tlsanders
Member

Hey Upwork...what do you do with the money if someone doesn't verify?

The verification email I received said I won't be able to withdrawn funds if I don't verify by the deadline. So, what's the system? If someone never verified, what would happen to the hundreds or thousands of dollars they've earned that you were holding a the time you cut off their ability to withdraw?

41 REPLIES 41
tlsanders
Member

Avery, I have noticed that you've been steadily responding in pretty much every other thread here in the hour or so since I posted this question. My deadline is less than 24 hours away, so I would greatly appreciate a response as soon as possible.

Thanks for the gentle follow up and I'm sorry for the delay. I respond to each post/message by the order of which I have received them, and I apologise if it took some time to get to your post. 


It looks like you are being asked to complete a verification for the Identity Verification Badge. If you don't verify your account by the deadline set, your account will be put on hold, and you will not be able to withdraw your earnings on Upwork.


I will have to look into this further since Upwork is not a financial institution, funds cannot be held in your Upwork account for more than 180-days. I would assume there is a process for this, but I will have to check this with the team. 


~ Avery
Upwork

Thank you, Avery. A quick follow-up would be appreciated, since I have only a few hours left to decide how to proceed. 

Hi Tiffany,

 

Apologies for the delay. If a freelancer fails to verify their account, their ability to withdraw their funds will be put on hold until they do verify. If they never verify, any earnings left on the freelancer's account for more than 180 days will automatically revert back to the clients.

~ Valeria
Upwork


Valeria K wrote:

Hi Tiffany,

 

Apologies for the delay. If a freelancer fails to verify their account, their ability to withdraw their funds will be put on hold until they do verify. If they never verify, any earnings left on the freelancer's account for more than 180 days will automatically revert back to the clients.


Thanks for the response, Valeria.

 

A couple of follow-up questions.

 

How do you handle the fact that clients lose the right to use work they have paid for and may already have invested funds in printing and disseminating?

 

And, where in the TOS have we agreed that money that we have earned and is not in dispute may be confiscated in connection with after-requested activities?

This.  Just THIS -

 

"And, where in the TOS have we agreed that money that we have earned and is not in dispute may be confiscated in connection with after-requested activities?"

re: "How do you handle the fact that clients lose the right to use work they have paid for and may already have invested funds in printing and disseminating?"

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-06 at 12.43.00 PM.png

 

 

A client's ability to use work he has paid for is not impacted by the state of a freelancer's compliance with identity verification policies.

 

re: "And, where in the TOS have we agreed that money that we have earned and is not in dispute may be confiscated in connection with after-requested activities?"

 

Where in the ToS does it say Upwork can't do what it is doing?

See also: "Possession is nine tenths of the law."


Preston H wrote:

re: "How do you handle the fact that clients lose the right to use work they have paid for and may already have invested funds in printing and disseminating?"

 

Screen Shot 2019-09-06 at 12.43.00 PM.png

 

 

A client's ability to use work he has paid for is not impacted by the state of a freelancer's compliance with identity verification policies.

 

Preston, again, you're just wrong. Upwork's default contract clearly states that the client takes ownership of work that has been paid for in full. When Upwork confiscates the money and returns it to the client, that provision is not met, and the client has not purchased the work. 

 

A client could advance the argument you made, but even if it was successful, the court would likely order the client to pay the freelancer...which it couldn't do without violating Upwork's TOS. 

 

re: "And, where in the TOS have we agreed that money that we have earned and is not in dispute may be confiscated in connection with after-requested activities?"

 

Where in the ToS does it say Upwork can't do what it is doing?

See also: "Possession is nine tenths of the law."


That's a trite thing that people who don't understand the law say. When the person saying it is the person wrongly withholding possession of something that legally belongs to someone else, it generally ends in a judgment, perhaps including punitive damages. Or jail, depending on the circumstances. 

You believe that "the law" has more applicability than I do.

 

That is understandable, given our different backgrounds.

 

You have a law degree and have worked heavily in the legal arena.

I have a science degree and have worked heavily in science and programming.

 

I work in a science lab, and I can assure that laws written by human beings using pens and word processors have very little applicability to anything we do here. Although we obey human-written laws, that does not change the fact that 99.99% of what we do has its basis elsewhere.

