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.

Tis the season … to watch out for professional scammers! More specifically … check fraud.

As a newbie solopreneur I thought I had fully prepared myself for all the ups and downs of starting a freelance business. I made my list of to-dos and checked it twice. I created a business plan, selected and obtained a legal structure, draft a contract, so on and so forth. However, nothing prepared me for losing $3,500 from a professional scammer.

The “client” found my website through my google ad, sent me an email explaining his need of proofreading and editing brochures on the topic of STD prevention and safe sex. He agreed to the $150 price, signed the contract I drafted and sent the deposit check.

Join the community that looks out for one another (it's free!)

Become a Freelancers Union member

Seemed simple enough until I received the check and noticed it was for $3500. Instead of following my gut to either rip it up or send it back, I contacted the client to alert him of the mistake. He expressed his “shock and awe” at how this mistake could have happened but informed me that it was best to cash the check into my account and send another check back to him for the difference after I had taken out my fee. WRONG CHOICE!

By the time my bank informed me that his initial check was not good, I had already written and sent the check reflecting the difference in the amount of $3,350. Of course it was cashed immediately and before I knew it I was out $3,350.

What caught me off guard was the “client” played his role well. Until the day that he cashed my check, we’d correspond often regarding the brochures. His vision, his audience and what he needed to keep while I was editing. After my check was cashed he sent me one final email asking me for the first proof of the edited brochures and signed off with a “thank you for your cooperation. I appreciate your patience and again my apologies for the inconvenience.” Total slap across the face.

Freelancers, continue to be vigilant. This was my terrible holiday story but people like this lurk the Internet daily looking for new prey. Follow your gut when something extraordinary happens or when things are too good to be true.

Briana lives and works as a freelance writer in Atlanta, GA. When she actually removes herself from her computer screen she likes to be pampered at the spa, enjoy great company with family and friends, and eat out.