๐Ÿˆ Community
ยป Forums ยป Clients ยป Being blackmailed by a upwork contractor and ...
Page options
jordangk
Community Member

Being blackmailed by a upwork contractor and upwork is not responding.

A bit of context, in 2017 we a company called epicalls, we are a small voip trying to find a niche. I've worked with upwork quite a lot and of course, we decided to do all our dev work and design with them.

We had some good and some bad developers, one developer that we hired was really sloppy, earlier this year after much trying we decided to let him go. We paid him in full and we moved on. We understand that you get good and bad devs and we are okay with that.

Few weeks ago, out of nowhere he email us and asked us for $5,000 on bitcoin or he would make all our code available to the public. We are not paying him. He made the code public.

Now we're in a struggle, the main value of a company is technology, and this developer has expose and killed a big chunk of the future of our company, no investor would help us if he knows our code is public, that plus the added security. A huge investment we would have to do in order to continue being a startup.

We tried to get help from upwork, basically they said that because the blackmail didn't happen in their website and we didn't open a dispute after he finished his work (before he blackmailed us), they couldn't do anything.

Here is my concern
- Anyone can take few jobs with access to private information or technology.
- He finishes the jobs and keep key data.
- Waits few months, closes his account and then blackmail all the people he worked with.
- Upwork won't do anything.

Imagine if Uber responded the same way as upwork had. Someone takes an Uber, the ride finishes, the passenger give the driver 5 stars, **Edited for Community Guidelines**, and Uber response is:
a) they are just connect people,
b) we were satisfied with their work and gave him 5 stars **Edited for Community Guidelines**

c) recommends you to stop taking to the Uber driver.

After this experience I would not recommend giving an upwork developer any project more conplex than a wordpress redesign.



22 REPLIES 22
prestonhunter
Community Member

Jordan:

 

It sounds to me like you have a serious conflict with a developer who worked on your project. Upwork provides a service that you used to find and hire that freelancer.

 

But Upwork was not a party to your contract with that freelancer.

 

Why would you think that Upwork is responsible for what that freelancer did? The freelancer is not an Upwork employee.

 

What is it that you think Upwork should do?

Think about Uber, legally, you wouldn't be able to do much, but I am sure Uber would to slightly more than nothing.

I know they are legally in the right, but pushing ALL the responsibility of this crime to me feels off. I hired people on upwork because of the additional safety, otherwise I would just use craig list

As starters opening a dispute resolution... That would be a basic step, if the dispute is right issue a refund

If they were a proper company they would implement policies to protect companies against this type of blackmail. Uber has insurance.

I am not talking about a "I am not satisfied with the product" that is solved by the reputation system, but more like "your freelance is trying to commit a serious crime".

How is the first one addressed by upwork, but the second one they completely neglect?
petra_r
Community Member


Jordan G wrote:

We had some good and some bad developers, one developer that we hired was really sloppy, earlier this year after much trying we decided to let him go. We paid him in full and we moved on. We understand that you get good and bad devs and we are okay with that.

Few weeks ago, out of nowhere he email us and asked us for $5,000 on bitcoin or he would make all our code available to the public. We are not paying him. He made the code public.


Jordan, you own the rights to the code as it is paid for. So all you need to do is issue a DMCA takedown notice to the webhosts of the site(s) where the code is published.

 

  1. Step 1: Take screenshots of the infringing site. Once you send the DMCA Takedown Notice, the web host will remove the infringing material. ...
  2. Step 2: Locate the website's host. ...
  3. Step 3: Determine the Copyright Agent. ...
  4. Step 4: Draft your Takedown Notice.

 

You may also want to consider emailing the freelancer's local police department (if you know where he lives) and report the blackmail / extortion, as that is a criminal offense and the police are required to investigate criminal offenses. Even if the don't prosecute, it will probably make him think twice.

 

Preston H wrote:

Why would you think that Upwork is responsible for what that freelancer did? The freelancer is not an Upwork employee.

 

What is it that you think Upwork should do?


He never said that he thought Upwork was responsible for what the freelancer did.

 

What I would personally expect Upwork should do (after being shown proof) would (OBVIOUSLY) be to lean hard on the freelancer to remove the code, and then (once that's done) to permanently suspend the freelancer. That's a no-brainer.  Obviously that only works if the freelancer still has an Upwork account.

jordangk
Community Member

The code and the email was from the freelance account. He created 10 fake GitHub and posted the code there.

I would love to find a way to report him with the local police, but upwork won't release any info without a lawyer
tta192
Community Member

Are you 100% sure it was the freelancer who did this? Asking for money is one thing, but "in bitcoin" sounds like a scam. You say the code really was made public, so the person had access to it - but you should check maybe it's someone else from the team impersonating the freelancer.

 

 

 

jordangk
Community Member

100% the freelance?

How about GitHub, can they do anything to make whoever is making your code public stop doing so?

Yes, I ask them to remove it, but there are over 10 repositories, people already downloaded the code and he can just create another repository and post it there

Would have been nice of upwork assisted with this, even a refund for the money we paid the scammer, but their refused to even consider this.

They take our payment, the promote it as a way to keep your payment safe and also promote their dispute resolution, but in this case, because the blackmailer waited, they offer 0 help

That's terrible. Sorry about that.

This is a nightmare. This is the last thing any of us want a client to report. Upwork may not have liability but in terms of service recovery it would behoove us all if they do something to help address this. 

kochubei_valeria
Community Member

Hi Jordan,

 

I'm sorry this has happened to you. This is definitely not the experience we would like clients to have after hiring freelancers on Upwork. I see that your case has been escalated to our Executive Escalations team, they have thoroughly reviewed the case and have been assisting you via the support ticket #29642098. Unfortunately, since these activities and interactions happened outside of Upwork platform and long after the contract was closed, there isn't a lot our team can do at this point.