 

And when I do programming and create source code, "the law" as you understand it is likewise inapplicable to nearly everything I do.

 

Upwork is a software system and a company, and ultimately the way it operates is based on source code created by computer programmers, and policies handed down by management. Upwork has lawyers that advise it. And those lawyers no doubt consider "the law" when they advise Upwork. But ultimately, the Upwork that we (as users) encounter is governed by source code and corporate policies, which may or may not comport with any one individual's opinions about how "the law" should be applied.

 

You have a strong belief that Upwork should be governed by "the laws" of one jurisdiction or another.

 

I view Upwork as its own jurisdiction. I think that the legal opinions of people outside of Upwork are not applicable to how I interact with Upwork.

 

None of which means you "are wrong." But you DO see things from a very different perspective.


Preston H wrote:

 

None of which means you "are wrong." But you DO see things from a very different perspective.


Preston. Are you QUITE sure that you want to get in the middle of this?

re: "Are you QUITE sure that you want to get in the middle of this?"

 

I hope I'm not "in the middle" of anything.

 

I am on the side of the original poster. If she has earned money, I don't want her to be restricted from withdrawing those earnings.

 

I have only offered some perspectives and answers to her questions in order to be helpful - to the original poster and to anybody else who reads this thread.

Just wondering why not simply complete the verification process and withdraw the funds? Mine only took a few minutes. 


Julie J wrote:

Just wondering why not simply complete the verification process and withdraw the funds? Mine only took a few minutes. 


There's a principle in play. More than one, actually.

The OP's point is that the funds are NOT Upwork's to keep, should she decide not to trust a third party organization with her information.  And should they return the funds to the client, the client has not truly paid for the work, thus does not have the right to use it, and if it has been published, there is potentially a world of hurt for the client.


Julie J wrote:

Just wondering why not simply complete the verification process and withdraw the funds? Mine only took a few minutes. 


Julie, I don't personally have a problem verifying my identity. But, I'm always conscious of the fact that not everyone's life is as easy as mine. 

 

I live in the United States. I have clear and recognizable identification, and an easy means of uploading it. I have a good internet connection that will let me easily video chat. And, if for whatever reason I chose not to verify, I could afford to walk away from the roughly $1,000 in earned income sitting in my Upwork account. 

 

Some or all of those things are not true for quite a few Upwork freelancers. Through a combination of my natural way of being in the world and various aspects of my background (including running a welfare advocacy clinic, working as an advocate for victim's of domestic violence, working for legal aid, working as a public defender, and working as director of marketing for one of the nation's leading consumer financial protection lawyers several years ago), I have a strong inclination to look not just at how an issue impacts me, but how it impacts the many people who do not have my resources.

@Tiffany I literally wish I could give you a hug of gratitude for all your efforts, caring about those far beyond you, for which this problem is a very huge one.

 

Especially in some countries like those in Africa, The verification process is painfully hard. Most government-issued IDs are handwritten or in local languages. No acceptable government-issued ID exists for freelancers in most cities of those countries (for example in my country, It's only in the capital city which can you get a printed/not hand-written residence ID).

 

And when freelancers try to verify using school IDs, work IDs, bank statements, or other documents containing full information, NONE is accepted by Upwork at all. even if you ask to provide a combination of all those. One last resort would be to get a passport issued. which would require a long queue of bureaucracy that would literally take more than 4-6 months long and is at least in my country for example also requires to go to the capital city and issue from there.

 

So it's a very painful thing that Upwork wouldn't do the easiest of things by their part to help those, those that want to work hard and are willing to bring any information on hand to get themselves verified. let alone depriving the money they have earned.

 

I am writing this because I am seeing many able professionals struggle to get past this unnecessarily hard stage.

For what it is worth, the question of whether or not a client owns work that she has paid for, if money later comes back to her, was discussed previously in 3-page thread here:

 

Rights to completed work

 

Although keep in mind that the original poster in this thread AND the thread I linked to both are referring to "rights" to completed work, which is NOT something I mentioned when I referred to a client's ability to use work he has paid for.


I did not use the word "ability" by accident.

 

If a client has paid me to write source code, and I have delivered that source code the client... Then the client's ability to use that source code in their overall information system is not impacted by my interactions with Upwork's identify verification practices.

