My profile was plagiarised!

I'd heard this can happen, so I did a simple test. I copied the first paragraph of my profile into Google and did a search. The search results showed me and a young Ukranian prgormmer on Elance with no activity since joining in February this year.


His opening sentence was an exact copy if my profile (which was written in 2014). He went on to change the remaining profile to suit his skills. So I'm not too bothered by it. Suggest other should also check for this. And how to report this type of problem?


You can contact the help desk. This is not acceptable at all.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi Kim,


Please, report the profile to Elance Customer Support and the team will take care of it.


Thank you.

~ Valeria

Same thing happened with me a while back; the freelancer had taken parts of my profile and parts of other work (from ThemeForest). Upwork took down the material stolen from my profile but left up the other material (as they require each copyright holder to contact regarding their specific stolen work).  The false account had also accepted work based on this fraudulent profile.


I wish you the best of luck! I know how frustrating this can be.


I have reported plagiarism to CS in the past, without much luck. Often, the stolen profile remains and the ticket gets closed. I have flagged another one recently, we'll see what happens.


In any case if you have your profile stolen you need to report it to CS, but you shouldn't hold your breath. Upwork is very vocal about the efforts they make to avoid plagiarism, but when you look at it more closely you see that it's not a high priority matter for them.

"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless

I remember checking back when it was oDesk and I found something like 200 people who copied my profile across Elance, oDesk, Guru, and  There's only a page or two on Upwork now...



**edited for Community Guidelines**



I remember going through a bunch of contractors on Elance where they set crazy rates like $1000/hour in the writing section. As I was going through them, I realized that there were a ton that just copied the top 3 writers. I guess that stuff shines through, because they were all jobless.


One of the top ones had something like "2 million dollars in bookings and in the top 1% of freelancers" and they even copied that with their 0 jobs.



> His opening sentence was an exact copy of my profile. He went on to change the remaining profile to suit his skills


Hum, we have to understand that nobody can start his/her profile with the phrase "I have many years commercial experience as a software developer" except you?


This is not plagiarizing to me. Is recycling grammar at most. Plagiarize means appropriating another person's work but only if is an original and "not seen before" work, an original artwork, a design, a song, a novel, not a phrase followed by a list. For example, if someone pretends to have done your job in their portfolio is plagiarize. But not If someone mark the same skills as you or says "good morning, how are you?".


Maybe I'm wrong and not understanding the entire case, but It seems that this is not the situation here.

@Pablo V wrote:

Hum, we have to understand that nobody can start his/her profile with the phrase "I have many years commercial experience as a software developer" except you?


This is not plagiarizing to me. Is recycling grammar at most. Plagiarized means appropriate. For example, if someone claims to have done the same job as you and is a lie. It seems that is not the same case here.

EDIT:  Sorry, I thought you were referring to my post...  LOL  Ignore me I'm a dummy.  Smiley LOL


That's the ONLY part that they changed...


That part is copied word for word on many accounts.  Just because they change the first sentence doesn't make it less copied.  They just edit a few words, and magically it's not plagerism?  I don't understand.  Honestly, I don't really care but there's at least 4 or 5 who copied my summary word for word on Upwork.




"My core strengths are in PHP/MySQL programming, JavaScript(JQuery) Programming, Photoshop Design, Web Design(HTML/CSS), and Marketing. I prefer to use a MVC PHP framework called CodeIgniter. This accelerates custom application development." 




"I have more than 5 years of experience in web development and design. My core strengths are in PHP/MySQL programming, JavaScript(JQuery) Programming, PhotoShop Design, Web Design(HTML/CSS), SEO, Web Copy, and Marketing. I prefer to use a MVC PHP framework called CodeIgniter. This accelerates custom application design."


Actually, that is an EXACT copy of an earlier version that I had.  I removed the part about SEO and Web Copy because I was tired of people trying to hire me for SEO work.

Yes Pablo V, I agree with Daniel C. He may have copied only one sentence verbatim . But it is a sentence I made the effort to phrase correctly and stand out from others. Either through laziness or poor English, he is just stealing l my work and misrepresenting his own literacy levels.


This one case is  not a big dea for me as the elance account is completely inactive. But it does show that many freelancers have no respect for the identity of other more successful freelancers.


