I am a business owner STILL looking to find a programmer to develop my website.
Acting in good faith and full of assumptions, I went to oDesk to hire a programmer to develop my website after my last programmer exceeded his skill level along with abandoning his customer. On oDesk an employer can see test scores, feedback from previous contracts and a portfolio of previous work that implies transparency but I have found out the hard way that oDesk, Elance and possibly other similar websites are designed to imply transparency but when it comes to bad actors those statistics are anything BUT transparent.
I thought this systemic facilitation of fraud was germane to just oDesk so after I fought my battle with oDesk and "won" because I know the law and I played hardball I thought I'd see if the grass was greener on Elance. It isn't.
If you are like me and you want to hire someone... here's a short version of "Hiring on oDesk/Elance for Dummies":
Chapter 1. Test Scores Mean NOTHING:
"Self-assessed tests"... emphasis on both "self" + "assessed" says everything you should know.
"Tested" implies confidence but the reality is there's no proctor checking IDs. There is no regional testing facility contracted to administer this test so to say that a single individual who actually knows how to work with php, css, etc. can take all of the tests for several profiles on oDesk and Elance and fraudulently give high scores to other profiles is absolutely true.
In short, the tests have 0 credibility. Buyer beware.
Chapter 2. Learning the Feedback Game:
A. The first and obvious Red Flag you should look for is bad feedback ratings. Low stars, no stars, and pay particular attention to how many contracts are listed as "In progress" or "Working" because THIS, ladies and gents, IS the needle in the haystack. Many ongoing contracts is a Red Flag ... particularly if the job is 6-12 months or more in progress, shows few hours worked and few dollars earned, and if a provider has many of these, well, there are too many reasons to list to detail in full the modus operandi of both why a provider would elect to leave contracts open as well as why the website is systemically designed to LET them do this.
B. Viewing comments is OK but if a provider doesn't like the comment given from a contract they can hide the comment. I ripped VAB's scam up and down and before the profiles involved in my scam were "suspended" I saw my comment one day and the next day it was gone.
Since the tests have 0 credibility, the feedback can be made to be the antithesis of transparent do we really need to discuss how a profile can link about any website they want whether or not said person setting up the profile ever did any work on that site or not?
Chapter 3. Facilitating and Perpetuating Systemic Fraud
I'd be happy to in great lengths detail all of the shenanigans perpetrated against me by the con artists at VAB Technologies which, in my case, was actually facilitated on oDesk but let me say that when I posted my "start over" job on Elance VAB Technologies via Abhishek Rai applied for my job which I happily declined as "You already ripped me off on oDesk".
On oDesk, I busted VAB committing a dual-level bait and switch summarized below:
1. Profile "Ajay Pal" applies for my job. Ajay scored a 97% on PHP5, has a portfolio and great feedback except he has a LOT of "jobs in progress". Red Flag missed because I had to learn the hard way.
2. Before I knew how bogus these so-called credentials actually are I liked Ajay's stats so I escalate his application to "Active" by sending Ajay a 2,000+ word outline of what I want done and login access to take a look at my site so I can get an estimate.
3. The reply I received from the message I sent to "Ajay" comes from the profile "Abhishek Pandey" and as my transcripts from both Skype and oDesk detail in full, Abhishek identifies himself as "Ajay". Knowing how many Indian-Americans and other Americans of foreign decent want to be called by other names - such as my neighbor Nadir who asks to be called Ned - I let that Red Flag slide because Abhishek must want to go by "Ajay". Fine.
4. "Ajay" played by Abhishek Pandey gives me a 25 hour quote, tells me he understands everything I want done and when we go point by point he's got it, he's ready and if he needs anything he promises to ask me.
5. I open the contract being led to believe that I hired profile "Ajay Pal" who identifies himself to me as the human person Abhishek Pandey and the transcripts show "Ajay" is good to go and knows what to do. In addition to being GED crystal clear on EVERYTHING I needed "Ajay" also agrees to do all of his work on HIS test server and is given access to my server and database to collect and duplicate on HIS server and leave my site UNTOUCHED until I approve the changes on HIS server and authorize the changes made on my live site.
6. Several weeks later and "Ajay" goes over his 25-hour estimate by double so I stop "Ajay"/Abhishek by locking them out of my server and calling their hand. Over budget by a little is expected, over budget by double and I need to know why and how far they are from completion. I instruct "Ajay"/Abhishek to meet me on Skype to answer for their activities.
7. "Ajay"/Abhishek gets on Skype and says they're almost finished. I ask to see what they've done and instead of giving me a link to their test site I'm instructed to look at my site. I see a few font size changes from 11pt to 13pt and that's it.