Preston, it is definitely true that we have different frames of reference. The thing is, whether you see Upwork as its own kingdom or not, it is in fact subject to law, and all the more so now that it is publicly traded. It's subject to individual judgments, class action judgments, fines, and other sanctions--some of which could be crippling to a company that isn't yet profitable. It's not especially helpful to anyone for you to suggest that Upwork needn't follow the law.

re: "It's not especially helpful to anyone for you to suggest that Upwork needn't follow the law."

 

That is not something that I suggested.

 

I said that I do not base my interactions with Upwork on the legal opinions of people outside of Upwork.

 

I choose to assume that the lawyers who advise Upwork have adequately guided it to follow the law, to such an extent that it is unnecessary for me to consider the legal opinions of people who are not attorneys in the employ of Upwork.

 

To be very clear: I believe that Upwork follows the law.

 

re: "whether you see Upwork as its own kingdom or not"

 

Not my exact words... But in a sense, yes, that is how I believe we should view and interact with Upwork.

Section 6.3 of the ToS says the following which would seem to be relevant to this situation.  In particular see "a" a bit more than mid-way through. 

 

 

'Notwithstanding any other provision of the Terms of Service or the Escrow Instructions, and except as prohibited by applicable law, if we believe, in our sole discretion, that you have violated the conditions and restrictions of the Site or the Terms of Service, including by committing or attempting to commit fraud or other illicit acts on or through the Site, Upwork Escrow may refuse to process or may hold the disbursement of the Freelancer Fees and take such other actions with respect to the Escrow Account as we deem appropriate in our sole discretion and in accordance with applicable law. Without limiting the foregoing, Upwork Escrow, in its sole discretion and to the extent permitted by applicable law, may also refuse to process or may hold the disbursement of the Freelancer Fees or any other amounts and offset amounts owed to us if: (a) we require additional information, such as Freelancer’s tax information, government-issued identification or other proof of identity, address, or date of birth; (b) we have reason to believe the Freelancer Fees may be subject to dispute or chargeback; (c) we suspect fraud; (d) we believe there are reasonable grounds for insecurity with respect to the performance of obligations under this Agreement or other Terms of Service; or (e) we deem it necessary in connection with any investigation or required by applicable law. If, after investigation, we determine that the hold on the disbursement of the Freelancer Fees is no longer necessary, Upwork Escrow will release such hold as soon as practicable.

Scott, I agree that this provision is applicable (though with some weaknesses). But, at a quick readthrough, it's focused on holds. It doesn't say anything about permanently depriving the freelancer of earned funds.


Tiffany S wrote:

Scott, I agree that this provision is applicable (though with some weaknesses). But, at a quick readthrough, it's focused on holds. It doesn't say anything about permanently depriving the freelancer of earned funds.


I am a layman here, but the first sentence specifically says they can hold funds based on their judgement. The last sentence indicates that after whatever believed infraction is rectified, that they will release funds as soon as practicable. 

Scott, hold is not steal.

The problem is that Upwork is more than an escrow agent. An escrow agent can refuse to disburse funds and return them to the depositing party if that is what everyone agreed to in the terms of escrow (note that the provision you cited does NOT authorize return to the depositing party)

 

But, then, the escrow agent does not interfere in the other contractual relationship between the parties. If an escrow agent, for reasons other than lack of fulfillment of underlying duties by the receiving party, refuses to disburse funds and returns them to the depositing party, the depositing party still owes the funds to the other party.

 

But, Upwork has created a brick wall in that regard. The client is still legally obligated to pay the freelancer, but prohibited from doing so by its contract with Upwork. There is nothing at all the client can do that doesn't subject it to liability from one direction or the other--it is in breach of one contract if it doesn't pay and the other if it does.

I should also add that nothing in the ToS indicates that after 180 days funds revert to the client. The only mention of 180 days is about minimum disbursement amounts getting automatically paid out. So the 180 day reimbursement comment made by a mod should have some backing legal documentation which I could not find. 

Tiffany -

 

I did clarify the 180 remark but I think we were both typing our replies on this simultaneously.