As with other  reporting problems, I realise it takes a lot of effort to get CS to remove this. I'm assuming elance accounts will disappear soon anyway. The irony is that Upwork has so mnay great IT freelancers in their system, and they can't implement a very simple profile scanner that could detect copied profiles easily.

> I realise it takes a lot of effort to get CS to remove this


Of course, and thanks to the internet goods, because in this case would be a totally ridiculous move and falling in plain censorship. Nobody can claim the exclusive use of a common and totally standard english phrase. It would be unfair and really problematic. Moreover, it would be a logistics hell. Why should have you granted the exclusive right to write this particular phrase against the rest of the world?.


Can you imagine a filter throwing an error message like: "Sorry you can not write neither 'I'm an expert on Ruby' nor I'm a ruby expert' in your profile because the same phrase was found in other profiles"?.


"My profile was plagiarised" is a loud statement, and (to me at least), means "my profile was copied, entirely or almost, with my images or my files, and with fake data pretending to be me". Clearly not this.

I agree with Kim. 


"My core strengths are in _____, _____, _____, _____, and _____.  I prefer to use ________ because _______. "


That would be as much as I would consider an acceptable and non-plagiarized copy of my profile. 


It misrepresents their communications skills.  Some freelancers are very poor communicators, and this is usually apparent when their profiles are littered with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.  So they copy someone else and then the client thinks that maybe there won't be any problems.  Then you just fire them because you realize they aren't "fluent" as it would appear by going off their profile.


So the problem isn’t necessarily because of them having a close copy; it is because it’s a huge misrepresentation and misleading to the client.  Communication is really important so I would think that makes it really bad if they misrepresent their communication skills.  Plus, it just so happens to be plagiarism.


Nobody should be copying anyone’s anything.  It just shows that the freelancer doesn’t understand ethics, and would likely copy other things to get work done.

Perhaps it was a lot of work for you, but that sentence is certainly not an example of "great writing". You even left out the period that's supposed to go at the end (or did you create a gramatically incorrect run on sentence and not realize it?) If you had incorporated metaphor - used vivid imagery - stated  a brilliant idea that nobody else had ever thought of before - if you had used rhyme or alliteration - done something that truly made you stand out as a writer - then you could say that your profile was plagiarized. But you can't "own" a sentence that simply states a basic fact and can apply to hundreds of people. Facts are not copyrightable.


I dont' feel this is a valid criticism Marcia. We are just talking about using professional busniess like English. Alliteration and vivid imagery is more suited to prose, and would look pretenious in this context. (but thanks for highlighting the typo).


So I just used appropriate language to describe my skills, The thieving freelancer obviously liked my phrasing enough to copy it rather than many other profiles, so recognised that the sentences were well constructed. He also copied two other lines of my skills, the second of which don't seem to match his

- web services and dynamic web sites

- data conversion and parsing of complex data streams


As others have mentioned copying is wrong, agaisnt terms of service and misrepresents the English flunecy of the copier. So it makes sens to stamp it out whenever we see it.



As a developer it's not uncommon for people to copy each other as it's part of a creative process.  However, there is a line where it becomes plagiarism.  With web development you can copy a style for example without even looking at the code.


I haven't seen the sentence in question so I can't really say if I agree or not if it's plagiarism or against TOS. 




There were a lot more copies of my overview and now there are only a few.  I don't really have time to read and report on a bunch of profiles.  They were eliminated by another process.  Probably they were breaking all kinds of rules, had multiple accounts, pretending to be someone they are not, and a whole slew of other problems.  Plagiarism is a symptom of a larger epidemic here on Upwork but it's getting better.


So I'm mixed.   On one hand, I'm happy that the problem is taking care of itself.  On the other hand, I think it's shameful that freelancers are copying each other and misrepresenting their skills.  I don't even like that Upwork allows people to edit and get help editing their profile for English and grammatical errors because that is just as misleading.  It prevents clients from making judgements on the freelancer's actual comprehension when they sound like they are more competent than they are.


I wish that Upwork vetted every single freelancer and client on the site.  Clients aren't the best judge because they aren't an expert so why do we leave vetting to them and their budgets?  Fewer freelancers and fewer clients would make for a much better platform.


This is the sentence I was referring to:


'I have many years commercial experience as a software developer I have successfully completed significant projects in the areas of:'


You can't copyright a basic, straightforward statement of fact - which is what this is. I'm sure there are many developers to whom this statement would apply.  (Of course, if the freelancer is claiming to have skills that they don't have, then that's fraud, which is a different issue. If they copied your entire work history, that would definitely raise suspicion.)


