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creativedigit
Community Member

Is Upwork losing the battle against scammers?

I haven't posted in months, and I'd hate to be ranting on my first one. After closely monitoring the scammers who are posting on the platform on a daily basis, I figured out that it's one entity behind this form of attack. 5 out of each 10 job posts on average are coming from scammers, at least in my category and at the time I am checking on new gigs. If Upwork won't take immediate action, it will be a matter of time before Upwork will lose everything. If Upwork is not aware of how serious the situation is, I highly recommend that they think twice.

 

Failing to take immediate action means that Upwork does not respect its members' time. Think about all the time we're losing on a daily basis because scammers are freely posting on the platform. I reached a point where I know before clicking on a job whether it's legit or not.

 

I suggest the following workarounds:

 

  • For the immediate future, have an employee manually review each job post, and simply reject the posts that contain contact information or links for external communication. While it doesn't stop all scams, it will drastically decrease their number.
  • Have your developer build logic for handling job posts. Check if the person who is posting has at least hired one freelancer in the past, and if they did, allow their job post immediately. Otherwise, for new clients (since all scammers have new accounts), simply pause the job from being posted until an employee manually approves their job post (or rejects it).
  • Ask your developer to create a Regex to detect if the job post contains emails, phone numbers, or other contact information in the title and the description of the job (on the server-side). If it does contact information, stop them from posting the job until they resolve the issue (removing the contact information in this case, since this is a mistake even legit clients may do sometimes).
  • Ask those who create new accounts to confirm their identity with email confirmation and two-factor authentication.

I am considering quitting the platform temporarily in the next few days until this issue is resolved. I can no longer afford to waste my time reading proposals of scammers. This used to be a great platform, what happened?

ACCEPTED SOLUTION

Wassim and others,


I'd like to circle back here and link to some new information thatโ€™s been shared recently. First of all, this blog post was been updated last week with information about the Trust & Safety teamโ€™s initiatives in 2022.
Additionally, as many of you noted, a lot can be done around educating users about Upwork TOS and our most important policies. We were able to launch TOS reminders within Messages and are planning to have more notifications and links to information about staying safe while working online within the onboarding flow as well as a dedicated course in the Academy.
Of course this is continuous effort. There are a lot of initiatives in the works and some of them may take some time to have a noticeable (but hopefully lasting) effect. Weโ€™ll continue sharing more information as it becomes available and I encourage you to subscribe to the boards within the Updates section so that you get notified.
(I'll be marking this post as a solution for visibility. However, we'll continue providing updates and more information.)

~ Valeria
Upwork

View solution in original post

229 REPLIES 229
pgiambalvo
Community Member

Much applause for this post. Thank you!

ericaandrews
Community Member

I agree with this 100% and have suggested the same things many of times.

 

Upwork is not "losing" the war against scammers, because it's not currently fighting it.  I think a  more appropriate term is forfeited.   Losing (present progressive)  suggests an unsuccessful effort is still in progress.  Whereas 'forfeited' suggests any "fighting" or effort took place in the past and has since been halted or discontinued.

 

I also have warned that not working aggressively to reduce and remove scams is ultimately going to cause UW to lose the very product they sell in the market place: Labor, especially the type of quality labor that attracts quality, high-paying clients.  

 

A "market place" is basically a "store".  If you spend 100% of your energies appeasing customers and 0% of your energies acquiring, keeping, maintaining, and caring for your product "inventory", the store shelves will soon be empty and the customers will leave, no matter how good your "customer service" is.   Customers can't shop in an empty store.

 

I know quite a few talented, experienced freelancers that have simply left the platform recently due to the unmanageable number of scams, either going to other platforms or simply finding and managing their own contracts 'solo' outside of UW.  Their absence from the platform means that some client somewhere, everyday, is unable to find the exact skills/labor they want to purchase on UW, so they make no purchase at all. 

 

The problem becomes cyclical in nature. As the good freelancers leave, the good clients leave, then more freelancers leave due to fewer clients, then more clients leave due to fewer freelancers, until the 'store' shelves are empty and all the customers have gone to another 'store'.  Precipitous revenue declines triggered by unforced errors and neglect of severe, visible threats to your business is not a sustainable business model in the long-term.  You don't need a business degree to know that: Just common sense. 