 

The legal argument you are making here is interesting and certainly one I cannot comment on with any authority since my viewing of A Few Good Men and Night Court don't qualify me to get into the granular details you are arguing. From a 10k foot level what's interesting is that the problem here is one of identity. So essentially one may be arguing that they'd want to give you the funds but there is a reasonable requirement to make sure you are who you said you are. The consequences of getting that wrong is giving some unknown party your due payment. 

 

Unless UW Legal comes here to make their case - which will absolutely NEVER happen - I don't think you can adjudicate this one here. Pretty much everyone commenting, myself certainly including, is talking out of our you know what based on our extremely cursory level of legal understanding.

Agree, Scott. I wasn't looking to adjudicate. I was hoping that Upwork's response would be to explain that it had a system for paying out funds owed to a freelancer whose account was frozen or terminated because they failed to jump through one hoop or another. 

 

I'll admit it was a faint hope, but I wasn't really expecting Upwork to just publicly announce "Oh, we steal your money and give it back to the client, who doesn't want it and still legally owes it to you but isn't allowed to pay you, creating a practical and legal cluster*%$# for everyone."

Tiffany, why not just jump through the very large and low lying hoop?


Richard S wrote:

Tiffany, why not just jump through the very large and low lying hoop?


Because, Richard, as I explained above, what is for me a very large and low-lying hoop is not necessarily so accessible to the people it matters most to. 

 

I'm not so trusting about the security of the driver's license upload, since when Upwork was asked about it they sidestepped the issue by pointing posters to an entirely irrelevant section of the TOS. But, that too is less of an issue for me than it is for the very many more vulnerable people this system applies to.

 

I may or may not go ahead and verify my identity--I honestly haven't decided yet. But, whether or not I do, these issues will remain significant.

Got you, hope you manage to sort everything out.


Tiffany S wrote:

Agree, Scott. I wasn't looking to adjudicate. I was hoping that Upwork's response would be to explain that it had a system for paying out funds owed to a freelancer whose account was frozen or terminated because they failed to jump through one hoop or another. 

 

I'll admit it was a faint hope, but I wasn't really expecting Upwork to just publicly announce "Oh, we steal your money and give it back to the client, who doesn't want it and still legally owes it to you but isn't allowed to pay you, creating a practical and legal cluster*%$# for everyone."


How long have you been here Tiffany? You are an eternal optimist! Smiley Happy

 

On a more serious note. I appreciate your advocacy work. Very important for people who are in position to help, as you are, actually do it. 

re: "I wasn't looking to adjudicate. I was hoping that Upwork's response would be to explain that it had a system for paying out funds owed to a freelancer whose account was frozen or terminated because they failed to jump through one hoop or another."

 

I would support that.

I don't have any reason to disbelieve Tiffany's stated reasons for not wanting to verify her identity.

 

But I hope she will verify her identity and not "stand on principle" here.

I think she is being very un-mercenary like.

 

I don't think people should be mercenaries all the time.

But I think a healthy dose of mercenary mentality is healthy on Upwork.

 

I would probably feel a lot differently about all this if I thought there was a significant number of Upwork freelancers who "do not have the means to verify their identity" to Upwork.

 

I don't know exactly who the original poster is referring to. Upwork - by definition - is only used by people with computers and Internet access. Who are these people who have computers and Internet access, but do NOT have any access go government-issued ID and the ability to provide that to Upwork to verify their government identities?

 

And is the original poster concerned primarily about people who fit into that category (people she is suggesting exist, but has not identified), or is she concerned about the security of her driver's license being provided as a scanned image to Upwork?

 

Because these are two completely unrelated concerns.

Preston, my concern about the driver's license issue is less about the security of my driver's license and more about the fact that it is a legitimate concern that was raised more than once and Upwork chose not only not to respond, but to misdirect the people asking.

 

That does make me suspect that Upwork recognizes that the system it employs may not be safe. If it were confident in the security of the third party provider, why not say so, or even direct us to that company's privacy and security policies? 

 

But, as with all of the other issues involved, I am less worried about the security of my driver's license than I am the general issue. I monitor my credit. I know exactly what measures to take at the first sign of identity theft, and how to force creditors and credit reporting agencies to fulfill their legal obligations and fix the problem. That's often a significant battle, that can take years, cost people tens of thousands of dollars, and interfere with many opportunities in the interim. It's very likely that none of those things would be true for me personally, but that doesn't make it any less important for freelancers to know whether or not their identification is secure.


