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Recently got scammed purposely by a client and suggestions for a warning sign.

zhilinhe
Active

For new freelancers that just entered this platform, it is hard to know how to avoid scams.

 

My recent encounter with this client: **Edited for Community Guidelines** made me believe it would be very beneficial if Upwork can have pop up signs to help freelancers from getting purposely scammed. The offer I got was for $30 and the first milestone was set for $15 to proofread and the second milestone was set for another $15 to pay after his client's approval. 

 

I thought at the time that it was reasonable and agreed, without realizing that only $15 was funded. Now after a month the guy is still online but is unresponsive to all my messages asking when the next milestone can be set up and approved. By the look of it, he should have hired many freelancers. I am certain I am not the only one who fell for it. 

 

I have contacted Upwork help team, there is nothing really they can do regarding this issue. I do hope this issue can raise more awareness in the community to better protect the right of all the freelances as well as Upwork market. 

 

I also believe there should be more pop-up signs to help Upwork users to avoid scams like this and there could be a button to disable it once the user thinks they are fully equipped to function without it. 

20 REPLIES 20
rockstar_998
Ace Contributor

I understand it's irritating to get tricked by prospective clients. I guess you can submit your work if the client continues to act unresponsive... You can get the milestone within 14 days if the client didn't end the contract somehow.

 

There are a number of clients who misuses the functions by delaying the milestone, unresponsiveness and threatening with poor feedback. You're not the only one who fell for this inconveniences or I'd like to call it "trap".

 

I'd suggest you submit possibly higher project budgets and stay sharp as it's difficult to understand the functions for newer freelancers.


“Good reputation is more valuable than money.” - Publilius Syrus

Muhammad H wrote:

 You can get the milestone within 14 days if the client didn't end the contract somehow.


You missed the point.

Thd second milestone wasn't funded.

jessicasimko
Community Guru

Zhilin H wrote:

For new freelancers that just entered this platform, it is hard to know how to avoid scams.

 

My recent encounter with this client: **Edited for Community Guidelines** made me believe it would be very beneficial if Upwork can have pop up signs to help freelancers from getting purposely scammed. The offer I got was for $30 and the first milestone was set for $15 to proofread and the second milestone was set for another $15 to pay after his client's approval. 

 

I thought at the time that it was reasonable and agreed, without realizing that only $15 was funded. Now after a month the guy is still online but is unresponsive to all my messages asking when the next milestone can be set up and approved. By the look of it, he should have hired many freelancers. I am certain I am not the only one who fell for it. 

 

I have contacted Upwork help team, there is nothing really they can do regarding this issue. I do hope this issue can raise more awareness in the community to better protect the right of all the freelances as well as Upwork market. 

 

I also believe there should be more pop-up signs to help Upwork users to avoid scams like this and there could be a button to disable it once the user thinks they are fully equipped to function without it. 


This happened to me when I first started on the platform - client funded half the job with the first milestone set for the rough draft.  After I completed that, the client disappeared forever and got away with only paying half (I lost $150 on that deal).  For this reason, I haven't allowed any client to set up multiple milestones since (unless it's an add-on request and I have not done the work yet). I request all clients to fully fund the job up front. It shouldn't be a concern to them since the money goes in escrow (unless they are trying to scam you and then they will just disappear at that point). I just tell clients that I don't mind waiting until the end to get paid.  For short jobs like that, it's not worth it to have multiple milestones and I just explain that the multiple milestones are better aligned to long-term jobs like web development and having them will just slow down the process since the client has to release funds, set up new milestones, etc. before the job can continue.  We live and we learn.  🙂

I guess in a sense I am lucky it happened with a small project. I will definitely be on the lookout in the future. It is just very frustrating to see the client is still active and looking for more freelancers without any justice being done. Paid and learned. 


Zhilin H wrote:

I guess in a sense I am lucky it happened with a small project. I will definitely be on the lookout in the future. It is just very frustrating to see the client is still active and looking for more freelancers without any justice being done. Paid and learned. 