8. "Ajay"/Abhishek says "my programmer wants to ask you a few things"... ? "My programmer"? I type that I thought Abhishek IS "Ajay" and Abhishek replies that Abhishek Pandey is NOT "Ajay" he's a "project manager" and another person is now plaything the role of "Ajay" and he has questions. Now, I see that someone new is on Skype with me, who identifies himself as "Ajay Pal", and the new "Ajay" can't type or understand English... and asks me what I mean... by copying and pasting a paragraph the actor playing "Ajay" in Act I told me he was clear on 6 weeks ago... so I have to explain a paragraph I sent 6 weeks prior that IS a paragraph explaining what I needed.
9. I quote "Ajay" of Act II "Ajay" of Act I/Abhishek Pandey typed 6 weeks prior by looking up the transcripts where the actor playing "Ajay" then said he knew what Act II's "Ajay" is asking about and the response I get is " I'm ajay".
I nicely got off Skype and went through all of my transcripts from oDesk and Skype to make both copies as well as screenshots and made copies of my billing screenshots as well.... particularly the screenshots depicting the real life ID of the person logged into the profile "Ajay Pal" for the many hours I was billed whose Google Talk name and photo matches at least one if not several photos of other oDesk profiles for people who aren't listed as employed by VAB, scored a 40 something on PHP and profiles I'd NEVER have given a second look at.
Other than the font changes from 11pt to 13pt I later found what "Ajay" was doing those many weeks.... hundreds of thousands of blank lines on MY SOURCE CODE. No, I'm NOT joking, I WISH I was joking and made all of this up, I was billed through oDesk's "system of confidence" for a person I NEVER interviewed who was outsourced to do my job sat on his computer logged into a profile from VAB's imagination and in addition to reading how to write PHP from www.w3schools.com/ and chatting with all of his friends, other "employees" of VAB Technologies who also aren't listed as VAB employees, he or a combination of people also logged in as "Ajay Pal" hit the Enter key literally over 100,000 times.
Every 10 minutes oDesk takes a billing screenshot and a good way to bilk a customer for every dime possible when you are allowed to do this and conceal it from future victims is to bill your customer one rate and then hire someone else to login as "Ajay" and hit the enter key a few thousand times a day for only 25% letting VAB keep the other 75% for them or others to apply for jobs all day and rip off more people... because they can and oDesk and Elance help.
At this point Ive smelled the rat and found its nest. I gather all of my evidence and go to the bank that issued my VISA on file with oDesk and I swear and affidavit for fraud. I read on Rip Off Report enough to disregard oDesk's "policy" in the EXACT same manner they disregard their customers and used the LAW to stop another dollar from leaving my account for this fraud.
When you file a fraud affidavit you get a new credit card which is a good thing because every day oDesk tried to collect even while I had an active dispute and it was a month later before oDesk ruled in my favor and "suspended" the profiles involved:
"Ajay Pal", "Abhishek Pandey", "Abhishek Rai" and "Bimal Rai" which makes no difference because if you look up VAB Technologies today on oDesk you see that Mr. & Mrs. Pandey and Rai either had a LOT of sons, someone has a really wicked case of schizophrenia or oDesk is in fact an accomplice to wire fraud because look at some of the profiles for VAB on oDesk today:
Aaush Rai and Aditya Pandey and by my screenshots taken of the dual Abhisheks of VAB in December 2010 the verbiage on the "suspended" profiles and the brother/alternate personality of the Rai and Pandey boys today on oDesk is the same.
I don't believe the admins on oDesk are stupid or have the short term memory of a newborn I flat out have every reason to believe they are not just complicit but an accomplice.
So, I lost 9 months and good money and because they put an amateur in my code when they weren't supposed to be touching my live site I'm starting over... and I try Elance.
Guess what? The same gag with the test scores, feedback manipulation and even VAB Technologies with Abhishek Pandey listed as an "Account Manager" are on Elance.
I actually called Elance to tell them about VAB and they weren't interested in the slightest. So I declined VAB on Elance with "you already ripped me off on oDesk" and then suddenly I can't find their profiles on Elance.... until the day AFTER my job posting expired. I'm guessing Elance lets them hide from their victims? See, I thought Elance dropped VAB because that's what the link I had saved for their profile said when I clicked it... until today.
I asked another employer who posted a thread on Elance's message board about his similar sounding nightmare and mentioned VAB by name (because I didn't see their profiles anymore) and my comment was flagged and where I listed VAB was deleted. A regular user told me we cannot warn others about bad actors because it's against Elance policy.
Wire fraud is a serious matter. I'd be curious what the FTC has to say about this along with the Attorney General of California.