Wednesday, February 1, 2017


By: Gigi Frost

This will be the first of a three-part article series investigating:
PART 2. Subsequent involvement with
PART 3. The resulting Cease and Desist issues I experienced with, a part of IBM.

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During the last year of freelance writing, I came across some serious issues that deserve attention. First off, outside of the corporate environment, I noticed that many internet “freelance” writing sites do the bare minimum when it comes to checks and balances. This goes for someone looking for potential work, and it also goes for employers looking to allegedly hire freelancers. In all honesty, it seems as though all you really need in either case is an email address, and a fake profile. Appallingly, the host site itself does not check for W-9 information, or even check for employee/employer identification.

Simply put, though these sites tout their value and belief in protecting both parties, the site does nothing to prevent fraudulent scams, most of which could be easily avoided. I decided to start my own investigation, as I often noticed alternating extremes of “total scam” or “so awesome” when I poked around the internet for opinions.


The first place I chose to investigate was Guru is a site that has claimed the prized role of offering supposed value for the employer and great opportunities for freelance writers. I signed up with Guru as both a freelancer and an employer. Astoundingly, Guru never checked my identification, it never asked for some sort of government ID or W-9 information up front. As a matter of fact, as an employer, it never checked for any sort of legitimacy when it came to the company or individual looking to do the hiring.

Guru is littered with every kind of freelance “want” ad that you can imagine. For my purpose, I chose the “writing” category, and found myself inundated with hundreds of “jobs” that range anywhere from $2.00 per article (which goes against Guru’s own policy of a minimum amount) to $5,000.00 for supposed work that did not specify actual job parameters. In the course of three (3) months, I applied to approximately 150 job postings, ranging from $5.00 per article to $150.00 “guaranteed” per day.

This is what I found:

  1. “Employers” on Guru, generally tend to post their advertisements with false guarantees of reimbursement. For example, a job post will list itself as worth “$250.00 or more” for “Article Writing”. When you click on the link, the actual description will state that you will be paid $5.00 for 350-500 word articles.
  2. Most of the “employers” that contacted me back had no company name or address on file. As a matter of fact, one of the most glaringly obvious scams was from a person using the nickname “Mercy”. (I will explain in further detail below.)
  3. Out of 150 job postings, I can honestly say that only two legitimate employers contacted me.
  4. It seems as though most of the “employers” looking for writing work are individual people who are either looking to get free work out of writers, or they are trying to get out of writing for their own workplace or school assignments.
  5. Many potential freelance employees on Guru are not in the United States. They seem to influx any advertised job that offers even the most pathetic pay (not to mention illegal in the United States) of “$5.00 for 100 articles that are 400 words or more”.  This is literally hours of work for $5.00. Come on, minimum wage rules exist for a reason.
  6. Any job posting that looks for “native” English speakers to cover various “niches” is a scam.
  7. Payments are paid through Paypal. Though only seems interested in taking a cut of the pay the freelancer will be earning, they neither care nor require any additional tax paperwork for earnings. Though I have read some opinions from other freelancers to the contrary, I have yet to receive a request for W-9 paperwork. I think the Internal Revenue Service would care a great deal. By the way, for all of you new freelancers out there, you must report all income for the fiscal tax year, so keep good records.
  8. Alarmingly, one prospective employer actually informed me that I was “hired” and would be starting immediately. Then they told me to post my W-9 information and my picture holding my driver’s license up next to my face. NEVER EVER DO THIS. (Read here for the article regarding this issue.) I can see why some freelancers would fall for this scam. But just because you are exchanging messages on, it does not mean that you are protected. When I informed of this issue, and requested the information of the individual posting this request, refused to assist me. As a matter of fact, it was not until I mentioned that I was filing a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for Internet Fraud, that actually agreed to cancel the “employer’s” account. How does this help any freelancer in the future? It does not. As any “employer” can sign up on the site with a different email address.
  9. The “employer” is not required to take down their advertisement even after fulfillment. Which means that the ten free “bids” that a freelancer is given at the beginning of the month to use bidding on jobs is generally a waste of time, effort, and ultimately money. requires any extra “bids” for that month be purchased, even though the freelancer was not the one being negligent in false job advertising.
  10. As long as gets their share of the earnings, they do not seem to care that there is a massive issue which needs internal restructuring to remedy. They only thing that takes seriously is if a prospective employer asks the freelancer to “contact” them outside of the site, as this would obviously take away from Guru’s commission. Do not ever think that it is because Guru is trying to protect the freelancer. You will see why below.