Good stuff, CJ.

 

I did not know they aren't doing anything to fight the scammers like I told Petra. I'm surprised to know this is the case. And the big question remains, why? They're active on social media, they're introducing new features, why can't they tackle this?

They are actually doing a lot to filter job postings. As I mentioned, I get lots of scammy invitations, but the jobs are often already gone before I can reject them. So the jobs you see are the ones not getting zapped immediately. 

But of course they should to more to capture the most popular ones that are really easy to catch. 

Nope, they are not doing anything at all.

Let me show you something; a search result for a specific spam;

https://www.upwork.com/nx/jobs/search/?q=https%3A%2F%2Fhvacshoppers.com%2Frequirements%2F&sort=recen...

You will find different kinds of jobs (Web dev, data entry, transcription and many others), all posted from the same location and with a specific location. Those posts are from different accounts and are posted multiple times daily.

If there were any monitoring they would track it and could stop with a small triggering filter or by a manual check. They did nothing. 

If you look closely you will see that the oldest project was posted 29 days ago and the latest 17 hours ago!

If they did anything you would not be able to find posts dating back 29 days!

And there are 523 live posts only with this link!!!

I have found almost 10K posts with a few filters, I looked in several categories, tracked those different specific words on most posts, and searched using those words. 

If Upwork was looking like me, they could have deleted more with only 3 (8 hours for each one) clever and well-trainned employees. They should get 30 them in this situation but they are not doing that.

There is a pile of spam posts now. Our efforts, time, and connections are going to waste. Energy and motivation are also lost. 


Zaqir H wrote:

Nope, they are not doing anything at all.

Let me show you something; a search result for a specific spam;

https://www.upwork.com/nx/jobs/search/?q=https%3A%2F%2Fhvacshoppers.com%2Frequirements%2F&sort=recen...

You will find different kinds of jobs (Web dev, data entry, transcription and many others), all posted from the same location and with a specific location. Those posts are from different accounts and are posted multiple times daily.

If there were any monitoring they would track it and could stop with a small triggering filter or by a manual check. They did nothing. 

If you look closely you will see that the oldest project was posted 29 days ago and the latest 17 hours ago!

If they did anything you would not be able to find posts dating back 29 days!

And there are 523 live posts only with this link!!!

I have found almost 10K posts with a few filters, I looked in several categories, tracked those different specific words on most posts, and searched using those words. 

If Upwork was looking like me, they could have deleted more with only 3 (8 hours for each one) clever and well-trainned employees. They should get 30 them in this situation but they are not doing that.

There is a pile of spam posts now. Our efforts, time, and connections are going to waste. Energy and motivation are also lost. 



Zaqir H wrote:

Nope, they are not doing anything at all.

Let me show you something; a search result for a specific spam;

https://www.upwork.com/nx/jobs/search/?q=https%3A%2F%2Fhvacshoppers.com%2Frequirements%2F&sort=recen...

You will find different kinds of jobs (Web dev, data entry, transcription and many others), all posted from the same location and with a specific location. Those posts are from different accounts and are posted multiple times daily.

If there were any monitoring they would track it and could stop with a small triggering filter or by a manual check. They did nothing. 

If you look closely you will see that the oldest project was posted 29 days ago and the latest 17 hours ago!

If they did anything you would not be able to find posts dating back 29 days!

And there are 523 live posts only with this link!!!

I have found almost 10K posts with a few filters, I looked in several categories, tracked those different specific words on most posts, and searched using those words. 

If Upwork was looking like me, they could have deleted more with only 3 (8 hours for each one) clever and well-trainned employees. They should get 30 them in this situation but they are not doing that.

There is a pile of spam posts now. Our efforts, time, and connections are going to waste. Energy and motivation are also lost. 


That Upwork is taking this with a calm that is desperate, it is true.
That they know it's there, it is true (there are many threads on the same thing)
That, if instead of filtering to find scam jobs, you filtered so that they did not appear in your feed, you would be seeing real jobs (there can always be some that are not, but it has always been that way) and using your time in something productive.

