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Client Abuse - Lack of Support - How to protect freelancer work?

Active Member
Abrar A Member Since: Jan 26, 2016
1 of 33

My question is how to protect freelancer's work when the client does what happend to me below? Even if the work is done on freelancer's own server and client can't run away with it, when a client just cancels the project on unfounded reasons how can the Support help?

The story:
Edit: updated with details.

1. Client sends the website credentials. With a note: * please change the password. (The password was admin)
2. I do just that, do some bonus work (I always do), do some tasks, ask to discuss some issues about the rest preferably over upwork VoIP ( I always do)
I go to sleep happy.

3. Next morning I see the messages saying something like:
A. I don't speak over a call, I am a very busy person.
B. Thanks (bonus work)
C. I can't login, did you change the password?

I scroll down and see more messages written few hours apart:
D. The main task doesn't look how I would want it to (was never given the information on what was wanted)
E. Please return the password and "offer a refund".

4 After reading that, I check how she would have liked the work to be, I recheck it, found out it needed additional work to make it look like how the client wanted. In a normal case, I would have spoken to the client and informed them about that. But seeing how unreasonable the client was being: to make the situation better, I updated my work and sent them a screenshot feeling that it would definitely amend the situation.

I say:
A. Sorry, you asked me to change the password, here it is: *strong password
B. Please see my screenshot, the functionality is working great, (easy to check, it's about sharing a link on Twitter)

I go to sleep quite disurbed waiting for an answer. This is something new for me.

5. The next day that's what I see from the client:

A. I never asked for the password change. I find it deeply disturbing you would mess with my site credentials. Give me the password and give me the refund!
B. The Twitter doesn't look like how I wanted.

A few minutes/hours apart:
C. This is cybercrime. Etc etc

6 I contact Upwork support and they look at my chat. I was glad they actually did. They understood, and told me I should speak to the client and wait until some dispute is filed so they could jump in.

I do the following:
1. I recheck my work, and find it working again, I send another screenshot and ask them if they even read my last post
2. I check the new password again and find it working and I send a screenshot of the client's message to me about changing it.
3. I remind the client to understand there was no reason to accuse me in that way and that I have been a long time professional.
4. Tell them to file a dispute, and also told them where the dispute button was.

At this time it seems that the client is reading sole messages and skipping some. The awful experience filled my day with bad feelings.

I thought that If they officially ask for a refund, they would have my plugin on the site and I would get nothing out of it. I thought of uninstalling my plugin but that would make it look like I didn't do the job.

So I decided to change the password again thinking what an irony it was as the client never used my new password until that point. I didn't plan any harm with this nor thought I would keep it forever. As a knowledgeable person in my field, I knew very well they could simply reset the password using their email address.
Besides the website was full of lorem ipsum dummy content so not actually something functional.

7. The next day the client says:
A. I didn't want you to change the password, the message was from the previous developer which I copied pasted
B. Mocks my claim of being a professional
C. Tells me about contacting the police in my local country if I didn't give them the new password as the one I provided they tried now wasn't functional anymore.
D. I will leave negative feedback

*More insults about my work and professionalism.

8. I respond telling them how the password was available to them but they never read my message or saw my screenshot or tried the functionality again to see how well it worked but just bent on asking me for a refund while not actually doing it officially.

I tell them I changed the password today and they should either review my work and pay up accordingly or file a dispute. I also offer I could simply finish the job if they actually answer the questions I asked earlier.

9. The next day the client resets the password. I can't login anymore. I wait for 3 days and nothing.
A. I file a request for a partial refund based on the work I had done
B. The client officially cancels the project.
C. I dispute the claim and Upwork support asks if I could speak to my client.
D. I tell them to refer to my earlier complaint and again offer the same options. Offer I could still complete it but the client is unresponsive and unreasonable
E. They come back saying that the client said I was keeping the new password
F. I told them the client already had the password as I can't login anymore. I remind them the dispute has nothing to do with the password as I filed it and I am asking the client to review the work and continue or pay partially according to the work done.
G. They tell me I shouldn't have done that.
H. I tell them to read our chat and solve my dispute as the client already has the password.
I. They say this dispute can't be solved anymore and needs a third party arbitration and I had to pay the costs.

I argued that it was very easy to ask simple questions from the client and verify my work.
And that where it's at.
Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
2 of 33

How can support help?


In my own use of Upwork, I decide that Customer Support is not an option in resolving matters such as this.


I consider it unwise and unprofitable to consider Customer Support to be a recourse. I manage work proactively and work out conflicts directly with clients.




I don't accept large fixed-price contracts with clients who I don't know. Only small contracts. An hour or two of work. If the client demonstrates they can be trusted, I will agree to increasingly larger contracts. If a client is going to be a problem, I know before getting in too deep with a time-consuming project. I can afford to walk away from a small task if a client decides to play games.

View solution in original post

Active Member
Abrar A Member Since: Jan 26, 2016
3 of 33

Thank you for your response.

The project isn't huge. The nature of the work is clear and it can be easily proven to work or not to work with a URL or screenshot. The client has rejected my work and all what Upwork has to do is to ask the client for the proof.

Despsite the client's awful attitude, I have offered them to review the work and move and I expect Upwork Support to help with that.

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
4 of 33

Abrar A wrote:

The client wouldn't agree to anything so "I changed the website's password" until a resolution was reached. I did it to protect an important plugin I had built just for the project.

You are very lucky you still have an Upwork account...

