I’m continuing some consumer protection work covering Fiverr scams and the manner by which the popular Internet company continues to defend and support these scams. The initial portion of this post began as a response to a rather long thread in the WarriorForum and I’ve gone on to expound from there.
Post response by Chris Kent on July 1, 2011 to “Ban by Fiverr? Here the reason” [sic]:
“Fiverr will ban you if they might lose out of it. On the other hand, they hardly ever ban scammer providers.
“I have twice gotten a refund out of scammers with the help of their helpdesk.
“For example, the first was someone who posts your link on his wall which is a fake “chick’s wall”. He adds several thousand in Photoshop to his list of 72 friends.
“When you get your refund, your negative rating disappears. Fiverr know they have scammers and refuse to ban them. They just want to keep people getting scammed so they make more money.” (Kent, 2011.)
So true!! Here’s a firsthand account (complete with screen captures) about the first Fiverr scam I became aware of. (How NOT to Drive Traffic Using Fiverr | Marketing Ideas 101) This scam was for increased traffic to my website for a month, but the seller was supplying junk traffic. I called the gig off early and Fiverr gave the scam artist the out and removed my negative rating and removed my warning to future shoppers.
A couple weeks later, I ran across another scam involving Craigslist ad postings. This particular gig seller couldn’t produce any ads that weren’t ghosted (in Craigslist vernacular, a ghosted ad appears to be live, however it does not show up in the index pages nor through search.) Apparently, the seller’s previous buyers were blissfully unaware the ads the seller was providing were relatively useless.
As of today, I have officially been banned by Fiverr for the first time after buying $830 in $5 gigs from them over the past year.
My offense? I asked a content writer to work up a blog post about Fiverr scams. No kidding. The gig owner wrote this shortly before my account was restricted:
“Hi there Matt! I’m very sorry but I have to pass this time. I don’t feel confident or competent enough with your particular topic or requirements. Requesting for the cancellation of the order and the funds will be refunded back to you. Thanks for understanding!”
When I went to decline the cancellation request and give her a different topic she might better be suited for, I found my account was unable to complete the action.
The error message said my account had been restricted and that I could forward any questions to Fiverr support.
Here’s how that correspondence went:
Matt, Nov 29 17:21 (IST): Folks, I have a gig seller that is trying to cancel an order because she does not feel qualified to write on the topic (scams on Fiverr). That’s fine, but I want to keep the gig and simply give her a different topic. The system is not allowing me. Any thoughts?
Julia – Fiverr’s Customer Support Team (Fiverr Customer Support), Nov 30 04:01 (IST): Hi Matt, we are unable to reinstate your account at this time. Users who violate our Terms of Service and get their account permanently restricted will be able to complete any active orders they may have; and will continue to have access to their completed orders. The funds in your shopping balance have been returned to your PayPal account.
To which I responded:
How did I violate the Terms of Service???
I still haven’t heard back. The only opening for an infraction I can find in Fiverr’s Terms of Service (which is heavily slanted toward controlling the gig seller) is the following clause:
“Posting or sending adult, illegal, rude, abusive, improper, copyright protected, promotional, spam, violent, nonsense or any uncool stuff is strictly prohibited. Doing so will get your account blocked permanently.” (Fiverr, 2012.)
So, was I “improper”, asking for “nonsense” or just being “uncool”? It’s hard to say. With terms as vague as these, Fiverr can do whatever they want, really.
Just slimy. Surprisingly slimy for an Internet company I assumed was based in the U.S. Wait! They’re not based in the U.S. at all!
“Fiverr, stylized as fiverr, is an Israel-based global online marketplace offering tasks and services starting at $5. [...] The website was founded by Israeli internet entrepreneurs Micha Kaufman and Shai Wininger. [...] Entrepreneurs and freelancers can use Fiverr to monetize sell their services. Customers in need of services can find and commission that service directly through the site. Currently, Fiverr lists more than 1,000,000 services on the site that range between $5 and $150.” (Wikipedia, 2012.)
I assert that Fiverr is well aware of their shady business practices and they work daily to protect the con job empire they are creating for themselves. They are really a great study on how easily we trust a well-established name and how easily that trust can be grossly abused. Here is a definition for racketeering, which is essentially what I believe Fiverr is engaged in:
“A racket is an illegal business or scheme, usually run as part of organized crime. Engaging in a racket is called racketeering.” (Wikipedia, 2012.)
Oh, and of course there’s fraud:
“Fraud can be committed through many media, including mail, wire, phone, and the Internet (computer crime and Internet fraud). International dimensions of the web and ease with which users can hide their location, the difficulty of checking identity and legitimacy online…” (Wikipedia, 2012.)
Caveat emptor, folks. “Let the buyer beware.”
In support of your efforts,
P.S. – Here’s a conspiracy theory for you: Consider for a moment Fiverr isn’t just overrun with scam artists, but that it actively and consciously houses a network of them. Just a thought. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
Fiverr. Terms of Service. Retrieved from http://fiverr.com/terms_of_service on 11/29/2012.
Kent, Chris. July 1, 2011. Ban by Fiverr? Here the reason. WarriorForum. Retrieved from http://www.warriorforum.com/main-internet-marketing-discussion-forum/406608-ban-fiverr-here-reason.html on 11/29/2012.
Wikipedia.org. Fiverr. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiverr on 11/29/2012.
Wikipedia.org. Fraud. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraud on 11/29/2012.
Wikipedia.org. Racketeering. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racketeering on 11/29/2012.