As for the site (Upwork) being legitimate? Yes, it is.
You live in the U.S., and you are an entry-level newbie.
So you are the prime target for scammers.
Scammers never bother me, because I'm an experienced Upwork user. If you continue using the site, scammers will stop bothering you as well, because they'll know there's no money in it.
Why doesn't Upwork screen out the scammers? They do their best. But there is so much legitimate business being done here, and so much money beiong made here, that it attracts many scammers.
And for the record, Upwork does not actually claim to screen clients.
But if you find a scammer - acting as a client, or a freelancer - you can report her and Upwork will investigate and remove the person from the platform.
I'm sorry to learn about your experience on Upwork. We have dedicated teams and systems in place to identify clients, and/or freelancers who use the website to scam other users. Sometimes there is no evidence of violation in the job post, invitation, or messages. In cases like these we rely on our community of users to flag these posts, and/or users, or directly report it through a ticket and attach relevant screenshots of a Skype chat or email as evidence.
Sarah M wrote:
So far, I've run into scams. Is this even legitimate? Why aren't they screening these **edited for Community Guidelines** more closely?
Because the first time a scammer reveals himself as a scammer is when he makes contact with his mark. Otherwise he could very well be a legitimate client. You might want to stay away from people with a very low hiring rate, and all unsolicited invitations you receive. Very few serious clients will search for freelancers without any history, except to pay very little (still legitimate, they know how desperate people get for that first job) or outright scam people.