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jeanpierre8910sp
Community Member

Abuse of Upwork 14 days automatic payment & Upwork dispute system

The objective of this post is to bring out to public a recurrent situation that has been happening lately.

Some "clients" are inviting people for jobs and show no intention to pay for the work that has been submitted.

How do they operate?

 

Basically it starts like this:

 

The client posts a job (usually with a pay below the average rate for a specific field, but not very low. Then, they send out hundred (sometimes thousands) of invitations. After offering a contract and put the money on escrow, they assign you the job and say that "once the job has been approved (usually by a third party) they'll release the money". After the job is completed and submitted by the freelancer, the client replies with a "Thank you, our team will review them soon", and disappears for the next couple of weeks. All good on our side, as after all, the job is funded and the money is being held on Upwork's escrow. So it will be released to us automatically by Upwork after the 14 days period, right? WRONG!!!! Exactly on the 14th day, literally hours from 12am (UTC), the "client" requests "changes" in the job, always with the following message: "We are still waiting for the final validations from the client. I apologise about the delay. I will get back to you as soon as I have an update."

In other words, they don't actually need any change to be made or resubmission of the job. All they are trying to do is to extend the 14 days period for automatically release of the money. And if you ask why they're doing this they say that "the money will only be released to the jobs approved" by their third party client, and if the work is reject (which in most cases it is), you have the option to do the work again, resubmit the new material, and again, you have no guarantee it will be approved, or even that your previous work is/isn't being used.

 

What happens next? If you are someone who likes to go after what's yours by right, you file a dispute with Upwork support. When this happens, both you and the client have 5 days to send all evidence you have to support your claim, and after this period, if one of the parties doesn't respond to the dispute, the money is automatically released to the party that responded. So that should be fine too, after all, the client won't reply to the dispute and you will get your money anyway, right? WRONG AGAIN!!! The client responds very generically, saying "The work needs to be reviewed" by their third party client. And if in the end of the dispute there is no resolution, Upwork gives you the option to go into arbitration, which is a legal biding process (that you're not guaranteed to win either), and it will cost you $300+ to do it.

 

In the end, many people give up and end up not getting paid.

 

Now, two things to note here:

1- Can't Upwork (or someone in the platform) see that this is an abuse of the system, suspend this client from the platform and release the money we worked hard to get? The "client" is inviting an unusual number of people and awarding the contracts just like that. This surely looks suspicious. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that.

2- If there is an escrow system in order to keep the money safe while the work is being done, why not have the arbitration done by the platform's own people? In the same way we freelancers agree to the terms and conditions, so does the client, and why not include in that the obligation to release the money after the 14 days period, as long as there is proof that the work has been done properly?

 

There should be a system that stops people from using the "resubmission" tool just to extend the period. 14 days should be 14 days. Just like us freelancers have to keep a deadline or we don't get paid, clients should keep their deadline too, and the system must make sure this happens.

 

So, my question to Upwork is: will the platform take action against this kind of "clients", or will they allow this to continue?

 

If a client can abuse the system like that, what's the point of having money on escrow and doing all jobs on Upwork?

 

This is extremely frustating and should be addressed.

 

The current system does not give freelancers any protection from scammers.

 

If someone has been a victim of a non-paying client, please, feel free to share your story.

 

20 REPLIES 20
spectralua
Community Member

I saw many same cases here. It is common.

About your two things:

1) Upwork receive money from each applied. It is very large money. Thats why it will be never preverted.

2) Because with current rules Upwork owe nothing to you and have no responsiblity.

f0f5ff0e
Community Member

I do hope Upwork does something about this. I fell for this scam too and it's extremely frustating, not just this kind of client, but the Upwork attitude (or lack of) towards it. 

debi-f
Community Member

I'm sorry to read this situation! 

Did you check if the client had previous feedbacks from other freelancers? I usually check the client's Profile before applying or accepting an invitation.

And, I also suggest not applying if there are a lot of invitations. 

I posted a list of scammers some days ago, then I was banned for 1 week, and they deleted the list of scammers (although I didn't add links). But, you can still read some suggestion when searching a job and applying, in the post https://community.upwork.com/t5/New-to-Upwork/Useful-information-for-new-freelancers/m-p/1494063#M23...