Magnifying Glass, Zoom, Loupe, Magnify

"I need to request for a writer who is competent and self minded to produce  a unique and original contents within a given time duration.
Thanks in advance."

The Investigation

As I began to sort my way through the list of messages from employers, I decided to test out potential jobs. Like I stated above, only two (2) out of approximately 150 advertisements for jobs were actually legitimate. Though I shied away from a majority of scam offers that came my way, I decided to accept a job to see how far an individual “employer” would go.

On November 23, 2016, sent me an email stating:

Hi Gigi,
Below is a message from Mercy for Project ID: 1307436, "Experienced article writer needed".

Hello there,
Let's connect via skype for more details about the projects.

Your friends at Guru

I contacted “” on Skype. The individual then added me to his or her “friends” list and we began a discussion. The person worked under the Skype screen name of “Elvis Monday” and requested that I refer to him/her as “Elvis”.

I was greeted and asked to describe my writing experience. When I wrote out my experience, I was asked how many hours I could work per day. I was never asked for references, a resume, or any sort of W-9 information. When I inquired about pay, “Elvis” informed me that he/she would pay bi-monthly (every 2 weeks) via Paypal or Western Union. “Elvis” then repeated the question of how many hours I could work per day. I informed “Elvis” that I would not start until we ironed out pay. “Elvis” informed me that I would be paid $15.00/per 400 word article. Then he/she repeated the vastly repetitive mantra: “How many hours can you work?” Again, before I answered the question, I told him/her that I would need to be paid more often than every 2 weeks. “Elvis” immediately agreed to a weekly payment.

With all of these wonderful red flags going off, there were some glaring points going off in my head. This was obviously a scam. “Elvis” could barely form a sentence in English. There were several typographical errors, not to mention some serious grammar habits indicating a suspicion that I was messaging with someone in China. Of course, “Elvis” claimed that he/she was in Ohio.

When I asked “Elvis” what company I was working for, he/she informed me that “you work for me”. Of course, the next question was “How many hours can you work?” I informed “Elvis” that I could work from 6:00AM to 12:00PM Central Time, but I would not be able to work holidays. “Elvis” readily agreed to my terms and then asked “When do you start?” As it was 7:00AM, I told him/her that I could start that day. I decided to waste a few hours for the next few days on “Elvis”. “Elvis” informed me that he/she would only ask me for “one 450-500 word article every 2 hours.”

Let the games begin.

“Elvis” always asked the same thing: “You ready?”

On November 23, 2016, “Elvis” copied and pasted the following writing assignment into Skype:

Title: A blog postdog clothes

Category: Pets

Keyword: "6 Puppy Dog Sweaters That Your Pooch Needs Immediately"

Word count: 500


Writing style: Friendly tone

Article purpose: IMPORTANT: This is not a SEO article. Please don't focus on Keyword density and just write

naturally. Writer MUST be native english speaker.

""6 Puppy Dog Sweaters That Your Pooch Needs Immediately"" is the title of the article. Please focus on getting

enough information from my ecommerce website ( and do some research from other


Use credible sources and write naturally.

Please list your sources at the bottom of the article.

This first article I'm requesting serves as a test to evaluate whether you're fit for a long project.

You will be asked to write a short message before writing the article.

Special instructions: The article MUST be unique and original. It will be thoroughly checked for scrapping and spinning.