Community Guru
Martina P Member Since: Jul 11, 2018
5 of 33

Abrar A wrote:


My question is how to protect freelancer's work when the client does what happend to me below? Even if the work is done on freelancer's own server and client can't run away with it, when a client just cancels the project on unfounded reasons how can the Support help?

The story:

Maybe many of you are familiar to this but client abuse is new to me. I am working on Elance/Upwork for 8 years now and have been top rated for all those years with 70% repeat client rate. But that doesn't account to anything when seeking support over Upwork.

I reached out to Upwork support and chatted about how I felt disgusted by client's attitude and if they could do something. Basically, my client, who posted their first ever project, asked me to change their website's weak password and later forgot about it.  When I asked to review the work done, they wrongfully rejected the most important part of the job that I had done and accused me of changing the password and immediatelly asked for a refund.

I said sorry to the client, sent over the new password, reminded them of their instructions and advised them to carefully check my work which they wrongfully rejected, I also sent screenshots. To cut it short, the client either was checking messages on a phone or just skipped the messages, kept asking for the password, accused me of cybercrime, rejected and mocked my work and my so-called professionalism. All this while the new password was still functional.

I reached out to Upwork support and thankfully they understood the problem but told me to wait until a dispute was filed. I told the client to either continue with the job and review my work properly or pay me up for the work done. The client wouldn't agree to anything so "I changed the website's password" until a resolution was reached. I did it to protect an important plugin I had built just for the project.

Eventually the client got her password, (I tried to login but couldn't), as it was easy to do so using their email address. Upon noticing that I offered the client to continue or pay up but nothing happened. I waited 3 days before filing a payment request. Upon that the client formally cancelled the project and asked for a refund. I disputed the refund and after that Upwork support didn't support me.

Although I am asking the support to ask the client the justification for cancelling the project but they are dead set on laying the blame on me for changing the password and not asking the client why they had rejected my work on unfounded reasons and accused me of cybercrime.

It sounds like a thoroughly unpleasant experience during which you allowed yourself to stoop so low as to hold the client hostage by changing the password - maybe not your finest hour. 

Things can go wrong, egos are bruised, disputes are created, bad feedback is left. Was it worth the few bucks? Probably not...

Active Member
Abrar A Member Since: Jan 26, 2016
6 of 33

The client already has the password. They had the password days before I filed the dispute. While I understand it would be generally not nice to withhold the password, but that's not why the dispute was filed. I filed the dispute because the client wouldn't come to a resolution.

The client was extremely rude to me, didn't even accept they asked me to change the password, didn't bother testing the work done, accused me of cybercrime and speaking to police all that while the password was available in the chat. Only after that and afer a whole day I decided to keep the password and speak to the support team to seek the solution. 

I didn't get no bucks out of that. I didn't show no ego, I was merely protecting my work while offering the client to review my work properly. My last message was a request to review my work and to discuss the issues. 

Unfortunately I don't have cases of bad feedbacks, in 8 years maybe 2-3 bad feedbacks so perhaps I am not used to such behavior hence I am posting about this.

Community Guru
Tiffany S Member Since: Jan 15, 2016
7 of 33

You can't "protect your work" by stealing the client's whole website. That's a bit like saying that you were concerned your neighbor was going to steal your borrowed lawnmower that was currently in his garage, so you changed the locks on his house. 


That aside, it seems that throughout you've focused on the wrong things. If you must involve support, don't talk to them about your "disgust" or the client's attitude. Literally no one in the world except you cares whether you are disgusted or what you think of the client's attitude. Stick to the facts and contractual issues when you're trying to solve a problem.

Active Member
Abrar A Member Since: Jan 26, 2016
8 of 33

Umm, I am not sure you read up my first post.

The client was given the password (fact), work was done (fact with screenshots) and they "thought" I changed the password on my accord although that was the first instruction they gave me and then forgot about it (fact), then they asked for cancellation and a refund.

That is what happened. Afer that I gave the new password, asked to review the work properly. This is all facts with the history in our chat. The client still didn't read the messages, didn't see the new password or the screenshots and continued to threaten me of cyber crime. 

The next day I woke up to the nonsense and changed the password.

For you, the story begins with me changing the locks. In reality, which you don't want to see for some reason is that the not-so-friendly neighbor asked me to change the locks, paint the walls and left the house. I did so and left the key in the door. The neigbor returns, accuses me of the theft, disagrees to see the walls have changed colors and then decides to cancel the project and asks for a refund. I ask them to check the walls again and remember they told me to change the locks but they hurl insults at me, threaten me further. Only then I walk up the to the door and pull the key out.

After that I ask the neighbor to discuss and talk about it but even after realizing they asked me to change the password, they don't apologize or try to fix the situation but remain adamant that I didn't do my job.

Community Guru
Tonya P Member Since: Nov 26, 2015
9 of 33

Nothing that happened before you committed the (probably) criminal act matters. Once you decided to do your own enforcement, you lost. You should be banned because the next client isn't going to want you to lock down their website over a disagreement either. The fact that you can't recognize that what you did cost you all credibility is a real problem. 

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
10 of 33

Abrar A wrote:

The next day I woke up to the nonsense and changed the password.

For you, the story begins with me changing the locks.

Because that is all that matters. You did not follow the proper dispute procedure, you just locked the client out of his site.

Game over.


As I said, it's almost a miracle you still have an Upwork account at this stage. I would tread very carefully if I were you, after a stunt like that you are never more than one wrong word away from your Upwork account being closed permanently.