How to be vigilant for fraudulent proofreading websites

It’s an unsavoury truth but there are a number of fraudulent websites offering “proofreading services” to scam people for their money. Unfortunately, many of these appear prominently amongst Google’s search results and advertising listings.

Whilst these websites can be difficult for the untrained eye to distinguish from the legitimate services, if you abide by the following five tips you can greatly reduce the chances of being scammed of your money.

It must be emphasized that there are a great number of excellent legitimate proofreading services and freelance editors out there on the internet. Use these tips for evaluating any services or freelancers you are considering and you will be sure to find one.

Consider how much it costs

An appropriate allocation of time for proofreading 1,000 words of text is between 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the standard of writing. The lower end (30 minutes) would be for text written by people with a high-level command of English and looking for grammar and punctuation corrections only. For those with more problematic English or looking for more substantial editing it can easily take a full hour.

Look at the price that is being offered. Does it cover the amount you would expect to pay a qualified professional to work for 30 minutes to 1 hour?

If it seems low, it is almost certainly for a reason. Either they are providing a rushed, poor-quality service or they may well be giving no service at all.

Check for company registration and contact details

If it’s a proofreading service, look for company registration and contact details on the website. Cross-reference these with Companies House. If there are no details present on the website this is a MAJOR FLAG and you should NOT use this service. It is illegal in the UK to not list company details on a website.

If it is a freelancer you are considering, check if they have a Google Places business listing or if they will provide you with their address or place of work.

Look for reviews

Findaproofreader.com is a great place to check for reviews. Furthermore, perform a Google search of any companies or freelancers you are considering and add ‘reviews’ to the end of the search query.

If they do not have any reviews or have only a few, be more cautious.

Search Google for any listed names such as those of staff members or editors

Many scam websites list fake editor profiles that read impressively but are completely fabricated. Search editor names plus their alma Mater or any other credentials listed. If most of them do not provide results that can validate these as real people (e.g. profiles on journals, university websites, LinkedIn etc.), avoid!

Final comment

The nature of proofreading services means that it is both easy for scammers to target people, and hard to protect against, as it is a non-physical transaction, so you’re not even fully covered by buyer protection policies from popular payment gateways like PayPal and Google Checkout.

Be vigilant and use common sense when you are choosing a proofreading service. There are many dishonest scam websites out there but there are also a great number of high-quality, legitimate providers too.

Also, be sure to review any that you use, whether this is to report of a positive experience or to warn others of a negative one.

About the author: George Wilson is Editing Manager at Cambridge Proofreading LTD. He has several years' experience in the online proofreading industry.

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