The goal withthis articles is to persuade readers to buy one of the dog hoodies I sell at

The first question plaguing me was where had “Elvis” received this work order? I knew that did not offer that particular syntax for project requests. Though I finished the “article” within an hour, I decided to let “Elvis” wait for the two hour period that he had listed. At approximately the 1 hour and 30 minute mark, “Elvis” messaged me: “How is it?”

Two minutes later, he/she messaged me again: “Done yet?”

I decided to contact “Elvis” with ten minutes to spare. But when “Elvis” told me to send the work solely on Skype, I refused. I informed him/her that I preferred to sent it via email, and that any work I did would be sent via email. I also informed “Elvis” that he/she could not use my work unless I was paid. Of course, “Elvis” agreed. I repeated myself again, no consent for use unless I was paid. He/she responded, “Yes.”

I wrote four (4) articles for “Elvis” on November 23, 2016. They were all formatted in the same manner as the first:

Title: Article for travel blog

Category: Travel and Leisure

Keyword: andaman tour package cost

Word count: 500

Time: 2hrs



Writing style: Friendly tone

Article purpose: For travel blog

Special instructions: -unique article

-Include title

-Keyword not more than 2-3 times in article
The modus operandi was always the same, he/she would assign me some random topic with certain instructions, and then he/she would contact me at least an hour to an hour and a half into the assignment with “hows it going” or “you done?”

I worked with “Elvis” this way for three days, until November 26, 2016. I produced several pieces for him/her and had yet to see any sort of contract.

While all of this was going on, I also kept up on the activity at There, I found another person posting under the name “Michell”. The advertisement conditions were exactly the same as “Elly Monday’s”, so I decided to apply, briefly wondering if they were one and the same.

“Michell” had a profile picture hosted on of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Since scarcely acknowledges rampant scams conducted throughout their site, I am not surprised that they do not heed copyright laws for personal privacy.

I got an email on November 28, 2016 from

Hi Gigi,
Below is a message from Michell for Project ID: 1309687, "Article/SEO writer Needed".

You can connet to me through this skype id "wyatt.collett1"just add and connect to me.We can start anytime
Thank you

Your friends at Guru

Again, after adding “wyatt.collett1” to Skype, he/she went into the exact same discussion with me. Of course, the biggest question was “When can you start?”

I informed “Wyatt” that I had done work for “Elvis” and had yet to be reimbursed. “Wyatt” magnanimously told me to send him/her the invoice and that he/she would pay it. I had no idea what “Wyatt” was talking about. Why would this person want to pay for work that someone else commissioned?

This was even messier than the scam “Elvis” was running. It was clear that “Wyatt” would say anything to get me to work. I decided to see how far I could push it. I informed “Wyatt” that I wanted to be reimbursed every two (2) days. He/she refused and offered to pay every two (2) weeks. I told him/her I could not do that.

In the meantime, I also contacted “Elvis” and informed him/her that I would need to be paid for the work that I had done and that I would no longer be working for him/her. In the space of five minutes, “Elvis” went from serenely accepting of my words to really telling me a thing or two. When I had first informed “Elvis” that I expected to be reimbursed and I would send him/her an invoice, he/she agreed. Then, still acting quite agreeable, “Elvis” requested that any article “Wyatt” commissioned be sent directly to him/her. I refused.

Five minutes later, “Elvis” had a lot more to say.

You know I see you have no experence in matter. This job is repitation and youare gettig a bad one. Who is the name you ar working for? I wont pay you he is scammer. You are tricked. When you decide he scam you then comeback and I will take you. I will notpay you until he pays. He is a scam.

I told “Elvis” that I would no longer work for him/her, but I expected to be reimbursed for my work, if not, I absolutely would not give him permission to use it. This is the response I got:

No. I will not pay. You brok the agreemet first.


On the other Skype chat, “Wyatt” was suddenly agreeing to paying every three days. He/she pretty much okayed everything I asked for. I decided to get ridiculous and told “Wyatt” that I would only work when I felt like it, and I would give him/her notice on days I did not feel like it. The response?