 

 

 

 

Yes. The client had good feedbacks up to september 2023. After that no feedbacks, probably because there were no jobs posted until December, when the complaints started. And in this particular case, most of us didn't apply, we were invited. And because the client had a good hiring rate and spent over 20k, we just accepted. And with the funds added to escrow, you think that the client is serious about it. Only after a while I looked and saw how many invites were sent. But still you think "well, the money is there, so it should be ok". And that's the whole problem with the current system. You can be easily scammed, even though the client has good feedbacks, good hiring rates, spent a lot in the platform and even funds the milestone. I really hope that Upwork sides with us freelancers who have opened a dispute against this client. Another suggestion I would make to Upwork moderators on this community is to let people expose these scammers. It's not fair that the guidelines says "oh, it's not appropriate to post names of people and company", and what it's really not appropriate (and not even right) is Upwork allowing these people to continue abusing this platform even though there are tons of evidence it's a scam.

f0f5ff0e
Community Member

I didn't apply either. I was also invited. And from now on I will apply the old saying "You can't judge a book by the cover", for the good and for the bad, as someone with good feedbacks and stuff can still trick you into accepting a job only to make you work for free. 

wlyonsatl
Community Member

Upwork shouldn't allow the "my client hasn't approved the work yet" scam.

 

As a freelancer, my client is the client on Upwork's system - the person who posted the job, hired me and funded escrow. If that client has a client in the shadows, that's no concern of mine. And Upwork shouldn't force arbitration on a freelancer who's a victim of this bogus arrangement.

 

This sort of thing isn't possible on hourly contracts. Yet another reason not to do fixed price projects.

 

Upwork loses out on its fees with this charade. Why are they willing to do it? I have no idea.

I believe that in the end of the day, whatever the outcome of the dispute, Upwork has already secured at least the fees they charge from the client, that's why they side with them.

And this is so not right because, in practice, any client can hire someone by just paying the Upwork fees.

For example:

 

Let's say I am a client who needs 10 voiceover artists to record a 5 minute mini podcast and I've got a couple of thousands to temporarily spend on this. I can advertise this job for $100 for each freelancer. Then I need to fund the escrow with $100 + the Upwork fees (I don't know the current rate, but let's say it's $10, just for argument's sake). So I'll invite 10 freelancers by funding the escrow with $1000 + $100 in fees (that will be Upwork's take). The freelancers submit their recordings. Then I keep asking for revisions, new recordings, etc, all this without approving any monies and extending the 14 days period for the payment. Until the freelancer is fed up and either give up the contract (in which case the $100 will be refunded to me), or they open a dispute. As long as I give very generic excuses, like "the job hasn't been done properly", Upwork will end the dispute after 5 days as "unresolved" and offer both parties to pay $300+ each for legal binding arbitration, which nobody in their right mind is willing to pay. And with no other option to the freelancer, the contract will be terminated and the money refunded to the client, without any guarantee that the client isn't using the material that was previously sent. So in the end, a job that I, as the client, would need to spend $1100 to get, it only cost me $100 in Upwork fees, and the freelancer will get a bunch of zeros.

 

Now, if someone tells me that this is acceptable in any system, tell me what medication you're on, because I want to get some for myself.

 

I do understand that scammers are everywhere and you can't uproot them 100%. But in cases like that, where there is more than enough evidence that this is a scam, it should be Upwork's responsibility to make sure that the freelancer gets paid, and the client is permanently suspended from this platform. And if they don't, maybe it's time to move our business as freelancers somewhere else.

That's an interesting scenario, Jean Pierre C. And only Upwork would know how many connects (100? 500? 1,000? More?) all of the freelancers who sent proposals paid Upwork in order to submit their proposals on this scam? It might all add up to a nice chunk of change.

 

At least a week ago I sent Upwork notice of a supposedly "Romanian" client posting 13 identical jobs. So far, those job postings are still live. (I haven't checked to see how many proposals each has received. )

 

At the very least freelancers should check the jobs listed under every potential "client's" Similar Jobs on Upwork list on the "client's" job posting(s). That list shows similar job titles in this "client's" list, but, interestingly, for this particular client, each of these 13 job postings I've reported to Upwork show the "client" only has 1 job open???

 

For all of its claim of using artificial intelligence across its operations, Upwork has clearly overlooked this particular variety of scam.

 

As always, we have to freelance defensively. Upwork can't/won't keep up with all the scams scumbag "clients" throw at us.

