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Scammed via Hourly Contract, what next?

I posted a job that requires consultation from an expert. The freelancer and I both agree to 10-14 hours of consultation that would begin with 2-3 hours of discussion. He provides his availability for a call. Once the contract is accepted he suggests creating a document that would require 15-20 hours of work instead of doing a call.

I specifically deny this kind of work and reiterate that I'd like a 1:1 call. The freelancer agrees with "sure". 


The next morning I see he's logged 5 hours at $200 each to type a 4 page document on Google drive answering SOME of my questions in the original post. I ask him to adjust his hours as this was not what we agreed to, however he counters with saying this was research conducted to "maximize" the value out of our call. Freelancer then mentions he's still available for a call but it would be with his paralegal, and not him.

I disputed the hours through Upwork but they sided with the Freelancer since he provided memos and acceptable levels of activity for the hours. This is despite the work being something I specifically rejected and did not ask for. 


The upwork rep I spoke with over the phone agreed it was unauthorized billing since he could see in our messages that the work was specifically rejected the day before those hours were logged. Then we move on to Mediation where I suggest a refund of at least $800 out of the original $1,000 charge. The mediator agrees that the work was not what was originally asked for and recommends the refund of $800. Unfortunately since it is only a recommendation it is not enforceable. 

I now understand that I should never do hourly contracts. However, how is this allowed? Am I understanding this correctly?

As long as the Freelancer provides "acceptable levels of activity" and a memo explaining how the work being shown in the screenshots is related to the contract, it's completely ok? Even if the work logged was specifically rejected beforehand, it's ok?

From my understanding, the only way to get the $1,000 I was billed for is by filing a chargeback with my bank? I also understand that by doing so my account will be suspended and I will not be able to use Upwork until those funds are recovered.

Is there no other way to recover those funds besides a chargeback?

Community Member

It's a pity you have to go through that. I  think you should weigh what you may stand to lose assuming you go through you bank. If it is bigger than a thousand box, then you can take that route. If not, you may just count it as a loss in business as there's no other way if Upwork won't cancel the order.


I know this is not what you may want to hear, but just give it a thought.

Community Member

Hourly contracts don't mean the job will be completed or done to your satisfaction. It means the freelancer "worked" and made the required mouse movements, etc. to qualify for payment. Fixed price jobs can be set through milestones to completion.

This seems very different from a situation where the freelancer is working on the assigned project but fails to provide the desired results. This freelancer wasn't working on the agreed project. It's no different from a client ordering a logo from a freelancer and the freelancer logging time writing a children's book.

Community Member

Since you say "with his paralegal," I assume that the freelancer is an attorney. If that's the case and the freelancer clearly and definitely went against your instructions and billed you for work you had instructed them not to complete, you might consider contacting the appropriate disciplinary commission.

Community Member

I now understand that I should never do hourly contracts

I still believe, hourly project is safer and more convenient, for both freelancer and the client. But, the client needs to be extra careful at the start. At least they need to set a 1-hour limit until they're sure the freelancer is good, and trustworthy.


As you can see now, don't be deceived by profiles and sweet talks. There's a big example in this forum, where even an "Upwork-vetted AI expert" with also a $200/hr rate, made silly claims about AI, among other things.


Back to your problem. If you feel scammed (which I think it is based on *your* story), there's another institution that should help you if Upwork won't. Nevermind, I didn't catch your last paragraphs before.



As long as the Freelancer provides "acceptable levels of activity" and a memo explaining...

Yes, we can do some **bleep**ty and useless work, and it will be hard for the client to get their entire money back, on both hourly and fixed price. While as I said above, hourly should still be a safer and more convenient option (except for some types of jobs), provided that it's done carefully, at least at the start.

Community Member

This is killing this platform slowly, I am not a saint, but i think freelancers that do such should be banned. 

Now many clients really are scared of hourly contracts which would definitely generate more money due to such stories of some freelancers scamming them by just doing fake hours.. this in general affects the innocent ones who would probably never meet a client willing to stick with hourly or have 100% trust.


