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Ask HN: Being harassed by Odesk client, What should I do?
87 points by scottydelta on Apr 21, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments
Hello Guys, I am a Freelancer on Odesk.com and yday I was contacted by a new client on Odesk to work on project but before letting me on details, he wanted me to sign this agreement(http://pastebin.com/qm9JMk7m) sent via the id techworksC@yahoo.com to my email id. Please carefully read lines 53-75.

I replied the client asking about these foolish clause in the contract and he said he just wanted to filter out the potential developer and wanted to see who paid attention to the details and he will send me the revised version.

Now he replied to the same email(the email with previous contract) with new contract where line 53-75 replaced by a para which said I cannot disclose any of the info given by the client about the project. Now what yahoo(client)/gmail(me) did was, it nested the old contract inside the new one as it was reply to the thread by the client but while replying to the email for agreeing, I manually removed the nested part from the reply which had the old agreement and added this line "I accept the terms and conditions stated in this email and this email only.".

After this, the client said since you have agreed to the terms, you will have to buy a control panel access by paying him via paypal to which I disagreed post which he started threatening with legal consequences since I have signed the agreement. He kept threatening me by Odesk messages. The odesk message thread: http://i.imgur.com/yxgOXgB.png

I reported this to Odesk but I just got a reply from them asking for screenshot email where client was asking for money, I replied more than 10 hours ago and there has been no response from them.

Now my doubt is, Am I legally safe here or is this some noob online trying to con me?

also, He has my email id and basically anyone can get my complete address and phone number using my email id from whois databases since I purchased few domains with same id. Is it possible to get that data removed?

What should I do next?

"is this some noob online trying to con me?"


He wants to get paid (ideally, get paid $175 for this "control panel"). He will hound you to the exact extent you engage and indicate he might be able to get money.

In order to actually get any money by suing, he would have to pay a lawyer and disclose his identity, both of which he is very unlikely to do. If he did he wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

He might very well threaten to contact whomever he can dig up contact information for that's related to you & tell them you're a bad, bad contract-breacher, but that's about the worst he can do. And why would anyone care? Every message by him makes him sound like an obvious scammer.

Wow. That's a completely idiotic and labor intensive scam. The guy said he was from India though, so this makes some sense. The annual median per capita income in India is $616 [1], so he only needs to try to force 4 people to pay the $175 during a year and he's ahead of the game. Perhaps 1 person per quarter will be frightened of his threat to "make a report to Pratap Nagar, Jaipur, Rajasthan, 302033, India" for "possession of stolen goods".

Obviously, you don't need to do anything to defend yourself here, other than block and report him for spam on Skype and to Odesk for fraud. No lawsuit is forthcoming, as the annual median income in India would cover approximately 90 minutes of time with a reasonably qualified attorney.

[1] http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/indi...

Edit: If it hasn't been flag killed by the time you read this, Masonlove (the scammer involved here) has made his way into this thread and it's quite entertaining. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9411900

> The annual median per capita income in India is $616

...Oh my god.

Stats like this make me realize I have no idea how lucky I am to be US born.

The income disparity is huge in India. There's obscene rich, mediocre middle class and poverty (especially in the North/Central)

It shocks me that you found out today that the average Indian doesn't earn that much.

I figured it was low. I just didn't think it was as low as three digits.

So I googled parts of their "contract" it is copied and pasted from different 101 articles on business contracts from all over the internet.

Line 1: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Legal-Contract

Line 29-43, 77-89: https://www.sba.gov/blogs/contract-law-how-create-legally-bi...

Line 49: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Contract

Line 51: http://smallbusiness.findlaw.com/business-contracts-forms/ho...

And so on and so on. Every single line in that contract is stolen from a 101 article about writing contracts. Seriously, check any single one by putting them in quotations on Google.

What does that matter as far as how to handle this situation going forward?

It's just proof that this contract isn't thoroughly thought out, and wasn't hand-written by anyone with an actual law degree.

Or 5th grade English skills?

Do not do business under any circumstances with anyone who attempts to get you to sign a contract that looks like this.

Also avoid oDesk.

I wouldn't say avoid oDesk. I really like oDesk's work diary because I can literally see what we all are working on. I don't even look for applicants on oDesk now. I find local contractors, and pay them through oDesk.