The rules for copyright, and the protections againt unfair punishment, apply to all types of writing.


As a small business owner, you should appreciate this, as unsubstantiated claims of copyright infringement are sometimes used to by big companies to try to frighten small companies with threats of lawsuits.


Now, if you started your profile with something like:

'Do you need a new website? Could your existing website use an upgrade? What about improving your database?  I can ...'


OK,  it's corny, but I just thought of it off the top of my head. Anyway, I suppose you get my drift.

I agree that it lacks substance, but it still qualifies as plagiarism. 


Plagiarism is a matter of ethics; we're talking about plagiarism and not copyrights. 


The fact that they copied the grammatical errors along with the text makes it a clear sign of plagiarism.  It's not likely that anyone else would come up with the same sentence AND have the same grammatical errors. 


Someone could have easily created a sentence that is VERY similar to his independently; however in this case they created their sentence by copying it directly from another profile.


"I have many years of commercial experience as a software developer" would be a sentence someone could create independently and wouldn't constitute plagiarism unless they actually did copy it.  Even having the sentence "I have completed a significant number of projects in the fields of:" immediately following the first wouldn't necessarily constitute plagiarism; the reason being that someone could technically come up with those two sentences and in that order independently and without plagiarism.


And yes, it's still plagiarism if you change some of the words to cover it up.  It's not when someone came up with the exact wording or similar wording independently because it lacks substance.

What you personally consider to be ethical is not the same as what is legal or what Upwork TOS allows.

@Marcia M wrote:

What you personally consider to be ethical is not the same as what is legal or what Upwork TOS allows.

Ethics are not laws so I completely agree with you there.  


Copy-paste applications are considered a spam according to the ToS.  If someone copies text from a profile then it could negatively affect the person who was plagiarized; assuming that they check this sort of thing on profiles and not just applications.


Also, it’s against the ToS to infringe on a freelancer’s proprietary information.  It may be petty but that’s irrelevant.


“Upwork reserves the right, in our sole discretion, to refuse, suspend, or revoke your access to the Site and Site Services upon discovery that any information you provided on any form or posted on the Site is not true, accurate, or complete, or such information or other conduct otherwise violates this Agreement, or for any other reason or no reason in Upwork’s sole discretion.”


"Plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own." (Google)


Should plagiarism be allowed?  I don't think so.  It’s a slippery slope.  It shows the freelancer doesn’t have even a basic moral ethical code.  Do they copy paste their work too?  Do they share client information freely?  If they aren’t ethical then they don’t belong on the platform, freelancers and clients alike.


Copyrights are somewhat irrelevant in this case because there are no measurable damages.  He can follow the legal agreement and report the violation.  He could send a cease and desist letter. 


“A cease and desist letter, also known as "infringement letter" or "demand letter," is a document sent to an individual or business to halt purportedly unlawful activity ("cease") and not take it up again later ("desist").” (Google)


We all have a right not to be copied, and for derivatives of our work.  The profile overview is work and therefore should not be copied.  These are ethics that you learn at a university so anyone who has been to one should be fully aware of plagiarism and ramifications.  Suspension and revocation.  Same should apply to a professional workplace.

Rene, Kim and Daniel,


We do value your help with identifying profiles and job posts that violate our ToS, and encourage you to report freelancers with copied overviews to Customer Support.


We have a dedicated team that checks the reported profiles and confirms if they merit further actions or not. However, there are some instances wherein the report shows only similar parts which can be coincidental and the actions are not taken against such accounts.


There are also instances when actions are taken by the team and freelancer's ability to appear in search and bid on jobs is limited, but you can still access their profile because you have the direct link.

~ Valeria

Thanks Valeria, I have reported it.


I agree with Daniel, if a freelancer is so quick to steal a few sentences, good chance that other parts of their portfolio and  profile could contain misrepresentations.


As others have suggested, poor wording in other parts of this guys overview identifies that copying has occured. " I always keen to create perfectly looking user interfaces"

Some screenshots in my portfolio were plagiarised in 2014 - I contacted support and didn't get any solutions at first.


I then found out that you can send a copyright infringement notice to, as far as I can remember, the legal escalations section - the Executive Help Desk.