You can close the contract giving him a low star rating and tell this story in the feedback you provide to him. This way you are warning others about this client. 

Every freelancer has to understand Upwork's protocols and decide how to use them to ensure payment for their work. Winging it will only cost a freelancer money - ignorance is not bliss, in this case.

 

Having only one milestone only assures payment from the client if the freelancer only submits work to the client using the "Submit" button on the project page. (Larger projects should, in my opinion, always have multiple milestones, each of which is fully funded before the freelancer begins work on them.)

 

If small, low value work is substantially complete when submitted under a single milestone there are 14 days remaining for client and freelancer to work together to fully complete the project before payment is automatically released by Upwork. If a project is so small as to warrant only one milestone, it typically wouldn't need more than 14 days to reach its final form. 

 

As I understand the fixed price payment system, a client can cancel a fixed price project at any time, including before the work for any particular milestone has been formally submitted by the freelancer. So if the freelancer provides the work for any milestone to the client in substantially its final form in any other way than with the "Submit" button, the client can cancel the project, claim the work for that milestone was deficient in some way and never pay the freelancer any money at all for that milestone.

 

There is no reason to expect Upwork is going to change this system. Using it according to Upwork's rules is completely up to the freelancer, including insisting that their ignorant or shady clients stick to those same rules.


Will L wrote:

Every freelancer has to understand Upwork's protocols and decide how to use them to ensure payment for their work.


Erm... indeed...

 


Will L wrote:

 

If small, low value work is substantially complete when submitted under a single milestone there are 14 days remaining for client and freelancer to work together to fully complete the project before payment is automatically released by Upwork. If a project is so small as to warrant only one milestone, it typically wouldn't need more than 14 days to reach its final form. 


That is pretty pointless, because when a client clicks the "request changes" button, it cancels the 14 day countdown.

 


Will L wrote:

 

As I understand the fixed price payment system, a client can cancel a fixed price project at any time, including before the work for any particular milestone has been formally submitted by the freelancer. So if the freelancer provides the work for any milestone to the client in substantially its final form in any other way than with the "Submit" button, the client can cancel the project, claim the work for that milestone was deficient in some way and never pay the freelancer any money at all for that milestone.


Huh?

That triggers the freelancer receiving a request of return of Escrow funds, which the freelancer can dispute. So this is no different at all to a client asking for their money back at any other time. It does not matter whether submission was through the Submit button or not.

Clients can cancel before and after and freelancers can agree or dispute before and after.

There is no magic "cancel, get money back and live happily ever after" way for a client to get away without the freelancer being able to dispute.

 

Well, Petra, if I have submitted work to a client via email and they then cancel a funded milestone for that work saying something like I'm not getting the work done properly and they want to cancel the entire project, I have a weaker case for getting Upwork to release that milestone payment to me than if I have formally submitted the work via Upwork and told the client I am available to make any further changes needed. 

 

That greater bargaining power is not diminished by the client re-starting the 14-day review period before payment.

 

I have never been stiffed by a client on a funded milestone on which I have properly submitted work, so I'll stick to my methods until they stop working.

 

Thank you for your feedback.


Will L wrote:

 I have a weaker case for getting Upwork to release that milestone payment to me...


You have exactly the same case, considering Upwork does not decide whether to release the payment or not if there is a dispute.

 

Obviously submitting through the submit for payment button is the correct and "normal" way to submit for payment (bit obvious) - I just wanted to correct the impression you gave that clients can cancel and walk away without paying anything with the freelancer having no recourse.

 


Will L wrote:

 

That greater bargaining power is not diminished by the client re-starting the 14-day review period before payment.


There is no "greater bargaining power" and the client does not "re-start" the 14 day countdown by requesting changes, but cancels it altogether. (Then the freelancer restarts it by resubmitting.)