Valeria K wrote:

Hi Tiffany,

 

Apologies for the delay. If a freelancer fails to verify their account, their ability to withdraw their funds will be put on hold until they do verify. If they never verify, any earnings left on the freelancer's account for more than 180 days will automatically revert back to the clients.


I'd bet this policy was written about new FLs who have not yet verified their identity the first time. As I understand it, it's possible to get profile approval, submit proposals, enter into a contract and begin work before the ID verification process is completed. It is necessary to complete that verification before withdrawing funds, and there's nothing unreasonable about that. HOW-SOME-EVER, it came to pass that the platform was awash in fraudulent profiles and UW instituted a system of randomly re-verifying FLs' identities in order to continue working here. A nuisance, to be sure, but the underlying reason makes sense. The problem appears to be that nobody thought through and made provision for all the possible scenarios. For instance, what if a longtime FL gets flagged for random re-verification and, for whatever reason, would prefer to leave the platform than comply, BUT said FL has earned funds pending? Oops, no policy for that. But here's one that sort of superficially pertains.

As a proud member of the talking-law-out-of-the-A-drive gallery, that's my take on the situation.

BTW, I salute and thank Tiffany for making the point. As she notes below, regardless of what she does, this issue remains and needs to be addressed.

Just another layman here. )

Although this thread is trending towards matters of identity verification, the central issue I believe Tiffany initially raised was more related to copyright law, specifically the ownership of intellectual property.

I'm amazed to read this 180-day 'refund to client' announcement (which nobody seems to have heard of before now).

Also, I don't recall entering into any formal agreement here where funds for services already rendered and delivered to clients, free of any disputes, could be arbitrarily returned to the client against my will (and presumably the client's will also).

Another round of applause for Tiffany from this corner. 

 

Once again, Upwork has  managed to NOT THINK through all possible ramifications of their actions.

 

Does this consistently happen because no one has a clue as to what the FL-Client relationship is?

 

Does this consistently happen because no one has an ounce of experience on either side of the compendium?

 

Or, perhaps, all of the above.

Does this consistently happen because someone finds it easier to follow an algorithm than to utilize reason, logic, and the thought process?

 

 

carlaavg
Member

Well, I'm quite surprised by the fact that they give earnings back to the clients of those that don't complete the verification process.

 

My ID expired last year and since then I've been trying to get a new one. In November, they told me there was a problem with my fingerprint and that I had to wait. It's been almost a year, I've gone several times to the office and the answer is always the same.


When Upwork announced that the verification process would soon be required for everyone, I contacted the support team (I think it was around July). They just told me they wouldn't accept expired ID cards and that I should contact my local government office, nothing else.

 

I haven't contacted them again because I haven't been required to go through the verification process yet. I'm only "eligible" for it. However, I didn't know that they could give my earning back to the clients.

 

I went to the office in charge of identity issues two weeks ago. After waiting for hours, the answer was exactly the same. "Please bring your birth certificate again and we'll restart the process. There are too many cases like yours and we're on it. Meanwhile, you can use your expired ID". And that was it. 

Carla, will the office you went to give you written confirmation of this - on official letterhead?

 

That might keep Upwork at bay ...

Carla:

Unfortunately I think you're caught up in a difficult time... None of which is your fault...

 

Upwork is transitioning from what was essentially a free-for-all, very open, very trusting system that just let people create accounts and didn't challenge any of the details. In its earlier incarnations, including when it went by different names, people could provide any name they wanted to, use any kid of photo, and claim to live anywhere, and that was all fine.

 

But due to client complaints and out of a desire to be the most professional, most reliable platform of its kind, Upwork is now going to great lengths to verify various facts about its freelancers.

 

These efforts don't all work perfectly. Upwork struggles to get things right between accommodating honest users whose situations may not fit into a very price mold on one hand, while on the other hand combatting users who are trying everything they can do to present fraudulent information in order to "game the system."

 

Hang in there. Keep trying.

 

As much as it might seem at times that Upwork is a confusing or even "heartless" machine that users with unusual situations are up against... the truth is there ARE people who will listen and who can help you get over these hurdles. This Forum is monitored by Upwork employees who are often able help. If you get stuck, come back here and tell us what's going on.