The plagiarised images were removed within 20 minutes of sending the copyright infringement notice.


(The copyright infringement notice is an official form that Upwork supplies - I can't remember where I found it though).



Oh - I've just remembered - it was via Elance when this happened. Let's hope that Upwork has the same procedure available.


Can a moderator please advise if it's possible to submit a copyright infringement notice.

re: "Fewer freelancers and fewer clients would make for a much better platform."



I am not sure you meant what you said by including clients in this statement.


Fewer contractors would make for a better platform. Huge numbers of contractors on Upwork are simply bad contractors who are here because they think easy money can be obtained here, but they viable skills and professional attitudes. The fewer no-value contractors and the fewer dishonest copy-and-paste contractors who,are here, the better.


But with clients, the more clients that are here, the better.


Unless you're referring to people who register as "clients" but aren't really clients: people who serially post jobs without ever hiring anybody, and people who are really scammers trying to lure contractors into their stupid scams.


Yes, obviously we don't want any of those on Upwork at all.


But when it comes to real clients, I don't see a downside to having more and more of them.



Yes, I meant to include clients in the lose sense of the term.  Just because they pay money doesn't give them any right to be abusive.  Some clients cause more damage than the good that their money does.


In the same respect, a no-value or negative-value freelancer would be the same as a no-value or negative-value client.


No need to get into semantics on this.  Smiley Tongue  I think we agree but have different ways of expressing ourselves.  I agree with many of your comments around the forum.  I don't even bother responding because you say it so much better than I.



Actually, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I usually refer to no-value and negative value freelancers and clients as “jokers” to avoid arguing semantics.


My thinking is that if we had a more “select” marketplace, then things would be much better.  A healthy marketplace should be a matter of talent and skill and not a matter of disparity and leverage.


At the same time I see a need to make a place for freelancers who just need opportunities to grow.  In America we are privileged with technology.  Imagine how good you can get at Photoshop if you only had access to an antiquated computer with slow internet and only for a few hours per day.  Lots of people don’t have personal computers around the world.


Clients on the other hand don’t need opportunities.  They need talent and money to pay for talent.  Small businesses (if trickledown economics worked) would be funded by big business.  Big business wants cheap labor and high profits for shareholders.


I try to spend time in the forum for the little guys.  When you’re poor and you’re surrounded by poverty, then you think like a poor person.  Wealthy people don’t spend time with them and so they never learn. And pretty much everyone in America is wealthy, even the bums are relative to the disparity that there is around the world. 


We just need to rid the marketplace of the jokers.  If they are allowed to sign up all willy-nilly without proper vetting then freelancers and clients take on a lot more risk, and lose time and money.


That’s my opinion anyway…  Not an easy problem and there are no easy solutions.

"Can a moderator please advise if it's possible to submit a copyright infringement notice."


I don't think it is. A few months ago, my, and part of an Elancer's profile, was lifted word-for-word (along with my portfolio and even my 'interests') by an eighteen-year-old school leaver. The only original part of his profile was that he had been to Oxford University for seven years.


It took ages before his account was suspended (I think). I don't think it was ever terminated. The very irritating aspect of having one's profile stolen is when it is used on a job you bid for (which is how I discovered it).



Hopefully that doesn't happen to you, or anyone, again Nichola!!! 

If it does though, why not set up a client account and select them to interview for a job and ask them to go into detail about their profile and trip them up? Maybe you could even record the conversation? 

Wonder if that's allowed by Upwork? 

I have now reported this to Elance help desk. They ecam eback with an odd resposne:

"Based on your report, I have examined the account and taken action as defined in our Terms of Service. In order to protect the confidentiality of all of our members’ accounts, I won't be able to report back with the outcome of our investigation."


But by looking at the profile of the plagiarer, nothing has changed. Then I got a survey email asking "How would you rate the support you received?". Since they wont tell me what they did it could be hard to answer this. But as I could externally check that they did nothing, I replied that I was unsatisfied. I also asked if all Elance profiles will be migrated to Upwork, or inactive ones deleted. NO resposne.


I accept it is a bit of a gray area if ToS have been violated enough for them to edit or suspend this account. But too often the default position seems to be to do nothing or act very slowly with problem freelancers and clients. Upwork have earnt over $2000 in commissions from me, but I often fell let down by the level of support from them.

