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How I lost $17,350 to Upwork and a freelancer - Upwork's dirty trick (unlawful in the UK) exposed.

Active Member
S S Member Since: Sep 26, 2019
1 of 46

I have used Upwork for several months and always appointed freelancers on a fixed fee contract. However, in February 2019 and agreed to hire him under an hourly contract subject to the freelancer using time tracking. Eventually I hired him at $50 per hour. Upwork was charing my card $2000 per week and I was of the view that the money was kept in escrow. I had no email notifications what so ever from Upwork about hours and I assumed the $2000 was in escrow. The freelancer is from Belarus and turned up in our office in the UK without our knowledge / invitation and to our surprise and said he had a holiday planned and will work from our office for 3 weeks and we permitted. During his time in office, he demonstrated the work in his macbook and was taking a lot of time to deliver small improvements. As we became concerned, he left the UK. I became a bit concenred and contacted Upwork and requested them to remove my card. I was told the card cannot be removed and  immeidately cancelled my card with the bank. Once the payments were declined, Upwork emailed me stating that they have reversed the hours $2800 worth of hours logged by the freelancer was cancelled as the hours logged were manual. I became concerned and then also learnt from Upwork that they have released $17,350 to the freelancer who has not committed any of the code he has written too. I contacted Upwork who attempted to mediate. However, the freelancer informed Upwork that until and unless I pay the $2800 cancelled by Upwork for manual hours, he will not provide the code and Upwork offered me $480 compensation for my loss of $17,350 - which is somehting I rejected. 


I then spoke to my bank and disputed payments with my credit card company. Interestingly, Upwork challenged the dispute stating the Work was in fact delivered by the freelancer and provided screenshots of my login history and then separately stated that the I failed to review the worksheet and disptue the hours within 5 days of the invoice and therefore they released the monies to the freelancer. 


I requested Upwork to advise where do I go from here and the response received from Uowork is simply we can't respond until and unless we have a Subpoena and keep repeating the same without any regard for the amount of money I have lost. 


From the freelancers account, between February 2019 to June 2019, he has earned 920 hours between two clients (one of them is us) and this is highly suspecious. I understand from the other client that Upwork has suspended the freelancers account. Howveer, Upwork is not taking any responsibility or steps to give me any update / steps I should take to recover the monies. 


Update (23 Oct 2019)

Following the incident, I have been working with an advisor to get down to the bottom of this. During the term of the above incident (towards the end), I also hired two other freelancers under a fixed hour agreement for a defined small peace of work (Agreed amounts were $52.50 and $600). I also a had written agreement (in upwork chat) with both the freelancers that if they do not deliver the work within the agreed hours and deliver the working modeuls, no payments would be made. The freelancers logged the hours and Upwork released $52.50 and $600 respectively to both freelancers from my escrow account. Sadly both the freelancers failed to complete the modules and I learnt that Upwork has released the money to them. I spoke to both the freelancers and both agreed that they will return the moneies to Upwork and Upwork did nothing. Subsequently I had to chargeback along with the above payments. 


As soon as the chareback was requested, Upwork wrote to both the freelancers stating that their hours do not qualify for payment protection and deducted the amouunts respectively - both the freelancers consented as agreed with me. 


Now, Upwork informed my bank that the work was delivered by both the freelancers and disputed the chargeback. Puzzled by this I wrote to Upwork's executive team and a lady called Katt from Executive Esclations exposed what Upwork is really about. 


**Edited for Community Guidelines**


- Freelancers agreed that the work was not delivered and returned the money to Upwork

- I request a charge back. Upwork emails the Freelancers confirming that their hours do not qualify for payment protection and keeps the money with them. 

- Upwork informs my bank that the services were delivered and I accetped - a false statement 

- Upwork then advises that chargeback is against their terms of service and therefore they will attempt to recoup funds in order to re-pay freelancers. 


Cardholders in the UK do have the rights under section 75 of the consumer credit act 1974. Upwork is ignorant enough to think that their terms (if its true) can supersede the law of a land. 



Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
2 of 46

re: "Upwork... stated that the I failed to review the worksheet and disptue the hours within 5 days of the invoice and therefore they released the monies to the freelancer."


Upwork said that you did not review worksheets/work diaries and dispute the freelancer's billing within the dispute period.


Is Upwork incorrect about this?


re: "I became concerned and then also learnt from Upwork that they have released $17,350 to the freelancer who has not committed any of the code he has written..."


For future reference, and/or for the benefit of any other clients reading this:


The code management strategy you used on this project was insufficient.


As a project owner, you should require that freelancers who do programming for you provide source code to you in a way that you receive the source code continually and completely, in a way that you have control over. You should be able to copy any source code you are paying for to a repository location or server that you have access to, which the developer himself can not access and (preferably) does not even know about.


It is not adviseable to pay a freelancer for work which he is not providing to you every week (or preferably: every day).