It's the rest of oDesk that's a complete shit show. Confusing UI is just the start. You won't see me trying to recruit on that site.

Already avoided Elance and Freelance, not sure I have any other option left.

Same here, got tired to try to find anything good (pay & work) to work in with Elance and Freelancer.

Then, searched HN and found something I think is worth the try, have a look at: https://gun.io/

yeah, someone from gun.io suggested the same on this thread, already applied, now waiting for approval, thanks.

1. Do not take legal advice from the internet. If you are concerned about legal trouble and can afford to do so, find an attorney in your area that you can consult with for an hour on this. (They might appreciate the laugh.) Even if you can't afford to do so, make a few calls. You might get lucky and find someone willing to do a brief consult for a little less. Also, attorneys happen to specialize in writing scary sounding letters that have the unique ability to make nuisances go away.

2. Give oDesk some more time. It may take them a day or two to retrieve their head from their ass.

3. Set up a filter to route this fool's messages to your junk folder where it belongs.

4. Consider this an education in the quality of customers that oDesk cultivates, and think hard about whether or not you could make more money for less trouble elsewhere.

5. I'm unfamiliar with Indian law (again, you should be talking to an attorney, not HN), but there may be some state agency you can contact regarding this guy. I once made a nuisance write an apologetic letter and then go away forever by contacting my state's attorney general's office and filing a complaint. It took all of less than two hours of my time and no money for the nuisance to receive a scary-sounding warning from the state.

In my totally-not-a-lawyer opinion this guy is a scammer and I'd simply ignore him and not lose any sleep over it until and unless he started demanding my attention elsewhere, in which case he would get my full and undivided attention for as long as it took to make him run away.

> 3. Set up a filter to route this fool's messages to your junk folder where it belongs.

Perhaps not. While the OP should not respond to these messages, these messages could turn out to be vital evidence if the OP (or, highly unlikely, the scammer) decides to go the legal route. So my advice would be: do not delete these messages; keep them somewhere safe so they can be used later if needed.

Yes, I have already archived all the emails and set filters to automatically move all the emails from this id to a folder.

Good point.

In this case you're giving an incredibly obvious scammer far more time and credit than he or she deserves. There is literally a 0% chance that this scammer can do anything to him, other than harass him (there may be a 1 or 2% chance if OP happens to also reside in India, but I inferred that he doesn't).

I'm inclined to agree with you, but again, I'm not an attorney so I don't get into the habit of handing out advice on legal liability over the internet. The moment someone wants to move a fight into a legal arena, I stop making decisions based on what I think I know.

I work at oDesk and am very sorry to hear you had this experience. Clients should never request any type payment from a freelancer, including payment to start a contract or buy software. For your protection, all financial transactions should take place on oDesk. The best thing to do in these situations is exactly what you did: contact the oDesk support team so they can investigate and advise you on the best course of action. Please note that the team does need some time to do a full investigation, however I've escalated your ticket internally and you should receive a reply soon. For future reference, this article from our help site has some tips for identifying suspicious behavior: https://support.odesk.com/entries/23110778.

Thanks for looking into this, The scammer has been posting similar jobs on odesk continuously and I can see he has been interviewing many freelancers(harassing them). So if possible, please try to block such scammers from the site.

I am only using odesk after leaving elance and freelancer.com due to poor client's quality.

Dont you guys verify the client's identity before allowing them to post jobs?

oDesk's customer service department: where their replies feel like a canned and impersonal response.

You are 1 of thousands he's fishing at this point. Its a dragnet. Just go dark and he'll move on to those who keep responding to him. (Unless you'd like to have a little fun stringing him along... "Ok I'm trying to pay you now. What's this 'pay-pal' thing you mentioned? How do I scan the check?")

Just let it go. I would say there is an extremely remote chance this scammer will pursue. Just wait for the oDesk team to come back, but even if no, keep your calm and carry on.

yes that's how I want to play this out but It was just today I realized that how much personal info is out there in open, just want to know if there is any way to get rid of the whois info on multiple databases?

Even if you could (and you can, via WhoIs Gurd and WhoIs privacy-like services) they would have likely copied that stuff down already.

I'll also add that most courts in the West will laugh this lawsuit right out. Judges use common sense in small claims, and a contract requires a "fair trade," this fails both of those tests.

Plus they could file in India and you can ignore it. They cannot really file in the US (or anywhere else) because flights and filing fees would cost more than they claim you "owe."