 

 

Hey Will... yes. It's not just frustrating, but also WRONG!

 

I've lived in Europe for 15 years, even though I'm from Brazil. While in Europe I could walk free at night looking at my mobile without any fear I would be robbed. I returned to Brazil after a long time, and I see "specialists" in public safety, and even the government telling us to have a "spare phone" for the criminal, so if you get mugged, they won't take much from you. This is absurd, to say the least. It should be the sc*mbags to be afraid of the police, and not the public should be afraid of them.

 

I see the same thing happening on this platform now. They advise us, honest hard working people, to be aware of scammers, but they don't do their job of actually catching the culprit and suspending them from the platform, even though there are more than enough evidence showing that they are in breach of the T&C's. And right now, I'm angrier at Upwork than with the scammer. What's the use of having an escrow system in place if you can't guarantee that you will get paid? Seriously, this is beyond any acceptable standards.

debi-f
Community Member

I'm very careful about sending proposals, I read the client's Profile, feedbacks, hiring history, etc.

 

One week ago, I sent a proposal for a job asking for a Proofreader/editor for a Spanish book. The client even sent a sample of the work to be done. It seems a real client, with good feedbacks until July 2023. 

The job received 20 to 50 proposals that were not read (at least mine), and no one was hired.

Today, the same job is posted again.   

Why is he posting the job again? He didn't even read all the proposals. Why is he allowed to post again the same job, if it is still open, and with unread proposals?

Is this a new kind of scammer?

Because he can. He doesn't have any expenses. And the upwork benefits from this. Everyone is happy. Except you because you pay for it all: with your money, time and effort.

f0675772
Community Member

Hi Debora,

Even I saw that client (maybe different) asking for proofreading of a Book Translation in Castilian Spanish. Two similar jobs were posted within several hours change. 

There is one more going on, a Ukraine Client continuously posting for a same job every few hours everyday. No hires just proposals sent. I sent proposal to another one who needed a translator for two sets of languages I know. I applied at the cost of 16 connects and no response even after viewing it.  Proposals were not so many but in next couple of hours atleast 3 same job posts with 8 connects to apply. I got all my connects used up and hence, I had to get Freelancer Plus plus $12 for additional connects. It was around $30 plus taxes for me and I haven't earned enough.  From my latest work upwork already charged nearly $50 this month. 

It's just tiring. Not enough work to earn from for Students like me and not trustable sources either.

debi-f
Community Member

Hi Manu,

I suggest not paying for a membership. Just use the 10 connects they give you for free and buy 10 more ($1.5) ONLY when you find a good job for you. 

And apply ONLY for jobs that fit your skills, after checking the Profile of the client  (history, feedbacks, if he hired others, etc.). 

f0f5ff0e
Community Member

So,  after the 5 day dispute period, support has replied with a non-binding "proposed resolution" to my case against this scammer. They said that there was no evidence that work wasn't done properly, therefore the payment should be released in its entirety to me. Cool, right? WRONG!!!!!!!! SO WRONG!!!! They told me now to try and reach an agreement with the scammer (????) so the payment can be released. If we don't reach an agreement by January 24, the case will result in a "non-resolution", and the next step would be to pay $337.50 to escalate this to a legal binding arbitration. Below is my reply to the "mediator" (note that names were removed because for Upwork it's appropriate to let scammers abuse this platform, but it's not appropriate to mention names of the scammers):

 

"Hi (Upwork support agent's name),

 
You do realise that (scammer's name) is a scammer, don’t you?
You do realise that (scammer's name) will not agree to release the payment, don’t you?
You do realise the amount of evidence that has been provided to Upwork showing that(scammer's name) and (scammer's company) are abusing the 14 day period system, don’t you?
You do realise that any sane person would never pay $337,50 in order to get paid, don’t you?
Don’t you realise that (scammer's name) is literally laughing at this because she knows she can abuse the system and nothing will happen to her in this platform?
 
Your “proposed resolution” is outrageous. We are honest working people. Dozens have been victims of(scammer's name) , and you have the courage to say that “if a resolution is not agreed upon by January 24, the case will result in a non-resolution. 
 
This is a crime. I worked for this money. I delivered the work correctly. Upwork has seen evidence that the work has been delivered correctly and the tons of evidence literally exposing this scam.
 