 

If you have problems to do an effective filtering, I leave you this link:
https://community.upwork.com/t5/New-to-Upwork/Filtering-Scam-Posts-How-to-use-the-Upwork-Advanced-Se...

Maria,

Thanks for your reply. Yes, you are right, I can filter those words and can spend my time doing something productive! 

You know what, I am actually trying to do something productive. 

There are no limits to these words, and the filter has a limit of words to add. No matter whether the filter is there or not, the filter is not for avoiding spam It is there to make sure you find jobs which you are looking for, and which match you best. If you filter these words with the limited filtered words then how would you filter unwanted jobs that you do not want to see?

No matter whether you see it, acknowledge it, or Upwork does, this is a serious issue. And it needs to be solved. The good thing is that Upwork authority (a moderator) already responded to one of my discussions and notified us on the tread that they are taking it seriously. 

They understood it right. You can not hide from a problem. You can not deny its presence. A problem like this needs to be solved.

We, freelancer like us who are in this platform for over a decade has learned many things and can overcome many things. My findings already prove that I can avoid this if I want and can keep silent about it after knowing about it. I am not keeping silent and not ready to recommend using the filter and to be productive by doing that because there are many new members joining this platform with a dream who are not very experienced like us. And they can be victims of this to get hurt with their motivation and confidence.

I am really being productive. Do not get me wrong. I have never posted here before. I have started posting here today after I have discovered the worst-case scenario. 

Please do not get me wrong. I am not trying to be rude, not trying to prove myself right. I am just doing what I think I should do. I am sorry if you do not like it.

NB: There are not "some" spam posts. There are a lot. You will find almost 10 spam jobs on 10 post pages in the "Data Entry & Transcription" category. You may not need that category but many others do. The number of spam in other categories is significant too.



It's a good suggestion but not an useful one, a lot of scammers are avoiding telegram in de description they ask it by internal message. It's sad to see Upwork be reduced to this.

 Hi Martina, sorry to be free to disagree...

I've wrote numerous e-mails and make numerous red flags but, simpy said, was no action taken...

I don't know the 'why'. Sorry.  All I know is that if I was running a business that relied on maintaining an 'inventory' of anything, including labor/personnel, I would go out of my way to bring an abrupt an immediate HALT to anything jeopardizing my inventory.

 

Not only does UW already have an army of programmers on staff that could stop this stuff from going 'live' on the job boards, they also have access to an unlimited army of programmers within their own freelancer database that they could hire at the drop of a dime to get these issues fixed.  It's like owning a car dealership but complaining you can't find transportation to get where you need to go.   Not very resourceful at all.  *shrug*

The thing is WHY ARE STILL HERE?

petra_r
Community Member

Wassim, I don't think there is much of "a battle" happening at the moment. Even a modicum of any half-hearted attempt at a "battle" would result in automatically filtering out the majority of the posts you noticed...

 

You'll soon get a soothing reply from a mod who will cheerfully thank you for your perspective, apologize for the "inconvenience" and encourage you to flag them... 

 

Only, flagging them could now pretty easily turn into a full-time job and last I looked Upwork wasn't paying us to spend hours flagging masses of job posts, just for them to either not vanish at all or to be removed before coming back multiple times.

 

 

Thanks for letting me know, Petra. I was under the impression that they logically are taking some action against this. I'm very surprised to hear that a public company cannot monitor its platform or pay someone hourly to monitor jobs.

 

It's a pity that they are working on introducing new features but they don't care about maintaining their platform!

 

Like you, I am no longer reporting any jobs for the same reason you mentioned.

After sending in 15 pages of screenshots of contact job posts, the soothing "specialist" wanted me to go back and take more screenshots and send those back to Upwork. I'm willing to take on the job of screening posts or helping develop filters if they will pay my usual fee. However, no such offer has been forthcoming.

 

I have asked Upwork why I should continue to spend literally hours on a daily basis flagging jobs when it seems to have no effect. The "we are working on it" response is absurd. What is being said at the top? I know there are employees who can filter the majority of the scams with very little effort or expense. So, Upwork, why not let them? Why allow repeat offenders back on the platform? I realize they want to make money and not offend a potential client, but these are not confused new clients - they are scammers. People with bad intent who will never make money for Upwork.