I also informed “Wyatt” that I wanted a minimum of $35.00 per article, up to 350 words. I clearly stated that I would be writing, but did not give consent for use without payment. The response? You guessed it!


I told “Wyatt” to give me an email address to send him/her the articles he/she wanted. He/she gave me the email address “ I inquired as to where he/she was located. “Wyatt” informed me that he/she was in Ohio. Strange coincidence. I noticed “Wyatt’s” writing style was similar to that of “Elvis”, the stiff techniques, bad grammar and sentence structure led me to believe that he/she was most likely in China. Since I suspected that “Wyatt” was most likely cut from the same cloth as “Elvis”, I decided to delve a bit further.

This was one of the writing assignments that “Wyatt” posted on Skype:

1. Short introduction, short descriptions of the hairstyles, and a short conclusion.

2. Enumerate the sections describing each hairstyle with such subheadings (words capitalized, spaces between all of the words and numbers, no periods needed): # 1 Hairstyle Name

3. Describe the following pictures:

Here is another one:

Project title:   I need 1 article about lightning

Category:  Home and Family

Keyword:  Operating your Harbor Breeze Ceiling Fan

Word count: 300TIME 1HR
Writing style: Friendly tone

Article purpose: I need articles about lightning for my site article should bear an informative character.Do headers in textSpecial instructions: no jargon, no bad words, no links, no commercial info (no prices, no places where to buy or order)

And one more:

Project title:   The Breakup Doctor Review

Category:  Shopping and Product Reviews

Keyword:  The Breakup Cure Review

Word count: 300

Writing style: Friendly tone

Article purpose: product review

Special instructions: Hello in article please use these words that i defined below. At least one time use these words in article otherwise i cant accept that. Title should be long and different and use our words in that title. Thank youThe Breakup Cure Review, The Breakup Doctor Review

Do these posts look familiar? I suspect that “Wyatt” was getting his/her work orders from the same pool “Elvis” had been dipping his/her greedy fingers into. After a day of writing for “Wyatt”, I saw that he/she was a lot sloppier at keeping tabs on his/her writers. Even if I passed the deadline and waited, “Wyatt” did not bother to contact me. I would have to send the work in and reach out on Skype to await confirmation of receipt.

After covering another pile of random subjects for subpar articles, I decided to call it a day. Contacting “Wyatt”, I informed him that I expected to be paid and sent him an invoice via Skype and email. “Wyatt” did not take long, blocking me on Skype, and failing to respond to my emails.

Though I was not able to trace "Wyatt" via Skype interaction, I was able to track "Elvis" based on the IP that was generated when he or she originally emailed me work order transactions early on. The reader should not be surprised that Ohio based "Elvis" was, in fact, shooting emails from China.

But hey, what do I know? Maybe there is a place called Ohio in China...

Image result for google maps china

The Results

Though I will not go on tediously about every single writing assignment I covered, or all the jobs and attitudes that I encountered on, I can honestly say that is in a vast gray area of legalities. My experience is just a tiny fraction of the serious issues associated with this site. truly does not care about the freelance writer, privacy, or theft. They blatantly throw their terms and conditions at the user if something illegal happens, but refuses to aid in any sort of resolution for future prevention.

This is why scams abound on Furthermore, as a result of my encounters on, and specifically with the two scammers that chose to steal from me, I was able to gain insight as to where the article requests were coming from. And (on average) how much the scammers were making. All of this will be covered in PART 2 of this investigation.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to state that I did this investigation and subsequent research in order to get the word out there. Information is power, and I am sick of seeing fake reviews about the benefits of sites like If you are trying to get into freelance writing, do yourself a favor and find better jobs. is not the place for you. You are better off doing some extra leg-work and searching out online publications and publishers who best fit your writing subject and style. You can always submit your work for review, or even solicit submission guidelines. In the end, you will get what you put into it. If you look for a quick fix, you are doomed to fail... And if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

LEGAL: The views and experiences enumerated in this article are the sole opinions of the author. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author.

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