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7b4080a0
Member

Fake spam freelancers everywhere

I have been using Upwork, with good results for over a year. However, I recently posted a project looking for some React.js developers. Unfortunately we have been inundated with spam/ fake accounts - something i didn't think happened on Upwork. I had a shortlist of 10 -12 finalised for Skype interviews. After the first 3 I realised that not only did the freelancers not seem to be aware of their own work history or skillsets correctly, as they had described them, but they all had asian accents, despite preporting to be from European countries. I don't care what country someone is from - but i do care about them telling the truth about it.

 

Out of the remaining 8 candidates i asked them all to make sure they have a webcam that they can use for the conversation. Only 2 of them would agree. The rest of them all pulled out of having a quick skype conversation if a webcam had been used. After going back through all the profiles i noticed a similar pattern to the ones that pulled out. None could be found on linked in, All had similarly vague education history, and all of them have started since roughly january '18. They were all European identities, a majority also had a lot of jobs done but all for seemingly random, low amounts - e.g. 10 projects complete but fo $50-$100 dollars each - so that their work history looks good and they have lots of proejcts with 5 stars until you actually examine the projects. They all also had big projects for large amounts - that were all still open. making their accounts look like they have done a lot of work. 

 

My guess is the same guys that are creating fictitious western identies are also creating fictitious client accounts to juice up their stats and numbers to seem legit. I'm sure some of them are good coders - but are you really going to trust someone to work on your code who is telling you they are a completely different person from a totally different country?

 

This has been an incredibly frustrating process and wasted 3-4 days of time between organising and tyring to interview these candidates. I really hope Upwork will take note of this and try to improve this spam or it will become an unusable platform.

 

I'd advise all clients to throw the question out there next time they are hiring - can the freelancer have a skype/ upwork conversation using a  webcam. I think you will be surprised by how many candidates will drop out at this suggestion.

 

These fake accounts do no favours for real freelancers as i've been left totally paranoid now about who it is I am hiring on the service.

57 REPLIES 57
bobafett999
Member

Good suggestions.  I suggested a phone call.  They are cheap.  @Rene had mentioned had the same idea using webcam and conducting the interview at 3:00 AM Asian time and asked the applicant to show outside of window.

 

Well Upwork is to certain extent unregulated land.  Buyers and Providers have to be be careful of one another.

 

Next time, put this in your job post that an interview with webcam will be required.  It will filter out most scammers.

 

Hi Eoghan,

I definitely understand your frustration and where you're coming from. Upwork is a huge plaform with over 17 million registered users and despite the great deal of tools we have in place to detect and action users with fraudulant profiles, they do still occasionally occur.

While we do also have verification processes for new and established profiles, unfortunately at times even when we take action on an account, the individuals involved may open a new account to circumvent our efforts.  We will certainly continue to use our best efforts to keep our marketplace safe and we'd appreciate if you flagged any profiles that appear to be suspicious, so that our marketplace quality team can review them and take appropriate actions. Thank you.

~Nina


@Nina K wrote:

 

While we do also have verification processes for new and established profiles... We will certainly continue to use our best efforts to keep our marketplace safe


Nina, why doesn't Upwork state in a freelancer profile if the profile is video verified? Mine only shows verified phone number, even though I also passed video verification. I realize not all profiles have been verified by video, but a significant number have, and a non-verified freelancer could still volunteer for a skype call with a potential client.

__________________________________________________
"No good deed goes unpunished." -- Clare Boothe Luce

Hello John,

 

Thanks for your question. Our goal is to eventually have all profiles verified. So there will be no need for a badge since everyone would have it. Thank you!


Untitled

Ryan gave a great explanation for why Upwork isn't offering badges for freelancers who have had their identify verified by a video interview.

 

Another reason I think the badge might be a bad idea is this:

The video verification only verifies that the identity associated with the freelancer account matches a real person who the video interview is conducted with. I think that's a great step forward and a serious way to cut down on fraudulent freelancers.

 

But the badge might convey undue significance to clients.

 

The people who have NOT yet undergone an interview didn't choose to NOT do it. They simply haven't been asked yet.

