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roberty1y
Community Member

Suggestion for scam prevention

Scam jobs seem to be reaching crisis point here, so I thought I'd offer some suggestions on how to eliminate or at least reduce the problem.

 

At least for experienced freelancers, it used to be easy to spot scam jobs - vague descriptions and the promise of ridiculously high pay rates, among other things. But lately the scammers have upped their game. Some of them are now lifting legitimate job postings and reposting them verbatim. So there's no way of knowing a job was a scam until you get a reply with a request to take communication off the platform. By this time they're often interviewing 10 or more other freelancers.

 

But even the obviously fraudulent postings are attracting large numbers of applicants, often in the 20 to 50 range, even when they require 4 or 6 connects. Clearly, there's a lot of clueless freelancers (or, more likely, would-be freelancers), out there.

 

My suggestion is to take away the scammers' source of income by ensuring there's nobody left on Upwork who will communicate off the platform or make purchases on behalf of fraudulent clients with their own money. The only way to achieve this is to subject freelancers to a test which shows that they know how to react when asked to do any of these things.

 

This would mean not just giving the test to those wanting to sign up with Upwork, but also to those existing members who have not learned these basic terms of service yet. There are tens of thousands of people here who have never got a job, many of whom never will. It's from among these that scammers find most of their victims, if the complaints posted on the forum are anything to go by. Most of these freelancers are providing no revenue for Upwork, and the only effect of their presence here is to attract scammers who clog up the job feed.

 

I think that every freelancer who hasn't reached a certain threshold of earnings or number of jobs should be required to do a test that confirms they have a thorough knowledge of the rules about offsite contact and buying things on behalf of clients. The test should be confined to this narrow purpose of preventing fraud, not to the whole range of Upwork ToS. That way, those who take it will better remember its lessons. It should leave the freelancer with no doubt as to the intentions of clients who want to talk to them via Telegram or ask them to buy bitcoin.

 

Freelancers who fit this category could be given a week's notice that they are to be tested. If they don't complete and pass the test within that time, their account could be suspended until they do. Of course everyone is supposed to know the terms of service when they sign up. But it's obvious many don't bother to read them, and the most urgent requirement at this stage is to ensure that their ignorance doesn't continue to attract a tsunami of fake jobs.

51 REPLIES 51
prestonhunter
Community Member

Screen Shot 2022-03-09 at 7.30.38 PM.png

pgiambalvo
Community Member

Arrgh...reluctantly agree as something has to be done since the scams have gone beyond the crisis point. BUT, I would still like clients (and freelancers as well) to have to check a little box during the sign up process acknowleding that they can't ask for or communicate off of Upwork until after a contract is in place before they are allowed to have an account. Such a small thing to ask and it would both educate as well as dissuade. And having evidence that they have acknowleded it, if they break that rule, ban 'em. Oh, and I almost forgot -- Upwork needs to do than they already do to prevent these posts from showing up in the first place. Not that hard to spot the same scams being posted over and over again. If we can do it, so can they. If it's been taken down repeatedly, don't let it get it posted again. And how hard can it be to filter out a post that has the word Telegram in it, or an email address, or a phone number?


Peter G wrote:

BUT, I would still like clients (and freelancers as well) to have to check a little box during the sign up process acknowleding that they can't ask for or communicate off of Upwork until after a contract is in place before they are allowed to have an account. Such a small thing to ask and it would both educate as well as dissuade. And having evidence that they have acknowleded it, if they break that rule, ban 'em.


The thing about punishing or banning people for making contact offsite is that it's usually impossible to know if they've done so. Yes, I know a lot of them come here on the forums and admit it. But there are thousands of others who can't be detected. When a client replies to a proposal with a request to contact them off the platform, there's no way of knowing if the freelancer did so.

True, but I'm being Draconian here and say ban them if they even ask. And I just flagged a post on my feed whose job TITLE was this and only this:

Text me on (app name) +1 ( phone number)

I mean, seriously?


Peter G wrote:

True, but I'm being Draconian here and say ban them if they even ask. And I just flagged a post on my feed whose job TITLE was this and only this:

Text me on (app name) +1 ( phone number)

I mean, seriously?


When you mentioned banning, I thought you meant the freelancer. Of course, every scam client account should be banned immediately, but it only takes a minute to start another.