 

While I can't share details about the freelancer's account, I can confirm they are no longer allowed to use the platform. That said, you can follow Subpoena Protocol if you wish to obtain the freelancer's information in order to take legal action against them. Upwork will cooperate with any legal requests that are properly submitted to our Legal Department.

 

Thank you.

~ Valeria
Upwork

Should I ask him to please try to conduct the blackmail me using upwork instead?

Clearly, this is something any freelancer can exploid.

Get access to private data, and download it.

Finish the job he was hired to do.

Wait a month and then proceed to blackmail using email.

Can you confirm if that's the case, upwork woul be unable to assist at all? You would not offer a refund, or dispute resolutions?

I am not sure if you are aware how this is a huge deal and how potentially damaged this could be for any business that uses upwork.

Upwork can't offer a refund because you didn't pay Upwork, you paid the developer. If I were you I'd complete the subpoena process that was suggested so you can pursue this freelancer legally. Really what you describe did not happen because of anything related to Upwork, other than this is where you hired the freelancer. If you hired an employee through one of the employment sites, and they stole from the cash register, you wouldn't get a refund from Ziprecruiter. But Upwork does need to make it as easy as possible for you to proceed with getting the freelancer's information. But my question is: surely you had an NDA, you would need the freelancer's address to enforce it. Did you not get a properly signed NDA?

We did have an nda... How is that even relevant? He is blackmailing us... Whether there was a contract is irrelevant when he is doing something illegal, please see screenshots.

If a Uber driver robs you, would you blame the victim because he didn't have a contract for not being robbed?

Would you say that Uber had nothing to do because he only connected a driver with you?

Upwork and zip recruiter have completely different business model.


Jordan G wrote:
We did have an nda... How is that even relevant? He is blackmailing us... Whether there was a contract is irrelevant when he is doing something illegal, please see screenshots.

If a Uber driver robs you, would you blame the victim because he didn't have a contract for not being robbed?

Would you say that Uber had nothing to do because he only connected a driver with you?

Upwork and zip recruiter have completely different business model.

My point was that if you have an NDA then you would have the contact information for this freelancer and could serve them with a cease and desist without having to go through Upwork to get the information, that is all. It was not to fault you. 

 

You did not have a contract with Upwork; the money you paid was to a person you hired as a contractor, using Upwork's interface. But regardless, how does a refund from Upwork help you at all? First of all, if Upwork refunds and debits it from the freelancer, then you no longer own the IP on the code. Second of all, if your goal is to get your code taken down and enforce your IP/copyright, then a refund from Upwork doesn't get you any closer to that goal. 

 

The best action you can take is to work with Upwork's legal team to get the freelancer's information so you can pursue this through proper legal channels. 

I owe the ip of the code.

If you hire a locksmith, then he threatens you to use a spear key to rob you unless you give him $5000. You still owe your key.

The freelance hired on upwork killed my business, there is 0 chance I can recover or raise money after he's made the code public.

Again, take a look at the issues Uber faced when a driver's made something illegal.
petra_r
Community Member

The freelancer is already banned from Upwork. 

 

Upwork also has no way to recover any funds from the freelancer. 

 


Jordan G wrote:
I would love to find a way to report him with the local police, but upwork won't release any info without a lawyer.

If you had a NDA with the freelancer, that would have his address on it, no?

 


Jordan G wrote:
As starters opening a dispute resolution... That would be a basic step, if the dispute is right issue a refund

Not only are you long out of the dispute deadline, the freelancer is no longer on the platform, so there is no way to make them participate in any dispute resolution, let alone pay you back. There is even the question whether the freelancer is legally required to pay you back, that is something a court would have to decide. 

 

Upwork is bound by its terms of service exactly as the client and the freelancer are.

 


Jordan G wrote:
If a Uber driver robs you, 


That whole Uber thing doesn't work.

If an Uber driver robs you while you are being transported by them, Uber would likely "do something."

 

If a former Uber driver does something to you months after they drove you on behalf of Uber, it's nothing to do with Uber.

jordangk
Community Member

No, blackmail is illegal. An nda is not needed. Of a plumber goes to fix your sink, the ask for 5,000 or we burns your house he would go to jail, regardless of whether he has a contract or not where he agrees not to burn your house. He clearly knows what's he is doing is illegal
petra_r
Community Member


Jordan wrote:
No, blackmail is illegal. An nda is not needed. 

Of course blackmail is illegal. Illegal stuff is a matter for the police. You say you had an NDA. Any NDA worth being called that has to have both parties' addresses on it. 

 

So can give the address of the freelancer to the police.

 


Jordan wrote:
I owe the ip of the code.

Ideed you do. Hence you can issue take-down notices if it appears somewhere it shouldn't.

jordangk
Community Member

Yeah, hence the backmail. He'll continue sharing the code unless I pay 5k. Upwork made mode, he made money I lost my company. Shame.
petra_r
Community Member

If you got a refund (which realistically isn't going to happen) you'd no longer own the code anyway.

 

Get the details of the freelancer from the NDA you say you have with the freelancer, and/or get a subpoena.

Issue take-down notices whereever the code appears. If he doesn't get paid and gets banned from github, he'll give up in time.

 

To be clear: Nobody is blaming you and everyone hates that freelancer for what he is doing.

 

But you need to sort this out through the correct channels.

 

Latest Articles
Upcoming Events
Jun 22
Upwork Virtual Community Hour
Community Hour English
Learning Paths