This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.
Freelancing via the wonders of our connected technology can be a rewarding endeavor, but it doesn’t come without its risks. Just as with anything else you do on the internet, the possibility of coming across a hacker or an online scammer is always lurking.
To ensure that you don’t fall into the traps of any hackers or scammers while you’re freelancing, here are a few security tips:
Secure Your Computer
As a freelancer, you’re bound to have important information stored on your PC and most definitely, your online accounts. So why leave this information practically out in the open?
Your clients will not be happy if their personal information gets picked up by some hacker and neither will you; it can devastate your business and reputation as an online freelancer.
Luckily, protecting your computer is both easy, affordable, and won’t require too much work on your part.
For the ultimate security combo, I recommend installing both a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and an anti-virus program.
Both can be found for free, but a paid VPN service will get you some extra benefits, such as round-the-clock customer service, more bandwidth, and additional locations to choose from.
What a VPN does is encrypt your internet connection so that you can surf the web anonymously. The VPN is a remote server, so when you connect to it, the VPN’s IP address and location will appear in your place, keeping your own IP address and location hidden from anyone trying to pick up on it.
You can choose from a variety of different locations so it will also unblock any geo-restricted content for you as well.
So which VPN is the best one to download? Right now, ExpressVPN takes the title as the best VPN, and rightfully so. Their customer service leaves nothing to be desired, and they offer a 30-day, money-back guarantee.
Other than the VPN, if you haven’t installed an anti-virus program yet, it is a wise idea to do so. Luckily, you can get a quality anti-virus program for free; though you can also pay for one if you desire additional features beyond the basics.
For an anti-virus program, I recommend Panda Free AntiVirus due to its modern and easy-to-understand interface.
Know How to Recognize a Scam
Scams are not always easy to spot, unless you’ve already experienced them.
Scammers posting fake job listings can goad you into wasting your subsciption allowance at freelance job sites and your time. This is actually something that occurs more commonly than one might realize, unfortunately.
It’s a good idea to keep your work correspondence and agreements on the freelance website you’re using, if possible, as many of these sites protect both you and the employer if something doesn’t work out the way that you expected.
Some of these websites also require a “safe pay,” which is a deposit paid by the employer that gets released to you upon completion of the job.
Most noticeable are the job listings that simply sound too good to be true. Be wary of these because although not all of them are scams, some are and can potentially waste your time and effort.
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Check Your Passwords
This is a useful security tip for anyone: make sure that the passwords you are using include at least some numbers, uppercase letters, and symbols, when possible.
They should also be at least 8 characters long and never contain any personal information.
Change them on a regular basis to avoid any security issues and never use the same password for more than one of your online accounts.
Know What Information to Share
The thought of sharing your personal information with your employer doesn’t seem too strange, does it?
Well, when you’re working online doing freelance work, it can be a security risk. It’s likely that you can’t confirm the actual identity of the person you’re working for, and it’s rare that you would have their address (not to mention that anyone online can give you false information).
Never share your banking details, passwords, or social security number and if you can avoid it, try to keep your address to yourself as well.
Employers really shouldn’t require too much information from you, especially if the job is temporary.
Use a Dedicated Email Address
Another tip that can be helpful is to use an email account that is specifically for your freelance work and keep your personal email separate.
That way, if a scam or hacker does target you, your personal account won’t be compromised.
It will also keep you organized, as all of your work-related emails will be in an account that is separate from your personal account.
Back Up Your Files
Because you will be working with a lot of files as a freelancer, it’s important that you keep a backup.
This ensures that you don’t lose all of your data if your computer happens to crash. Another good tip is to keep any documents that contain personal information password protected, as to keep them from prying eyes.
If you follow all of the tips mentioned in this article, you shouldn’t have any issues with security breaches any time soon.
Adding a VPN will even allow you to work over public Wi-Fi, so you can get the job done even if you’re traveling.
To avoid falling victim to a scam, pay attention to the language potential employers use in their job listings or emails; the most common scams are the ones that just sound off.
Use your intuition and follow your gut feeling; if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Most importantly, never give out your bank account details or credit card number and avoid any jobs that claim they will need you to pay for something up front.
With your computer secure and these security tips in mind, freelancing can be both enjoyable and a great opportunity for anyone interested in working remotely.
Cassie is a writer and blogger who likes to focus on technological solutions and safety for companies. She also writes frequently about consumer internet security, travel, and business procedures.