 


Will L wrote:

 

I have never been stiffed by a client on a funded milestone on which I have properly submitted work, so I'll stick to my methods until they stop working.


Obviously. We all do what works best for us.

Nobody said you should do it any differently, just that your reasoning was a bit unclear and could therefore mislead freelancers.

Yes, if a method works then it is definitely worth it to stick with it. I am sure I am not and will not be the only fall for this kind of trap. As a successful platform with so many users, this is an issue that should raise some awareness I believe. Because there is just so much going on as a new freelancer, and I am lucky to have only this one bad experience after met so many good and heartwarming clients. Imagine if you just started and jumped right into this trap, how harsh would that be. I would have immediately turned my head away from this platform. 

 

Some simple changes could avoid so many potential problems. I think it is reasonable to expect Upwork to make certain changes for better user experience. 

That doesn't sound like a scam. Sounds like you just agreed to something you shouldn't have agreed to.

martina_plaschka
Community Guru

Zhilin H wrote:

For new freelancers that just entered this platform, it is hard to know how to avoid scams.

 

My recent encounter with this client: **Edited for Community Guidelines** made me believe it would be very beneficial if Upwork can have pop up signs to help freelancers from getting purposely scammed. The offer I got was for $30 and the first milestone was set for $15 to proofread and the second milestone was set for another $15 to pay after his client's approval. 

 

I thought at the time that it was reasonable and agreed, without realizing that only $15 was funded. Now after a month the guy is still online but is unresponsive to all my messages asking when the next milestone can be set up and approved. By the look of it, he should have hired many freelancers. I am certain I am not the only one who fell for it. 

 

I have contacted Upwork help team, there is nothing really they can do regarding this issue. I do hope this issue can raise more awareness in the community to better protect the right of all the freelances as well as Upwork market. 

 

I also believe there should be more pop-up signs to help Upwork users to avoid scams like this and there could be a button to disable it once the user thinks they are fully equipped to function without it. 


This is not a scam. Upwork is set up this way. If you agree to 2 milestones on a 30$ contract, well, that does not sound reasonable, I assume that involves a task that can be finished within the hour.

Anyway, you agreed to it, so you deliver half the work, submit for payment, and if the client does not fund the second milestone, well, no harm done, or am I missing something?


Martina P wrote:

Zhilin H wrote:

For new freelancers that just entered this platform, it is hard to know how to avoid scams.

 

My recent encounter with this client: **Edited for Community Guidelines** made me believe it would be very beneficial if Upwork can have pop up signs to help freelancers from getting purposely scammed. The offer I got was for $30 and the first milestone was set for $15 to proofread and the second milestone was set for another $15 to pay after his client's approval. 

 

I thought at the time that it was reasonable and agreed, without realizing that only $15 was funded. Now after a month the guy is still online but is unresponsive to all my messages asking when the next milestone can be set up and approved. By the look of it, he should have hired many freelancers. I am certain I am not the only one who fell for it. 

 

I have contacted Upwork help team, there is nothing really they can do regarding this issue. I do hope this issue can raise more awareness in the community to better protect the right of all the freelances as well as Upwork market. 

 

I also believe there should be more pop-up signs to help Upwork users to avoid scams like this and there could be a button to disable it once the user thinks they are fully equipped to function without it. 


This is not a scam. Upwork is set up this way. If you agree to 2 milestones on a 30$ contract, well, that does not sound reasonable, I assume that involves a task that can be finished within the hour.

Anyway, you agreed to it, so you deliver half the work, submit for payment, and if the client does not fund the second milestone, well, no harm done, or am I missing something?


______________________

If I'm not mistaken, the client did not fund the milestone with the full amount. It is easy to miss this at the beginning of a contract. If you spot it before agreeing, you can refuse to accept the contract until the client has adjusted it. 



This is not a scam. Upwork is set up this way. If you agree to 2 milestones on a 30$ contract, well, that does not sound reasonable, I assume that involves a task that can be finished within the hour.

