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

tlsanders
Community Guru

The verification email I received said I won't be able to withdrawn funds if I don't verify by the deadline.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

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
Active

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.


Preston H wrote:

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.


Preston, I'm sure that's all well-meant advice but please don't cloud the issue with tangential pontificating. We all understand why UW instituted the ID re-verification program and I feel confident speaking for most that we're in favor of anything that effectively discourages, identifies and penalizes fraud. But there's a clear-cut problem in one of the policies associated with the program. Eventually, somebody able and willing to be a test case will come along. Meanwhile, innocent FLs are potentially at risk.

 

If Carla is tapped to re-verify her identity before she has been able to obtain a new gov't ID card, it's very possible she will be able to connect with someone at UW who is able and inclined to help her avoid disaster. But it's equally possible that she won't. Her efforts to date, to forestall an emergency situation have been futile. The re-reverification notice puts you on a clock and it's a very short window.

 

ETA: Also, I find it offensive when someone who is obviously quite comfortably situated in the U.S. tells someone in Venezuela to "Hang in there, keep trying." Really?

Just to sum up: Carla's situation is an example of why Tiffany took the time and trouble to bring this problematic policy to center stage. None of us knows when the re-verification ax will fall, therein lies what deterrent power it has to discourage fraud. But a perfectly honest, hard-working FL could get caught in the gears, at least losing their UW account and at worst losing hard-earned money in the bargain. This needs to be resolved.

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