You weren’t going to try to buy a place on TechCrunch for $20. You, dear reader, are smarter than that. But that doesn’t make it any less concerning when a reader emails you in the middle of the night to let you know that someone’s posing as you on Fiverr, name, biography, picture and all.
Heck, it barely even bothered me that the U.K.-based individual was charging a mere $20 for “basic” TechCrunch writing, versus $30 for “standard” Forbes and $50 for “premium” New York Times. Okay, that one stung a little.
I’ve heard stories of individuals targeting colleagues for access to people and companies or review units, but this particular approach was a relatively new one for me. The listing stated that “I will publish your articles on TechCrunch and other high profile websites,” adding that I both write for a number of high-profile sites and have connections at others and, as such, “am ready to help as many people as I can with this platform.”
I scrambled to find the customer service info. The process was a bit convoluted, but I ultimately found the form and fired off an email. Fiverr’s robot sent a message informing me that, “due to excessive demand, a reply may take longer than one business day. Please accept our apologies in advance for any reply that exceeds this time frame, but be assured we are working hard to get back to you as quickly as possible to provide a considerate response.”
One wonders whether such delays are the result of limited staffing or excessive takedown requests. Probably some combination of the two. I ultimately reached out to someone at Fiverr directly both in hopes of expediting the removal process and getting some insight into how easy it was to pretend to be someone for money.
“Obviously the integrity of our marketplace is something we take very seriously as authenticity is a cornerstone of the Fiverr community,” a rep for the company told me. “Any Fiverr profile page and gig created with the intent to mislead is against our Terms of Service. Therefore in order to ensure a safe and reliable customer experience, we are implementing ID-verification protocols across the marketplace which is successfully routing out instances like this.”
The whole thing went down a few weeks back, but upon hearing the news of the company IPOing, I did another search to see if there were any more users claiming to be a direct conduit to these hallowed pages. I only feel slightly better for the fact that whoever is claiming to get stories on Forbes and TechCrunch is charging a slightly more premium $50 per.
I reached out again to get more information on the ID verification feature. More info can obtained be here, though not specifics on when the feature is implemented. In the meantime, I took it upon myself to offer up Anthony Ha’s Stanford-honed writing skills for $5 an article. Creating the account (I’ve since deactivated) was simple enough using my email and phone number. In fact, the only bit that took any time was the 40-question test required to offer up one’s services as a writer.
Hopefully the newly public company will use some additional resources to further discourage bad actors such as myself from dragging Anthony’s good name into the gig economy for $5 a pop.