Anyway, you agreed to it, so you deliver half the work, submit for payment, and if the client does not fund the second milestone, well, no harm done, or am I missing something?


 I think she did all the work in the first milestone, only funded for half, and he said he would approve that just for sending in the work (which I guess is a rough draft milestone). Then.. I think he was supposed to set up another milestone to pay after he approved it. But he never did.... 

Yes, he says he is going to pay the other half after his client approves my
work. Well that never happened. ##- Please type your reply above this line
-##

Zhilin H wrote:
Yes, he says he is going to pay the other half after his client approves my
work. Well that never happened. ##- Please type your reply above this line
-##

How long has your client been unresponsive? It may be that your client's client is the one who's holding up the process.

 

I don't understand why a $30 job needed to be split into two milestones in the first place. You have the option of bidding on the complete project when you place your bid. Alternatively, you could also agree to only deliver half of the project if he's only going to pay half the amount at a time, then deliver the other half when the second milestone is funded.

The offer he sent was split into 2 milestones. I didn’t realize only one
milestone can be funded at a time and he was very fast with his responses
through the course of my work, until my delivery. Then he stopped replying
my messages. Like I was suggested, I should always ask for the full amount
to be funded before delivering my work and this is what I am going to do

Zhilin H wrote:
The offer he sent was split into 2 milestones. I didn’t realize only one
milestone can be funded at a time and he was very fast with his responses
through the course of my work, until my delivery. Then he stopped replying
my messages. Like I was suggested, I should always ask for the full amount
to be funded before delivering my work and this is what I am going to do

Yes, and be diligent about it. I still have *many* clients continue to set up rough draft milestones, at half the cost, despite that I send in proposals with just one milestone noted. I literally state to all of them:  "I typically work in just one milestone and submit all work at once. I don't mind waiting until the end to get paid. If you don't mind, can you please withdraw the offer with the reason "replacing this offer with another one" and fully fund the job?"  

 

(For new clients I add this statement at the end:  "Fully funding the job doesn't pay me up front. The money goes into an escrow account. After you approve the work, you will have to manually release the money to me")

 

I have never had a client refuse to do this and then disappear. 

 

If they ask further questions and such, that's when I go into the stuff about how I think that milestones are more suited for long-term jobs and with short-term jobs, they just delay the process. I have even explained that I had a client run away with the rough draft before.  🙂 


Zhilin H wrote:
The offer he sent was split into 2 milestones. I didn’t realize only one
milestone can be funded at a time and he was very fast with his responses
through the course of my work, until my delivery. Then he stopped replying
my messages. Like I was suggested, I should always ask for the full amount
to be funded before delivering my work and this is what I am going to do

Hi Zhilin. When a contract initially has more than one milestone, the client may choose to fund all of them or just the first one. Having all of them funded in advance does not significantly increase your protection, because the client is free to cancel the job after completion of any milestone, without activating the next milestone, and (I believe) you would have no grounds to dispute the refund of any remaining escrow funds beyond the full amount of completed milestones. Each milestone is, in effect, a separate job, and the client need not proceed to the next one.

 

There are 2 main points to remember:

 

1. When you receive a job offer, check the terms carefully to make sure they are acceptable to you. They do not have to be the same terms that were in your proposal, since the system allows for the possibility that client and freelancer will negotiate new terms during the interview.

 

2. You only have escrow protection up to the amount of the currently activated milestone (even if the amount in escrow is more than that). If you do work of greater value than the amount of the current milestone, then you do so at your own risk.

 

Judging by comments in the forum, even many experienced Upworkers don't fully understand how the milestone system works. (And I wouldn't be completely surprised if Petra now points out that I haven't fully understood it either!) So it's not surprising that newcomers can easily be scammed.

 

I think it would be a good idea if the 2 points above were displayed when a freelancer accepts a job offer.

Hi Richard,

 

Thanks for sharing your suggestion. We'll share this with our team.

 

Thank you.

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