Overall this legal threat is just moronic. It is obviously a scam (or a second scam after you caught the first scam text and called them out on it).

This is the same as people from India calling from "Microsoft" because your computer has "viruses." Or the "IRS" because you "owe tax money."

It seems that the OP is from India.

Legally it's worthless. You could sign this contract and it's not that much difference from slavery, which is illegal. The logs you own are more than enough to prove the bad intentions of your client. Even if this nonsense is somehow legal, your client would spend lots of money filing a legal action against you. Unless you live in India, you're more than safe.

> Unless you live in India, you're more than safe.

I have no idea why you think India is some kind of legal Wild West where anyone can send you a contract and sue you because you said "I agree to some of these terms" over email. Even if OP is in India, contracts in India are typically written out on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stamped_paper, and often require initials of both parties on any correction. Something like this would be thrown out of court way before going to trial.

The person who is trying to scam OP is obviously an unintelligent scammer, regardless of the nationality of either of them. OP should plain ignore him, and keep the screencaps and emails just in case he is stupid enough to file anywhere.

I don't think that's the implication of that comment -- I think the implication is that the costs of pursuing a lawsuit against an international party and successfully collecting damages are too great (in both time/effort and money) that, for something this tenuous, there's no chance the scammer will even try.

In India, the scammer could try. Someone trying to sue you can still cause you to have a very bad day, even if they get thrown out of court fairly quickly. Or at least, that's true in the US -- maybe India is less of a legal Wild West than the US. :)

> ...the implication is that the costs of pursuing a lawsuit against an international party and successfully collecting damages are too great (in both time/effort and money) that, for something this tenuous, there's no chance the scammer will even try.

That part wasn't linked to the grandparent comment's last sentence, it seemed to me like a line glibly tossed off -- but okay, I'll give them the HN "best intentions" benefit of the doubt :)

Getting a legitimate case to court in India is a fairly Sisyphean task. Getting one as ridiculous as this might be considerably worse, and would probably incur frivolous litigation costsĀ¹ if it ever actually went to trial.

But yes, IANAL and all that -- just trying to point out that OP has very decent solutions available even if he is in India. If he is not, then yes, as you pointed out, there is very little reason for concern.

[1] http://www.legalblog.in/2011/11/exemplary-costs-on-frivolous...

Report this scumbag to oDesk. I've been working exclusively on oDesk for two years and I've never had the misfortune of dealing with these type of people. I'm sure it's bad for business and oDesk will immediately terminate his account.

Save your messages, screenshot stuff.

But don't worry this twat won't do anything because he's probably hiring a ton of unsuspecting people with the same con. If 1 in 50 actually pay him it's worth it to him. He won't actually sue you.

> There is no exasperation date on this legal document

Pardon me while I giggle.

Hah, that has to be joke, right? Perpetual exasperation ... then again, maybe not.

Given the English language fluency displayed so far, I'm pretty sure exasperation is exactly the word they think should be used.

Why would you even agree to anything after seeing that initial agreement?

I doubt that can be used against you anyway, but why did you think it was a good idea to continue?

I am not sure, I knew he was a scammer and wanted to see how this plays out :P

This is amazing. It is about as poorly written as a 419 scam. I cannot believe how infantile it sounds.

Take it for what it is: a hilarious scam attempt by someone who will have to move on to their next "victim" rather than spending time and money harassing you.

> In addition to ensuring both parties are in agreement on the terms of an offer, the second element that ensures a contract is legally valid is that both parties exchange something of value.

I highly doubt the scammer even understands his own contract. (This section of the contract was copy-and-pasted from an SBA blog post)


I'm wondering, though: what are the OP's options if he does reside in India?

I am impressed how the person scottydelta talks about found this post within 6 hours without their name being mentioned in text. Maybe it was the techworksC email.

Additionally the point about saying 50% of all your profits going forward would mean for every $40 per hour you make you would owe them back $20. HAH! Yes, ignore them, move on, don't make the mistake in the future.

Either that, or someone with a lot of time to waste just felt like registering and pretending to be him for some trolling...

HN has certainly "done the needful" to his comments though.

I dont think he is the real Masonlove as he, here in this message talks about a skype call which I never had with him :P https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9411916

I dont think I made any mistake here while signing the agreement or any other way, I just dint see the message bombardment coming in my email and odesk.