 

And a badge can't guarantee that the person a client works with is actually the person whose name and face is on the account. There are indeed shady, duplicitious freelancers who would get a video identification done and then let the account be used by other people.

 

So Upwork, as much as it does to be proactive about this, really can't GUARANTEE anything. If you want to be sure, as a client, you may indeed need to conduct a video/Skype chat of your own.

Yes, and the verification would need to happen periodically. I don't normally frequent the shady areas of the internet, but I have seen people advertise that they are selling video verified accounts in various freelancer groups. I am amazed how overt they are about it.  Just like the people who advertise services where they "hire" someone through Upwork and leave 5/5 reviews.

 

I agree it is a good step, but it isn't a complete solution especially since it isn't practical to verify every one.  I think it is wiser for clients to do their own video chats and this also helps the client see whether the language skills are as advertised (if that is important to the client or the project).

 


@Preston H wrote:

 

Another reason I think the badge might be a bad idea is this:

The video verification only verifies that the identity associated with the freelancer account matches a real person who the video interview is conducted with. I think that's a great step forward and a serious way to cut down on fraudulent freelancers.

  

Upwork is hiring its safety team on Upwork.  Currently, they have an open job: "You will play a key role in identifying compromised accounts, securing compromised users, deactivating phishing websites, (...)".

 

Which is absolutely great. Then:

 

Entry Level
I am looking for freelancers with the lowest rates

 

I say: clients should rely on their own skills to spot fraudsters. There is not much that Upwork can do, they don't have the money.

-----------
"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless


@Rene K wrote:

Upwork is hiring its safety team on Upwork.  Currently, they have an open job: "You will play a key role in identifying compromised accounts, securing compromised users, deactivating phishing websites, (...)".

 

Which is absolutely great. Then:

 

Entry Level
I am looking for freelancers with the lowest rates

 

I say: clients should rely on their own skills to spot fraudsters. There is not much that Upwork can do, they don't have the money.


Seriously?

 

Upwork, if you're reading this, hire up, and then hire specialized people for each category who know how to spot frauds in those categories, as I have done with so-called graphic designers who do nothing but fill their portfolios with stolen work and downloaded free images so easy to find online. Clients hire them, and then wonder at the disconnect between what their samples looked like, and what they delivered.

 


@Ryan C wrote:

Hello John,

 

thanks for your question. Our goal is to eventually have all profiles verified. So there will be no need for a badge since everyone would have it. Thank you!


I wish Upwork would stop saying all profiles will be verified. That can only happen if a moratorium on new profiles is put in place. It is otherwise an impossibility.

re: "It is otherwise an impossibility."

 

I would classify it as a genuine and sincere goal. Or at least a wish. It is a THEORETICAL possibility.

 

And only a PRACTICAL impossibility.

 

But for what it's worth... Even if they don't reach their goal... Every time they video interview a freelancer and discover a fraudster and shut down an account... It makes the platform more honest, more accountable and better.


@Preston H wrote:

re: "It is otherwise an impossibility."

 

I would classify it as a genuine and sincere goal. Or at least a wish. It is a THEORETICAL possibility.

 

And only a PRACTICAL impossibility.

 

But for what it's worth... Even if they don't reach their goal... Every time they video interview a freelancer and discover a fraudster and shut down an account... It makes the platform more honest, more accountable and better.


 Yes ... there is that.

I think the simplest way to stop a lot of this spam programmatically, without even manual verification, would be a simple 1 second recorded video of the user that they have to record when signing up. This could be attached to their profile, be public and clients could check it to see if the person matches the profile pic etc. 

 

Upwork already has all the tools to do this and the brevity of the clip means it shouldn't be a problem for freelancers to agree to. Having it as a video means it is nearly impossible to defraud the process.

Upwork allows the change of ownership of accounts. A translator's account can go from a German female to a Nigerian male (a true and recent example), so clients should only trust their own verification processes and leave Upwork outside of the loop. Upwork is not the solution to a problem they are a part of.

 

A video call is an excellent way to do this, it allows you to be sure that the person is who they claim they are and where they claim they are.