 

Why not at least block messaging app links or a part of the URL i.e. "t . me"? In no way can that be a legitimate part of any post. If someone needs a freelancer for a job involving Telegram, there is no issue. 

Upwork, why should I, or any freelancer waste so much time on the scams? How is it changing the situation for the better?  Precisely how is flagging changing anything? Why do posts stay up after being flagged repeatedly? I realize I am essentially asking rhetorical questions because the answers never come. Unless I receive a reply answering these questions, I am through with turning in the scammers. Unless, of course, Upwork has my contract ready.

 

 

 

 

roberty1y
Community Member


Wassim T wrote:
  •  
  • Ask those who create new accounts to confirm their identity with email confirmation and two-factor authentication.

This is the only bad suggestion you make. I'm a freelancer, and I see this from a selfish perspective. I don't care about clients' problems, except insofar as they affect me. And I know that putting obstacles in their way when they post jobs here will lead many of them to choose another site where it's easier to post a job. 

 

As has been said many times here before, anyone who doesn't want to see posts by clients without verified payment can filter their search to exclude them.

Robert, this was one out of multiple suggestions to save the platform and this one specifically I see as a temporary workaround until they implement a more robust approach. Upwork is free to choose any suggestion or come up with other workarounds to save the platform, but I must tell you that as someone who completed over 200 jobs on this platform, many of these jobs were from new clients who did not have a verified payment method on file because they simply didn't need to enter their card before hiring someone. I don't know about you, but I don't want to lose opportunities from highly important people by checking the checkbox you're talking about. I also don't want to waste my time reading scammers' posts.


Wassim T wrote:

I don't know about you, but I don't want to lose opportunities from highly important people by checking the checkbox you're talking about. 


But the thing is that many of those opportunities will disappear if clients have to be verfied before they post a job, so you'll be losing out anyway if your suggestion for having them vetted is implemented.

I hear you, Robert. I don't like forcing two-step authentication either. It was just a suggestion because this is a bigger problem. The current situation is unbelievable!

Great replies here

No, it does not. That is not what Payment Verified means. There is no way to "prove" they can pay you until Upwork has actually charged the card for payment and it goes through.

Great replies ๐Ÿ™‚

'Verified Payment Method" only means that the card was valid at the time they ran a token charge to test it. It does not mean it will support whatever fees are going to be charged for the project. It does not mean it won't expire partway through the project (a nuisance but typically resolved by the client updating their account with a new card). MOST IMPORTANTLY it does not mean the card actually belongs to the "client" who is using it on UW. If the card is stolen, then any fees charged to it will likely be clawed back eventually when the rightful owner discovers the theft and initiates a chargeback through the issuing bank. 

 

Great replies here

There's a problem with that logic:  Almost EVERY other reputable job platform site REQUIRES people to register and verify some information before they begin posting jobs.  In fact, many job sites even require them to PAY to post a job.  There is a labor shortage in the U.S. and many countries, not a job shortage.    If the clients are desperate for labor and are being allowed to post jobs to a reputable job board for free, the very least they can do is take some time to verify their information.   When there are a labor shortage, the emphasis should be on attracting more labor over attracting more clients.   If you start losing the labor, the clients have no reason so come to UW anymore.

 

The problem is not just the 'unverfied' payment method.  Upwork is not even verifying the identity of the clients posting the jobs.  That is the true problem.  They don't even check if the location the client lists on their profile is a real location.  I have seen jobs posted by clients that type complete junk like "28383dsq=eie" as their 'Location', and Upwork accepts it.  Clients  should have to do an ID verification check just like the freelancers, and that would cut down on the bulk of the scams.  It's very easy for scam artists to just keep getting new email addresses and creating new UW accounts, but only a very elite, select few scammers are good enough to 'mass produce' believable ID cards to keep creating UW accounts if UW required an ID check for every new client account before they could post any jobs.

 

I'm not interested in having a high VOLUME of jobs posted, but having job posts that are of high VALUE.  Volume and Value are not always the same. We're getting more "volume" these days, but most of it is  low-value JUNK.