At most this Odesk based dispute will go into arbitration, Net-Arb is the service used by Odesk.

The price of the arbitration is $300 last time I checked (I had a competing service to Net-Arb a few years ago).

The arbitration is ex aequo et bono, meaning "according to the right and good" or "from equity" i.e. it's the opinion of the arbitrator that counts, not any specific law.

Even if you get some foolish arbitrator that writes an arbitral award in favor of this scammer, they'll still need to have it recognized and enforced in courts that have jurisdiction where you have assets.

All of this will never happen for a petty amount of $175. Just ignore this and move on.

Don't worry about it. From the pastebin it says to sign it in the email, not on a .doc or .pdf, so it's not legit. From the rest of the info you provided it's definitely a scam so just delete and forget.

lol @ being sued in India. From what I've quickly glanced over, it looks like you're dealing with a scammer.

Yes, I realize that, But just wanted to be sure, I know how legal system works in India especially when it comes to online frauds etc.

Sorry to hear about this. It seems like he's asking you to violate the oDesk TOS anyway, so I'm sure you're in the clear.

At https://gun.io we avoid this by thoroughly screening clients and developers before making introductions, and by having a dedicated team of account managers who are able to make sure that projects go smoothly for both freelancers and clients. We'd love to have you apply!

Thanks for the suggestion, I have been looking at alternatives to odesk, elance and freelance but couldnt find a a market place as big as them. Anyways, I have applied to gun.io, lets hope this works out :)

On the bright side, at least you didn't bother writing the bullshit phrase "shameless plug".

Do nothing. This is a con man.

Though if you want some entertainment, your harasser is on this thread as "Masonlove" and appears to be just as entertaining as you described.

Fake your own death.


I would do these steps. 1) Don't contact this guy any more or reply to any messages. 2) Ignore whatever BS non-contract that exists. 3) Not worry that it's only been 10 hours from Odesk. It's not a secret agent command center it's just Odesk. 4) Read Masonlove's comments in this thread and try to have a good laugh. Seriously, they're hilarious.


Do nothing.

You're not at any risk, just stop engaging in any communication. Don't read the crazy things you might be sent, certainly don't think there is any legitimate threat. Maybe followup with an oDesk report, but don't put too much effort on it.

Move on.

Run. Run fast.

This is someone who is playing games and obviously doesn't value your time. If you get burned, all the warning signs are there. At the very least, this person will waste a lot of your time.

You should contact oDesk support. They'll close his account.

Don't worry about it. In India electronic agreements are legally binding only when legally registered/identified digital signature is involved.

Sort of like version of Nigerian scam, in order to get billions from deceased king of persia you just need to send them $500 to pay for taxes.

Just ignore.

It seems to me that this person has taken a lot of time researching about contracts. Much of text is filled with legal definitions rather the actual terms of agreement. No lawyer writes a contract like this (at the very least I've never seen a contract written like this) .The intention clearly is to give off the impression that it was drafted by a lawyer, which I highly doubt.

Also the quality of language in the definitions and the quality of the language in the actual clauses does not match. Which could mean that the definitions were simply copy/pasted from internet but when it came to writing the actual stuff the person making the offer had nowhere to turn to.

So what you fear is that the client is asking to to fulfil your promise to the contract that you linked. Reading the contract and the context that you have given, here are some of the things that I've noticed. My responses are with respect to the Indian contract law :-

_"and any designing or development you own or have or will have rights to, any that you have previously created or will create in the future ..."_

This is void since it is not legally enforceable. A clause must be specific as to what the promise or the consideration for promise should be. What this clause says is neither specific nor foreseeable.

_"in return for you services and full agreement to the above terms in condition I will be allowing you to purchase a website with control panel through us or the company we use"_

Okay this was funny :) So the author of the contract reads up on contract law and decides to draft one. He puts forward some absurd clauses and says to himself

"Gee what should I give the other party in return for consideration of the promise?"

And he gives you the _right_ to buy stuff for him. This is like when you go to a fruit vendor and pay him Rs 40 to buy a dozen bananas and he says "Brother since you have given me Rs 40 to buy the bananas I give you the right to buy apples from this shop". Won't work in a court of law.

