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Apr 01, 2024
Navigating the Freelance Waters - How I Spot and Avoid Scams on Upwork

Upwork has become a haven for professionals seeking flexibility and variety in their careers. However, with this rise in popularity comes the increased risk of encountering scams. As freelancers, it's crucial we remain vigilant and informed about the potential dangers lurking on the platform. With this post, I want to take a look into some common types of scams on Upwork, provide examples, and offer strategies to protect yourself from these fraudulent activities.



Payment Outside the Platform 


One common scam involves clients asking freelancers to accept payments outside of Upwork. They may promise higher pay or quicker transactions, but this bypasses Upwork's protection mechanisms, leaving you vulnerable. For instance, after completing a project, a freelancer might never receive the promised payment, and without Upwork's involvement, recourse is limited. 


Protection Strategy: Always insist on using Upwork's payment system. It's designed to safeguard both parties and ensures you're compensated for your work. Accepting payment outside Upwork is a violation of the Terms of Service. If someone tries to get in touch with you outside Upwork, let them know right away and they'll take action.




Overpayment Scams


In an overpayment scam, a client sends a check for more than the agreed amount and asks the freelancer to refund the difference. Unfortunately, the initial check is fraudulent and will bounce, but the refund from the freelancer, often sent before realizing the scam, is real.


Protection Strategy: Never accept overpayments, and report any such requests to Upwork immediately. Always wait for payments to clear before issuing refunds. You can file a dispute if your client refuses to release the payment for a completed milestone. See the Upwork Terms of Service and Fixed-Price Escrow Instructions for full terms and conditions.




Phishing Scams


Phishing scams involve clients sending links that appear to be related to Upwork but lead to fraudulent websites designed to steal your login credentials. For example, you might receive an email asking you to update your payment details, redirecting you to a convincing but fake Upwork login page.


Protection Strategy: Verify the authenticity of any links or emails you receive. Upwork will never ask for your login details via email. Pay close attention to email and messages, especially if you don’t know the sender. Check the details below and learn more about legitimate Upwork emails here.




Job Offer Scams


Some scammers post fake job listings to collect personal information from freelancers. These listings might ask for detailed personal and financial information under the guise of job requirements or payment setup.


Protection Strategy: Be cautious of any job postings that require upfront personal information. Legitimate clients will respect your privacy and follow Upwork's guidelines for information exchange. To learn more about our safety practices, check out Upwork Academy for interactive information on how you're protected.



Advanced Fee Scams


In this scam, freelancers are asked to pay upfront for training, software, or materials necessary for a job. Once the payment is made, the client disappears, leaving the freelancer out of pocket and without work.


Protection Strategy: Never pay to get a job. Legitimate clients will not require you to make any upfront payments for employment opportunities. Never get paid or pay someone outside of Upwork. You may open yourself up to scams or fraud, and lose Upwork Payment Protection. Learn more here.




Staying Positive and Protected


While scams can be disheartening, remember that the majority of Upwork clients are legitimate and value the services of freelancers. By staying informed, practicing due diligence, and using Upwork's built-in protections, you can navigate the platform safely and focus on growing your freelance career.


Always report suspicious activities to Upwork, and don't hesitate to ask questions or seek advice from the community if something doesn't feel right. Your vigilance not only protects you but also helps maintain the integrity of the platform for all its users.




A note from Upwork:

As with any online business, it’s always important to be diligent in protecting your information, your computer, and your access.