 

It's not about putting "obstacles" in the way for the client.  There is a labor shortage, and look how many 'obstacles' a freelancer has to overcome registering, validating their identity, building a full profile/portfolio, rummaging through junk on the job boards, submitting proposal after proposal until they land a first 'gig' - just to be able to offer that labor on Upwork the world so desperately needs.  The scammers are becoming an obstacle to the labor being able to offer their services to address the shortage. The client needs to be required to do more when signing up to prove they are on the "up and up" and not here to waste the labor's time, like verifying their identity,

First of all, I don't believe there is a labour shortage, at least not in my field, which is writing. People are still getting writing jobs done for $5 per 1,000 words. 

 

As for other sites, I haven't checked them myself, but people posting here have said that freelancer sites generally don't make clients verify their payment method or identity. Employment sites are different - they often charge employers to post jobs, but they are a different category and can't be used for comparison.

 

Verifying anyone's identity is expensive and time-consuming, and doesn't in itself guarantee that the client is not a scammer (fake IDs can be bought by the hundred).

 

Rather than vet clients, I think it would be more cost effective for Upwork to employ someone full time to vet the job postings and ensure they are legitimate. Verified payment doesn't mean it's not a scam, and in some cases checking a job may mean posing as a freelancer and sending a proposal to see what the client has to say. That way, if you're not a scammer, you can post as many jobs as you like and verify your payment when you see fit.

 



Rather than vet clients, I think it would be more cost effective for Upwork to employ someone full time to vet the job postings and ensure they are legitimate. 

 

 

 

Upwork, I am ready to start right away! Whom can I contact?

I am serious.

And why? To make money. No. Believe it or not. (Not that any of us has time anymore to flag posts for free and see nothing happening).

Because I actually care about this platform. And I see it going down the hill.

Clients don't see the scammers, but this affects them too:

- Freelancers will leave -> clients will leave

- Freelancers don't find jobs they are a good fit for (because of the spam) -> clients don't get proposals, that match their needs -> clients will leave.

- Freelancers with long relationships with their clients discuss things with their clients. I have not discussed this with my clients, but wouldn't be surprised if that kind of discussion is going on.

 

At the moment nothing (that would actually have an effect) is done. At least 50% of my feed is scammers. I have received only three invitations from the scammers so far. I must be lucky. (Knock knock).  And every time I open them the job still exists. So even though some have a different experience, I can see, that nothing (effective) happens.

 

There are two options:

- Upwork doesn't care. Then we all have a problem and all of this will come to end. Sooner rather than later.

- Upwork doesn't have enough workforce. If that is the case, they should hire. If they think it's too expensive, I am sure doing nothing means even bigger monetary losses.

 

I understand this is a huge workload. But as said, I can start immediately. And I sure ain't the only one. So, who can I contact? Let's save this place. Please.

Me too gf me too!!! Lol 

 

There would certainly be some work cut out for us!!! Haha 

If I had a flipping dollar for every scammer on every website or jobsite I come across (not just freelancing sites, though these run just as rampant!) ....let's just say I'd be independently wealthy & wouldn't need to work ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜‰


CJ A wrote: Almost EVERY other reputable job platform site REQUIRES people to register and verify some information before they begin posting jobs.  ,

Which mainstream freelancing platform requires that? (Hint: None)

Upwork's competitors do no such thing.

 

The reason why they do no such thing is because it would be commercial suicide.

It would be insane to spend huge amounts of money attracting new clients and then chase them away to the competition by doing this.

 


CJ A wrote:

There is a labor shortage in the U.S. and many countries, not a job shortage.    If the clients are desperate for labor.....


LOL, so why do you think the vast majority of the people who register as freelancers on Upwork never win a single job or earn a single Dollar?

 


Petra R wrote:

CJ A wrote: Almost EVERY other reputable job platform site REQUIRES people to register and verify some information before they begin posting jobs.  ,

Which mainstream freelancing platform requires that? (Hint: None)

Upwork's competitors do no such thing.

 

The reason why they do no such thing is because it would be commercial suicide.

It would be insane to spend huge amounts of money attracting new clients and then chase them away to the competition by doing this.