It's quite bad. 

Community Member

As a freelancer, here are my two cents. I've been working through Upwork for 8 years. I've completed 700+ jobs and made several hundred thousand dollars in earnings; my job success score fluctuates between 97% and 100%, and nearly all of my ratings are 5-star. In other words, the data shows that I'm experienced, I'm honest, I do good work, and clients have positive experiences with me. 

This fall, I had my first truly negative work experience on Upwork -- a client initiated a chargeback on two separate milestones of a fixed-price job. I delivered the work on time and to the client's specifications for both milestones. The client indiciated that she was satisfied with the work, didn't request any changes, and released payment for both milestones within hours of receiving the deliverables. Then, almost 2 months later, I got a nasty-gram from Upwork saying I had to repay the funds because the client violated the terms of service. They agreed that I had done nothing wrong, but because fixed-price projects aren't covered by freelancer payment protections (only hourly), I had zero recourse. Since the client's bank took the money back, I had to pay even though I was 100% in compliant with both Upwork's terms of service and with the job scope/expectations set by the client. 

This was news to me—with almost a decade of positive client interactions, I'd never learned this first-hand. (Thank goodness!) And, somehow, I never learned it second-hand, either. Now that I know the risks of fixed price contracts, I will never work another one through the platform. When I posted about this in the forums, a lot of experienced freelancers chimed in to say that they also refuse to work fixed-price jobs because the risks are too high. You get screwed months after you get paid, and your account can be in limbo for up to 90 days after the chargeback. For those of us who rely on Upwork to pay our rent, that's a huge risk, one I can't take. 

Since the chargeback, I've lost out on several jobs beacuse I refuse to work on fixed-price contracts where I'm not protected. If a client doesn't trust the numerous metrics indicating that I'm skilled, professional, and trustworthy, that's fine. The way I see it, it's their loss. They're missing out on someone who has a lot to offer at reasonable rates. I also see it as my gain. When a client is suspicious and brings a bunch of baggage into the contract, that's an unpleasant work environment for me—one I get to bypass by sticking to hourly contracts. 

My advice is to carefully vet your freelancer before hiring. If someone has many years of experience on the platform, hundreds of five-star reviews, a high job success score, and glowing written feedback from numerous clients, the odds are incredibly low that you'll get screwed. The freelancer is probably insisting on an hourly payment structure because it's the safest option for both parties, and it's the only option where freelancers have any type of remedy if things go sideways.

I freelance independently before they created Elance, and I never really interested in getting serious about using it or other 'freelance marketplaces'. I have my reasons.


So I'm a neutral POV 😅


If someone has many years of experience on the platform, hundreds of five-star reviews, a high job success score, and glowing written feedback from clients


Although some profiles are 'real honest', some freelancers can put 'extra effort' on their profiles to 'deceive' prospective clients. There are numerous methods. The example I provided in a previous reply above is just one small illustration of how profiles can be deceptive. There are bad freelancers/agencies with perfect profiles.


I don't always read this forum, but I think I can still say there are many clients complain in this forum about freelancers with sparkling profiles. Currently in page two, there's one complain from client on such freelancer (TR plus, 5 stars, high earnings, etc.).


So, clients may look at profiles, but keep being extra-careful. "Test" how the freelancer work, for maybe two weeks at least.  Use a good project manager if you have to, if you're not experienced with the work. Profile itself will not guarantee a good freelancer/agency.




Hourly project is good (except for some types of work),  but not mainly because of the protection from my POV. The protection isn't reliable, there's currently a fun story in page 1 of the Freelancer forum, about Upwork finally pay only after being threatened. Also about how a $5,000 chargeback on hourly project can also occur after more than a month (and no protection given) in (currently) the same page.

Community Member

I refuse escrow too. Hours are estimates, not hard prices.


Also, I find that clients will start off with something small but then increase the workload. If you give me double the work, I'm going to charge double the price. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but it happens. Hourly controls this scope creep for me so I don't have to go back and forth over escrow.



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