hope my post above helps to serve that purpose. For the record, I don’t give out my own address and use a PO Box instead. And belonging to VA forums and networks will help keep you informed of possible scams or types of people to look out for.