 



You are speaking falsehoods. All reputable sites made businesses pay to post. It's NEW sites like Upwork that cronied the system. Upwork knows that regardless of work being completed, they can get paid by asing freelancers to pay for a premium membership and connects, that are going to be wasted on the SCAM posts. Most of us are REAL freelancers who watched future clientel choose platforms like this to reduce costs.

 

 

Top notch CJ A,

 

100% agree - freelancers have to go through countless steps to verify their ID and setup their accounts to start earning some cash... whereas anyone that knows how to open a new Gmail account, can immediately open a new Business Upwork account and start posting fake jobs.


Vasko C wrote:

Top notch CJ A,

 

100% agree - freelancers have to go through countless steps to verify their ID and setup their accounts to start earning some cash.


 

False. I've seen approved freelancer profiles that have a photo of a celebrity for the profile pic, and nothing but one or two nonsense sentences in the profile description.


Robert Y wrote:

Wassim T wrote:
  •  
  • Ask those who create new accounts to confirm their identity with email confirmation and two-factor authentication.

This is the only bad suggestion you make. I'm a freelancer, and I see this from a selfish perspective. I don't care about clients' problems, except insofar as they affect me. And I know that putting obstacles in their way when they post jobs here will lead many of them to choose another site where it's easier to post a job. 


Unlike some other entry hurdles suggested, I don't see these as obstacles at all. I expect email verification from any site or service I join, and would hardly be surprised by a two-factor identification requirement for a site that's going to be handing money for me.

melaniekhenson
Community Member

My guess is that Upwork loses a lot less in terms of time and money following up on just the posts that are reported, than they would spend in time and money actively searching for them and vetting accounts against one another to see if they may have come from the same scammer.

 

Also, I think it's possible scammers "learn" from one another and steal each other's scripts, which could be another reason you'll see a run on identical scam posts. I mean if they're happy to cheat us why wouldn't they be happy to cheat each other?

Your guess is almost certainly right, cost-benefit wise. Too bad the suffering that causes people can't be quantified on a spread sheet.


Peter G wrote:

Your guess is almost certainly right, cost-benefit wise. Too bad the suffering that causes people can't be quantified on a spread sheet.


I know, but I'd rather have to bypass (or report, if I want to) scam posts than have my fees raised or something in order to accommodate a workforce dedicated to this one issue. I don't know for sure that's what would happen, but again, I'd assume that's how Upwork would find the extra money to pay for more people (or more work from the people they have).

 

I suppose filters could be implemented, but then that project would need to be paid for too, obviously...as would constant surveillance because scammers change up the program as soon as one stops working. They just seep in one way or another. ๐Ÿ˜‹

 

I don't know what a truly amazing solution that wouldn't impact our income here would be, I'm just saying, I'm sure Upwork knows they could do either of these things, there's a reason they're not, and with many businesses (or most), time and money will be the two deciding factors.

 

 

Many scammers about to be caught, mysteriously "vanish" briefly then pop up later (hours, or days) under a different name or contact domain. This is why they are always a few steps ahead & difficult to catch!


Jana P wrote:

Many scammers about to be caught, mysteriously "vanish" briefly then pop up later (hours, or days) under a different name or contact domain. This is why they are always a few steps ahead & difficult to catch!


Yup. And if they're filtered eventually (don't know if this will ever happen), they'll just add spaces between the words, or use slightly different wording, or not use the wording at all until the freelancer has applied for the job and then they'll "message" the freelancer...and on, and on, and on.

 

Scams are as old as currency...or more likely, as old as bartering.

martina_plaschka
Community Member

What happened was a pandemic. Millions of people joined, followed by thousands of scammers. 

I filter out clients without prior hires, I'm not reading the scammy job posts any longer. The scammers are up to me and send me about 5 invites a day. 

Aside from that, upwork, hey you do you. It's your platform, and you can run it any which way you please. I'm happy to use it, I like my clients, and I know how to not be scammed. All good. 

 

I am considering quitting the platform temporarily in the next few days until this issue is resolved. I can no longer afford to waste my time reading proposals of scammers. 

 

Then do that. Or don't. It's easy to filter them out. 

Martina, how do I filter out the jobs with no payment verified? I can't find the spot to do that.

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