@Nichola L wrote:

...The very irritating aspect of having one's profile stolen is when it is used on a job you bid for (which is how I discovered it).


 Hi Nichola,

It was when I was working in Elance that I was able to submit a copyright infringement notice. The agent who dealt with my case removed the offending copied portfolio images very quickly, but they said they couldn't tell me what other disciplinary action they had taken on the Freelancer because of Privacy rules.

As far as I can see the freelancer hasn't had anything detrimental done to his profile.


Like you, I discovered the plagiarism on a job that we were both bidding on, and yes - very irritating to put it lightly.


I still don't know whether serving a copyright infringement notice is possible in Upwork.




I got another email form Elance help desk. Again they explained that for the privacy of the freelancer (who copied my profile), they can't reveal what action they took on him. But when I searched his profile it had been removed. So the whole privacy issue is irrelevent in this case.


Anway, it took a bit of prompting, but I'm glad  the right action was finally taken, thanks Elance!


Does anyone know if all Elnace profiles will be eventually migrated to Upwork? 

Transferring accounts is optional.

Kick them off the platform; every one of them. None of them have any marketable skills, and just depend on naive clients looking for a 'bargain'. Another huge cull is in order - just employ someone to spend each day deleting the rubbish.


I think you hit on a key point:


The frustration and exasperation that many contractors feel about this topic is NOT just about profile plagiarism, or contractors copying the overview text and portfolio items of other contractors.


Yes, that's sufficiently onerous. But that's really just the tip of the iceberg.


I think many of us sense that there is a whole sub-culture of of unprofessional, unethical contractors who really drag Upwork down and cause problems for clients, thus diminishing the platform for us as contractors.


We sense that the same people who copy the profiles and portfolio items of others also do things such as:

- post fake profile photos, using photos they found online

- post fake identities, perhaps to start new profiles after having earlier ones terminated

- claim to live in countries other than where they really live

- claim to have skills they don't really have

- cheat on skills tests

- secure contracts and then have multiple people work on those contracts, whether by farming out the work to others or by having associates log on as themselves

- use Google translate to do translation jobs, even when clients specifically state that's not what they want

- get hired to do writing jobs, and then submit work they copied from somewhere else as their own

- get hired to do we development jobs or design jobs and submit work they downloaded or copied from somewhere, while making a few changes but not really even understanding the material they're working with

- try to log more hours than they actually work, to get paid more without providing actual additional value


I don't think any individuals do ALL of these things, but these types of unprofessional and unethical activities are, to my mind, all part of a certain mindset that we encounter.


It's not endemic to one specific country. But it is endemic to a certain outlook or mindset that, frankly, shocks the senses of many of us.


The professional-minded contractors I know simply would never think of doing any of this garbage. I think many of us only learned about these things after encountering them here on Upwork in bidding on jobs and seeing shenanigans pulled by some competitors, and in reading about these things in the Community Forum.

Very very VERY well said Preston!  If I could give you more Kudo's, I would!

There seems to be something even broader going on here. Virtually all of them appear to be from only two countries, to the extent that, even before looking at these profiles, I can tell what I will see just from the nationality.

@Ramon B wrote:

There seems to be something even broader going on here. Virtually all of them appear to be from only two countries, to the extent that, even before looking at these profiles, I can tell what I will see just from the nationality.

Some will call this prejudice but unfortunately you are right. It may however be true because of the numbers. I don't know where are the majority of the providers on Upwork are from, but it wouldn't surprise me that India/Pakistan/Bangladesh/Philippines are the main countries of origin. 


If this is true, it's just statistics. And maybe also because in those countries the costs of living being cheaper, the petty profit one can make by cheating may mean good money.


I hired an IT firm from Bangladesh on Elance once (and they weren't cheap at all I must say). When I see their high level of professionalism, I can only imagine how they feel when they see so many fraudsters coming from their country and from India.

"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless

I'd also add that, while most of the ruses they attempt seem almost laughable, the fact that they genuinely believe they'll work speaks volumes about their collective mindset.

I realize that Rene is only postulating regarding which countries are statistically the most numerous places of residence of Upwork contractors.


And yes, there are many Upwork contractors from the Philippines.


But nothing in my experience personally and nothing I have read in Community Forum messages makes me think of the Philippines in the context of this discussion.