 

Don't forget one important thing: people who lie about their location or identity are almost always scammers seeking to milk a client or two before getting caught.

 

 

-----------
"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless

re: "Upwork allows the change of ownership of accounts."

 

I'm not sure I would say "Upwork allows" this.

 

Upwork has rules against this. But there is no technically feasible way for Upwork to prevent dishonest freelancers from doing this.


@Rene K wrote:

Upwork allows the change of ownership of accounts. A translator's account can go from a German female to a Nigerian male (a true and recent example),


 Actually, in fairness they did eventually remove him / her / it. The profile is gone.

Upwork do not "allow" the change of ownership of a freelancer account. It is sometimes just a little difficult to get it through to them why something is clearly a suspicious profile.

 

allergywriter
Member

I'm not in the category that you needed to hire. But I am a writer with a pretty good track record on Upwork.

If you asked me for a video Skype interview you would creep me out and I honestly wouldn't apply for your job. Even if I was fully qualified, even if you were willing to pay my rates, and even if the job was related to one of my personal passions.

Nope, wouldn't do it.

See from the freelancer side, I feel that my appearance has nothing to do with my ability to write or craft the content you need to meet your goals.

Sure, I'd talk on the phone - and I do frequently speak with clients by phone - but I'm not fixing my hair and putting on my makeup unless I am leaving the house. Sorry.

Just thought you might want to see that requiring a video call might turn off more than just scammers.

Your observations about your perspective as a freelancer are a valuable contribution to this conversation.

 

Although... nobody conversing with you via email or messaging would doubt your identity or abilities as a writer.

 

So in that regard, this situation doesn't apply directly to you. The original poster certainly encountered many freelancers whose identities are indeed in doubt.

 

He was generous to suppose that most of the fraudulent freelancers may be good coders. I don't believe that is generally true. I think that the freelancers who fake their identities also fake their abilities. Their work will consist primarily of stuff they searched for and downloaded off the internet. It will be material they have little real understanding of or control of, and it will not really meet the client's needs.


@Cheryl K wrote:

but I'm not fixing my hair and putting on my makeup unless I am leaving the house. Sorry.

Just thought you might want to see that requiring a video call might turn off more than just scammers.


 Cheryl, I don't mean to diminish your own concerns about Skype vidoe chats. Some people don't like to do video, and that's ok. So long as your clients know that, it should not matter.

 

 

 

I don't mind doing video, but am well aware that freaks a lot of people out. I guess my 15 years doing social video teleconfrancing has made me feel somewhat comfortable "behind the camera". But, to each his own.

 

I'd only have an issue if someone insisted, and then did something slimy during the interview. Even if the pay and job were awesome, I'd still walk away. I don't think the OP is slimy, and if he wants to confirm a freelancer that way, no big. 

This is a great (and mildly humorous) thread. Upwork offers a service to introduce freelancers to clients, and vice versa. As with any remote, or even in-person interaction, we all should spend the time to build trust to ensure we have a good outcome.

 

For some jobs, knowing exactly who is working on your job may be less critical. If you are hiring someone to build your IT infrastructure, you’re probably going to want to do extensive screening. In either case, if you want to increase the chance of success, a video interview is always a good idea. And it's probably a good idea to video chat with the freelancer periodically throughout the contract.

 

Today, most freelancers working in technology jobs have verified their profile picture via webcam. As mentioned earlier, “identity” means many things, and it’s important that all clients verify their freelancers to levels they feel confident that the freelancer can do the job.

 

We are increasing our investment into identity in 2018 to provide more behind the scenes and customer facing services to keep the site safe and increase job success. I’ll update the community as more progress is made.

 

And no, this is not the “Entry Level” position we are hiring for - though Rene, you did give me a laugh with this connection.



+100 kudos to Preston's comment:

 

I think that the freelancers who fake their identities also fake their abilities. 


@Wendy C wrote:

 

 

I think that the freelancers who fake their identities also fake their abilities. 