I would like to escalate this, not into a paid arbitration, but with your superiors, or whoever is a decision maker, as I will not accept anything shorter than getting paid what I worked for, and the suspension of (scammer's name) and (scammer's company) from this platform. 
If anything other than that comes out of this dispute, I will move my business to (Upwork's competitor's name) and I will encourage all clients I work with and fellow freelancers to do the same. 
 
Also, I am writing this in the PRIVATE conversation. So, whenever you reply, do so in private as well, and not copying and pasting the exact same reply in the group conversation. This is so unprofessional. (a little context here, this support agent opened  both a group and a private email for correspondence, but whenever I would write in the private email, she would reply with the whole answer in group email, so the scammer could see everything we talked about, even though it was supposed to be private!)
 
Also, what is unprofessional is having an escrow system that does not guarantee that we, honest and hard working people, get paid. As I said, this is outrageous.
 
Therefore, I look forward to receiving the money I worked for and seeing (scammer's name) suspended from this platform. If you cannot do that, escalate to whoever can. What I’m asking is just what is right, and not vengeance. Clients like(scammer's name) are like a cancer, and trust me, one day they will kill this platform if nothing is done to prevent it."
 
Now, if there is someone from Upwork who is reading this post and can actually do something about it, now it's your chance to prove that Upwork does not condone this kind of behaviour. And feel free to reach out in case you need it. 

I hope you get some satisfaction, Evelize C.

 

"Escrow" on Upwork has always been a semi-assurance of payment to freelancers. Based on the flow of posts on this subject on this message board over the past few years, it looks like scam artist clients have increasingly been able to expand the "semi" part and minimize the "assurance" part.

 

Good luck!

I have only worked on fixed price projects and have never been scammed except twice.

One was by oversight as I submitted work on the last and unfunded milestone on a six month project.

 

The second time from an invite by Upwork Talent Specialists.

Sadly, the mighty has fallen so low, they have joined an Enterprise client to scam their own freelancers in the name of expert tests. It is the UTS who has been messing with the auto release function.

 

I am one among hundreds of top rated freelancers they are targeting, all for an AI model the client has built.

 

As I had to choose between wasting time over $20 or finishing a funded ebook, I chose the later for now. I might go the dispute way once the current project is over.

It's good that you're talking about updates! Many freelancers will find it useful to know how things are going. Keep do it.
 
Regarding the essence of your letter. None of the upwork management cares about you and no one will consider this. Sorry, but as-is. 
Regarding the dispute, it looks like a dead end. I will keep eye at pogress and wish you good luck.
 
 
 
debi-f
Community Member

😉

f0f5ff0e
Community Member

Here's an update on both mine and my husband's dispute with this scammer (I refuse to call her "client").

 

My husband disputed the case. He sent the very same evidence of job completion, scamming behaviour by the scammer, and all the stuff. The Upwork agent that looked after his case acted in the most professional way by communicating properly both in the group and in the private email. The scammer didn't reply to the dispute in the 5 days period. So, the Upwork decided in favour of my husband and the agent released the money to him straight away. The scammer did reply later to the dispute, but it was after the deadline. So my husband won. 

 

In my case, the support agent didn't act correctly by sending messages that were supposed to be private in the group email. The scammer replied before the deadline, and with that, even though the agent admitted that I deserved to receive the money, she claimed that the money couldn't be released to me as she was just a mediator. 

 

So, what can we learn from with this?

 

Whenever you come across a scammer, open the dispute process in the hope the scammer will miss the deadline for the reply and you will get your money. Otherwise, the scam will work (with Upwork's connivance) in favour of the scammer. 

 

Now, as for the scammer's identity, I did some research and found the person on Linkedin. I looked up her profile picture using Google Lens, and I found at least 4 different Linkedin accounts with the same picture but different names. 

 

Also, this scammer has many profiles on Upwork, some saying they are from France, some saying they are from the UK, and their profile looks pretty good when it comes to hiring rate and money spent. But all they're doing is paying the Upwork fees and not approving the work submitted with the excuse their third party client hasn't approved them. So beware, even more people who work with voiceover recordings, that this is a scam!

 

As for my "support" agent, I will be reporting her to Upwork, as the procedures weren't followed properly, and I'll come back to post the updates

 

 

Evelize's support agent was literally unprofessional. Mine, thank God, acted properly. I would give their names, but "it's not appropriate" according to community guidelines.

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