Active Member
S S Member Since: Sep 26, 2019
3 of 46
Dear Preston,

This is not about whether Upwork is right or not. Clearly I have been scammed by a freelancer and upwork profited from it. Yet upwork is refusing to provide any details and insisting on me serving a subpoena. A freelander has blackmailed me through upwork clearly after scamming me and upwork tolerating such conducts.

For the avoidance of doubt, given my previous contracts thorigj upwork, I wasnt aware that there an automation payment terms. Upwork did not make it clear. Further, I also had nothing to review. No time tracking information is available to date aa agreed and I am simply told that all the hours are manual. I just see 8 fixed hours being added to each day - not even practical for someone to code for 8 hours non stop. In addition, I changed my email a year ago and upwork sending the invoice relatwd emails to my old email. Upwor also confirmed that it was due to an issue in their system.

I trust this makes sense.
Active Member
S S Member Since: Sep 26, 2019
4 of 46
It would be great if someone can really say how I could recover the monies and prevent this scammer from cheating others - clearly it appears Upwork takes not responsibility and will profit from such scams.
Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
5 of 46

Yes, what you saying does make sense.

I am very sorry to hear that you had a disappointing experience while using Upwork.


re: "For the avoidance of doubt, given my previous contracts through upwork, I wasnt aware that there was an automation of payment terms. Upwork did not make it clear."


What is interesting is this: This morning - hours before you created this thread recounting your experience - I was thinking about creating a new thread asking for an open discussion about whether Upwork's current messaging to clients is so inadequate in some aspects that it is causing some real problems.


Your post has convinced me that this is the case. I probably will create a thread to ask for some discussion about this topic.


I believe that too many clients have had negative experiences similar to yours because they have not sufficiently understood how Upwork works.


It is all well and good to tell someone in hindsight that they should have "read the instructions." But I think that is a completely inadequate response. You are NOT the only client who has expressed frustration regarding a project that cost significant money and did not end up with them achieving the results they expected.


I think something SHOULD be changed so that clients understand the Upwork user interface and system better, and so that clients have are more informed about the limitations of the system.

Active Member
S S Member Since: Sep 26, 2019
6 of 46
I Agree with you. However, I do not necessarily believe that upwork is an organisation that is ready to learn from clients experiences and improve its services. Instead it is trying to ensure their profit is protected at any cost, even if it is illegal. I am in fact talking to the regulators given the poor and ignorance response I have had from upwork's executive team when they realised that I have been scammed.

Notably, I was told that I agreed to waive my right to dispute payments with my card company. While I do not see this in the terms the shared with me, this opens a larger debate for me. Section 75 of the Consumer Cresit Act in the UK not only gives me the right but also puts the card company / bank severely responsible. If what upwork saying is true, then their terms and conditions should be challenged and the question is whether upwork can be trusted to make such steps if we spend time trying to being this issue to their attention.
Community Guru
Jody P Member Since: Aug 1, 2017
7 of 46

Hi S S,


Like Preston, I am also very sorry to hear that you've had this experience on Upwork and I am sure that coupled with the financial loss, it's proving to be more and more troublesome.


I strongly believe that both Preston's and Valeria's responses are truly full of sincerity and I hope that from these responses you can at least take away that most of us indeed care about clients on Upwork and would never do anything to jeopardize the trust or good-standing that as freelancers we've worked hard to build up.


That being said, may I offer a little bit of advice from my own experiences? Having worked on a lot of projects remotely, and having been part of teams large and small across the globe, the one thing that I learned early on, was that under no circumstances should a project of any significance be devoid of a diligent and professional project manager - preferably a PM who also has a strong senior developer or CTO background. Additionally, as Preston alluded, you should have a rigorous and consistent code checking mechanism in place, and there's nothing better to do that with than getting a Git (Distributed Version Control) set up (e.g., Github).


These are just my two cents (one penny on the PM and one on the Git), and I know that you didn't ask for this advice, but I sincerely hope that my words, as well as the words and confidence of others will see you through this disturbing matter.


I wish you the very best of success with all your future projects.


Best regards,


Jody PM

Valeria K Moderator Member Since: Mar 6, 2014
8 of 46

Hi S S,


I'm sorry to hear you've had a negative experience hiring freelancers on Upwork. While we won't be able to discuss the details here in public Community as private information may be involved, I checked and see that the team has been assisting and communicating with you via this ticket. I'll also follow up with them about your case.


Thank you.

~ Valeria
Active Member
S S Member Since: Sep 26, 2019
9 of 46
Dear Valeria,

Thank you for your reply. I am not sure what you meant by providing assistance. All what I have been repeatedly told is to send a Subpoena. If that's what an assistance then yes I have been provided assistance.

To me this is another trick by Upwork to keep the profit they earned from scams.

Thank you
Community Guru
Joan S Member Since: Mar 18, 2019
10 of 46

Hello SS - What I don't understand is why you hired someone at $50 per hour and then assumed the money was being held in escrow?