 They have no intention of doing anthing anyway.  They have "bought" the account for $50 from some guy Rosemary on the other thread mentioned.  So their investment is $50.  Whatever they can scam is their profit and they will be in hog heaven with other pigs in the mud.

mihaelamj
Member

Maybe UpWork should do a yearly freelancer confirmation video call.
I'm a freelancer and I wouldn't mind if I needed to chat with UpWork staff once a year.
This does not solve your immediate problem, but nonetheless, it would at least scare away some fraudulent parties.
If the call was scheduled at their presumed location's daytime, maybe that would help. 


@Mihaela M wrote:

Maybe UpWork should do a yearly freelancer confirmation video call.
I'm a freelancer and I wouldn't mind if I needed to chat with UpWork staff once a year.
This does not solve your immediate problem, but nonetheless, it would at least scare away some fraudulent parties.
If the call was scheduled at their presumed location's daytime, maybe that would help. 


 __________________________________

Except that if the stats are correct - there are millions of us. It would take a lot of manpower ($$$) and time to do a yearly check. Smiley Very Happy

12 Million Freelancers, 5 minutes at a time makes 1 Million manhours a year or 500 plus full time employees.

 

I don't see that happening any time soon.

 

 

And even if they could afford the resources, you know the video verification would happen when

1) your mother or (insert other loved one) is in the hospital

2) you are away on a 2 week holiday

3) some other inconvenient thing

 

cuz that's just the way life goes

When work product is due and the client wonders where her file are... some freelancers have an endless supply of mothers (or other loved ones) in the hospital.

f431e6a2
Member

I see day by day, outsourcing work online is getting tougher. It takes real efforts from a client to evaluate the worthy profile.

huberstephen
Member

I'm also have a lot of problems with FAKE profiles.  Upwork should do more to eliminate these profiles before the get started like using video varification and even ID card verfiication like what financial institutions do.  I've been using Upwork for close to 6 years (back when it was Odesk) for many large projects.  Overall I have had a good experience until this latest job.  So far all 3 of the web developers I have interviewed have been Chinese even though I am specifically looking for person fluent in English located in the US. 

 

I really dont have the time to do UPWORK'S JOB by verifying these accounts! 

 

 

Stephen if you have found freelancers that are misrepresenting their skills on their profiles, then please report them.

Upwork is currently going through the process of verifying freelancers but it still doesn't stop the unscrupulous ones from selling their verified accounts. And if other freelancers call them out on having a fake profile the mods get all testy like. Maybe it has more cred coming from a client.

I have been reporting them via their profile. 

Upwork can't do video confirmation for EVERY freelancer EVERY years.

 

And they can't guarantee that a freelancer they verified last month is still the person using the account (some of these people are shifty).

 

But YOU as a CLIENT can definitely do Skype or some other type of video verification for everybody you hire if their identity is important to you.

I've now been setting up Zoom Video conference calls.  However, there certainly is more Upwork can do to automate the verification process.  They MUST do more because this is a REAL problem and is going to seriously drive away business.  Of the five people I tried to interview today, ALL five were FAKE from China!  This has never been an issue for me but apparently fake accounts have overtaken Upwork.

 

Here are a few practical things Upwork can do.  Most of this can be automated

 

  For example,  It would be easy for the backend to record the IP address of everyone who logs into their upwork account.  If someone claims they are from Dallas Texas, yet everytime they have logged in for the past few months they have an IP from Shenzen China, then chances are this is a fake account.  At the very least, this account should get flagged for a second video verification.

 

Additionally, the email address they use for registration should also be the required Paypal email address and or, the bank account country location should match the profile registration. This way, people cannot sell accounts.

 

Lastly, require freelancers to submit a photocopy of identification such as an ID card, Drivers license, or Passport at least for freelancers claiming to be from the US, Canada or European.  This is common practice with financial instutiions and  Crypto currency trading sites like Coinbase.

 

 

 

 

 


@Stephen H wrote:

 

 

 

Additionally, the email address they use for registration should also be the required Paypal email address and or, the bank account country location should match the profile registration. This way, people cannot sell accounts.

 

Lastly, require freelancers to submit a photocopy of identification such as an ID card, Drivers license, or Passport at least for freelancers claiming to be from the US, Canada or European.  This is common practice with financial instutiions and  Crypto currency trading sites like Coinbase.

