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Suspect subcontracting, how can I prove?

Active Member
Phil T Member Since: Jul 22, 2020
1 of 9



I have a suspicion that one of my newly hired developer (paid per hour) is subcontracting out the work I've hired him to do. My suspicions are raised by:


  • The keywoboard activity is consistently high, but the screenshots for the work just showing moving around the one file in the code that's not relevant to the work that's being done. I suspect an automatic keyboard movement tool is being used to show activity, when the hired person is not working.

  • No memos are being attached to any of the hours that are being worked

  • When code was submitted, it achieved the task, but there is no evidence in any of the work diaries that this person ever opened the files that were submitted. I've hired other developers and can always see their progress

  • The latest task is a simple one, but this is not being completed in a reasonable timescale with no explanation.

  • The developer is not responding to messages, or answering direct questions about the work


How would I raise a dispute about the work that's being done by this person in these circumstances? How would I show enough evidence that this person is not working on the code as they say they are?


Thanks in advance!

Joanne Marie P Moderator Member Since: Nov 26, 2017
2 of 9

Hi Phil, 


The work diary provides you information about the freelancer's activity while doing the project. Disputes on Hourly jobs are filed by the client if they disagree with the hours billed by a freelancer. If you would like to file a dispute, please check out the information shared on this post to learn more.


~ Joanne
Ace Contributor
Solange B Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
3 of 9

If the developer is not answering your questions or messages then that itself it’s a problem, since otherwise he would have provided an explanation for the work diary.

When you use two monitors the app takes screenshots of both, but maybe there is something about his set up that is different. But if so, he could just explain. Have you asked him specifically about the work diary and activity? In my personal experience it’s always best to be polite but very straightforward and transparent. And if he is not able to provide an explanation then that’s all you need for a dispute.

Good luck!
Community Guru
Renante V Member Since: Feb 7, 2018
4 of 9
Phil T wrote:

No memos are being attached to any of the hours that are being worked

If you dispute hours without any memo, those hours are removed, even if hours are tracked via the time tracker.


Upwork Hourly Protection

The following cases do not qualify for payment protection
- Showing the freelancer engaged in non-work-related activity
- Missing memos or have inadequately described memos

View solution in original post

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
5 of 9

You don't need to prove anything.


You don't need to raise a dispute.


You can close a contract at any time FOR ANY REASON.


You are not required to "show cause."


If there are no memos, then you can simply dispute the hours worked in the previous week and Upwork will automatically remove the time. You won't need to pay for that time, based purely on lack of memos.

Active Member
Phil T Member Since: Jul 22, 2020
6 of 9

I realise I can close the contract at any time for any reason, however hiring developers and then ending contracts abruptly is a risky action. My question was about whether there's a specific way I hadn't considered of demonstrating that a hired person is using a keyboard activity device/app, or that they were subcontracting.

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
7 of 9

Upwork has automated algorithms in place which flag suspicious activity. Upwork WILL suspend or terminate the accounts of freelancers when it finds wrongdoing, including for the use of "keyboard activity apps" or unauthorized subcontracting. Upwork is actually quite aggressive in looking for freelancers who use "keyloggers" and the like. Upwork has terminated freelancers who did so, even in the absence of any complaints from a client.


But an important question for you is this:

How will it benefit you to demonstrate that the freelancer is using a keyboard activity app, or to demonstrate that the freelancer is subcontracting?


If you don't trust the freelancer or if you do not highly value the freelancer's work, then I strongly recommend that stop working with them.

You have already reported what you experienced here in the Forum. Upwork employees will be able to follow up as they see fit.


If it provides you no benefit to investigate further on your own, or to compile reports demonstrating your findings, I am not sure why you would spend time doing so.

Active Member
Phil T Member Since: Jul 22, 2020
8 of 9
I have never had to raise a dispute before, and when searching this forum I didn't immediately find other examples of this problem I am facing. I wanted to see if there was something that I could do to demonstrate my case before raising the dispute, if there was something it would benefit me in raising my dispute.

Other members have pointed out that I can highlight the lack of memos, which is fortunate for me, but if that hadn't happened it would be more difficult. Upwork support have said they've a team who can review the work diaries for examples, which I've given them permission to do.
Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
9 of 9

Yeah, I think you'll be fine.


The "no memos" thing is a deal-breaker.


Honestly, I doubt the reviewers will look at anything else. If I was a reviewer, I wouldn't.


Here are 100 screenshots.

I can look carefully at the image and see if I can figure out what the freelancer is doing.
Or I can study the mouse/keyboard activity.


All of which takes more time than this:
No memos? Zap.