_"You also give up all rights to file a suit again my self or anyone involving me , you will give up the right to lawyer up and file a suit against me or anyone I associate with."_

This clause is void. The right to file a law suit can not be taken away in any case by anyone. It does not matter if you have agreed to do so in a contract or not.

First the promise required is not specific. Then there is no consideration of promise. On top of that the person is taking away your right to appear before a court of law. All three clauses are void. The contract is void. You have nothing to fear.

Thanks for the detailed info :)

The comments by masonlove! Roflmao

I'd be interested to see how oDesk customer service responds to this

This is humorous.

Ignore and sleep well. Clearly a scam.


Oh yeah? I feel that your post is harassing me. If you continue to leave it up, I will pursue all legal options against you.

Incompetent scammers like you (note: factual statement, not a personal attack) are the reason why the rest of us coming from India are unfairly portrayed as having substandard skills and substandard English.

Please learn

a) English b) Indian Commercial Law, and the Indian Penal Code

and come back a wiser person.

Mindful of content-free comments being pretty aggravating on Hacker News, I'll blow my one content-free comment a year (in what seems as good a place as any, given where these comments will take us) to reflect on how much I want popcorn to watch this play out. This is better than TV.

Poor OP. I owe you a beer, Michael. Welcome to HN, Masonlove.

How do I read the flagged comments by Mason? :-/

Set "showdead" to yes on your profile.


| What programs do you get to have full control over for free?

How about we go through your own list of programs that your control panel gives access to?

* WordPress: Free and open source. * Drupal: Same. * Joomla: Same. * Bulletin Board software: Same. * PHP: Same. * Python: Yup. * Javascript: Same. * OpenPGP: Also FOSS.

At least half of your bloody toolkit is stuff that developers can easily have full control over for free. Stuff that you're charging a prospective employee to use.

If you write a blog post about the supposed "back doors on emails and messagnger", you might actually get upvotes as opposed to downvotes.

I am not sure if he is the real MasonLove as I never had a skype conversation with this guy which he claims here in his comment.

Do nothing..

1. Yes , contract can be legal bind even word but if there where not transaction involve.. might be ignore.

2.Even got contract,sometimes client would delay and give lot of excuses.

3. All my freelance work i wanted to bind with contract and i have legit company to avoid many nonsense client.

4. Did i been harassed like you, Yes.much worst. I had to close my Facebook account.

Hi. I would like to personally say that the guy who is posting on this statement is a complete dumb ass. We have purposly added that into our emails we send to see if the tech reads detail we put a faulty name , uneducated grammar and made sure the contract had articles which help void any given authentication of it anyone reading the document we know right away that we it is none legit and voided from so many flaws however it's steaded serval times to message us if you don't understand. Anyone who is educated knows that no enslavory contract is valid ? Correct.

Whch means we see who messages us . If you do nonot we do not even bother with you. We take a long time to respond because we are busy.

If you have fell into this stupid post you are on a kindergarteners social level. Please report us we would love to show much of an uneducated tech you are.

Regards Our company

Hi MasonLove.

My name is Arnold Cosgrove. I'd like to offer you a position in my Improv Comedy Group. No need to send me a demo, your posts here have been enough evidence I need of your skill.

Starting salary is $40/hour, with the possibility of up to $120/hour depending on how funny you are. All jokes either written, performed, or thought of by you from now until you become stale and hack belong to me, and all of your future income belongs to me too, including anything I pay you. This contract will never expire.

By reading this comment, you hereby agree to the terms put forth, and if you try to ask questions, the internet police will charge you with theft for some reason, and also copyright infringement.

Regards, my me.

Hi. I would like to personally say that the guy who is posting on this statement is a complete dumb ass

Personal attacks are not allowed on HN.

"Regards Our company"

Lost it right here.

The first sentence is gold

The punctuation mistakes you make in this post match those in the crappy sections of the contract.

"Masonlove's" posts ITT need to be upvoted not downvoted :-) They must be seen to be believed.

And, FWIW, kindergarteners have more self-awareness than this.

I love it. "If I stick to the story relentlessly it'll HAVE to work!!!"

It's like you're married to it. Just let the scam go, you only lost 1 potential victim and (probably) 1 Odesk account. I'm sure you have hundreds more.

>Please report us we would love to show much of an uneducated tech you are.

I would be delighted to take you up on your offer. Please give me your personal information so I can report you.

But first you have to pay for our control panel!

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