 

  

 


I thought that was already the case. I know there were some upset freelancers when Upwork added the option for clients to list jobs for US freelancers only. To bid a freelancer had to verify a US bank account rather than use Paypal to withdraw earnings. Some were understandably wary of linking their bank accounts to Upwork.

 

In the past year, I had the bank account verification required to apply for projects listed for USA only, identity document verification to prove I wasn't someone on the banned list so I could withdraw my earnings, and a video interview with Upwork staff to maintain my enrollment in one of the premium programs, and another round of document verification for an Enterprise contract. It is kind of weird I've had multiple types of ID verification yet some freelancers have scam profiles and haven't had any.  I am not complaining, I know the extra verification is required to participate in some programs and that Upwork needed assurance that I am not a terrorist. 🙂

 

Hmmm... Did you list the job as USA only? Just curious since I thought they only allowed freelancers with verified US bank accounts to apply to those projects. (Yes, I know that unfortunately excludes Canadians and other great international clients including many native English speakers). 

Hi Samantha,

  This is good to know.  I've only ever been on the client side of things with Upwork.  Initially I did not have my posting listed as US only because I did want to allow Canadians and other native english speakers to apply.  Additionally, I've been utilizing international freelancers for years with great success so I wanted to even give them a chance (One of the fake accounts I found today was supposed to be German).

 

I had since switch my job to US only. Hopefully that helps stop the fake accounts. 

 

I just hope that Upwork is working on more automated ways to stop fake and purchased accounts.

Hi Stephen, 


I'm sorry to hear about your experience. Please know we have a dedicated team that checks for fraudulent profiles. While some fall into the cracks, we rely on our Community of members to report this to us. And we appreciate it when it happens. 

If you have other profiles you would like to report, you may flag it as inappropriate, or forward it to us so that we can check it and forward it to the team for review.


~ Avery
Upwork


@Avery O wrote:

Hi Stephen, 


[...] While some fall into the cracks, we rely on our Community of members to report this to us. And we appreciate it when it happens[...] 

It's amazing how many clients fall into the cracks . . . 


@Nichola L wrote:

It's amazing how many clients fall into the cracks . . . 


There are no cracks on the client side to fall into. Client's identities are not verified. The recent messages in this thread were about a client that encountered fake freelancers, not about clients.

 

Freelancers are free to verify their client's identities through a video-call and by asking clients to show their ID if this is what these freelancers want (I would definitely not recommend trying this, but why not).

 

Clients encountering fake freelancer profiles, on the other hand, can drive business away because clients are the ones who bring money on the platform.

-----------
"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless


@Rene K wrote:

@Nichola L wrote:

It's amazing how many clients fall into the cracks . . . 


There are no cracks on the client side to fall into. Client's identities are not verified. The recent messages in this thread were about a client that encountered fake freelancers, not about clients.

 

Freelancers are free to verify their client's identities through a video-call and by asking clients to show their ID if this is what these freelancers want (I would definitely not recommend trying this, but why not).

 

Clients encountering fake freelancer profiles, on the other hand, can drive business away because clients are the ones who bring money on the platform.


 ______________________________

I am well aware of all your points, but a lie is a lie, whether it is a client or freelancer. I would imagine that any self-respecting freelancer who discovers that a client is lying, would not wish to work for that client, which eventually would result in revenue loss (to Upwork). 

 

 

There is really no motivation for a client to lie about their identity or location unless they are planning on not paying. If that’s the case, Upwork has systems already in place for disputes and ways for freelancers to get paid. Additionally, freelancers can leave negative reviews for clients that was dishonest in anyway thereby warning future freelancers in a highly visible way.

I have to believe that impropriety on the client side is very rare and there are actions that can be taken.

However, in my recent experience, fake freelancer profiles are a rampant problem. Like I said previously, 5 out of 5 interviews I conducted yesterday were fake. Though I have paid more than $60K out to freelancers through various jobs, this discouraged me from using the platform. At the very least, I’m less likely to hire foreign freelancers because I don’t have the time to filter out all the fake profiles.
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