Peter G wrote:

Arrgh...reluctantly agree as something has to be done since the scams have gone beyond the crisis point. BUT, I would still like clients (and freelancers as well) to have to check a little box during the sign up process acknowleding that they can't ask for or communicate off of Upwork until after a contract is in place before they are allowed to have an account. Such a small thing to ask and it would both educate as well as dissuade. And having evidence that they have acknowleded it, if they break that rule, ban 'em. Oh, and I almost forgot -- Upwork needs to do than they already do to prevent these posts from showing up in the first place. Not that hard to spot the same scams being posted over and over again. If we can do it, so can they. If it's been taken down repeatedly, don't let it get it posted again. And how hard can it be to filter out a post that has the word Telegram in it, or an email address, or a phone number?


There is definitely a little box we have to tick when signing up, when posting a job, and when sending a proposal for a fixed rated job. I am sure there is also a little box when accepting an offer, but the last new contract started months ago, so I do not remember for sure.

Everything about communication and what else is not allowed can be found in the ToS.

 

All you really have to do is read the 3. PROHIBITED SITE USES these are 1277 words and 7. NON-CIRCUMVENTION which is another 1322 words. If people can't even bother to do that, they should not work as freelancers.

 

I get that this might be too much to ask so I recommend that Upwork should freeze profiles for 3 months during which freelancers can decide whether they want to follow the ToS and learn more about freelancing before it happens again or to just apply for a regular job.

data_divas
Community Member

We don't even need a test, simply putting a pop-up when you submit a proposal saying,

 

"Remember it's against the TOS of Upwork to communicate with a client off Upwork before you have been hired.  Please keep all communication on Upwork until that time."

This can easily be done after seeing the billions of pop-ups about the Russia situation.

Love it.


Julie J wrote:

We don't even need a test, simply putting a pop-up when you submit a proposal saying,

 

"Remember it's against the TOS of Upwork to communicate with a client off Upwork before you have been hired.  Please keep all communication on Upwork until that time."

This can easily be done after seeing the billions of pop-ups about the Russia situation.


That's another idea, but the trouble is there are so many popups online that it's become second nature for people to ignore them to the point where they're invisible. People will remember a test they had to pass in order to stay on the site.

What if Upwork itself posted "bait jobs"?


Preston H wrote:

What if Upwork itself posted "bait jobs"?


Dishonest, unscalable, and undermines trust in the platform.


Douglas Michael M wrote:

Preston H wrote:

What if Upwork itself posted "bait jobs"?


Dishonest, unscalable, and undermines trust in the platform.


Yes, I don't think that's the way to go. Better to educate the pathetically gullible people who fall for scams and deprive the scammers of their source of revenue.

Douglas/Robert:
You answered the question correctly.


Preston H wrote:

Douglas/Robert:
You answered the question correctly.


Thanks, Preston!
And your modest proposal for Upwork's posting fake/trap/"bait" jobs might be a workable/optimal form for the testing to take.

It needs to be two-pronged to best be effective. Beter education for freelancers, and a better job of preventing scam posts themselves. As for freelancers (the victims) there's a sucker born every minute. But as for the scammers (the victimizers) there's only one born every hour. Of course I have no data to back up the birth rate thing.

Peter: I completely agree about the need for a two-pronged approach.

 

We can not necessarily "prevent" scam posts. But more could be done to remove scam posts quickly and them quickly block those clients from posting again, with the possibility on their end that they can file an appeal.

 

We want to QUICKLY take action against these client accounts, but allow them to ask for a review in case it is a real client, not a scammer.

This can't be done using automated algorithms or software-only filters.
Human eyes need to be applied to the incoming jobs.

We can let clients post jobs, and let those jobs appear in the job feed immediately, but an easy-to-use system needs to be in place so that human eyes can look at the new jobs feed and quickly remove scam jobs.

 

Trusted Upwork freelancers would VOLUNTEER to do this.
If the front-end modifications are made, Upwork could crowd source this without having to pay people. Like we are ALREADY DOING. Except right now, when we flag a scam job, nothing happens immediately.

I just raised my hand.

The point of the test is to keep them from bidding on jobs unless they can demonstrate minimal understanding about avoiding scams, at least in the moment they take the test. All the pop-ups and check boxes in the world won't help unless there is a consequence to ignoring them -- barred access to the platform. 


Phyllis G wrote:

All the pop-ups and check boxes in the world won't help unless there is a consequence to ignoring them -- barred access to the platform. 


That's true, but, as I said, it's hard to find out who's violating ToS in this way because there's usually no way of detecting off-platform contact with clients. The test that I recommend would make it clear to people that they're only lured off Upwork in order to be ripped off. As a result, they would avoid it out of self interest rather than fear of being caught.


Robert Y wrote:

Phyllis G wrote:

All the pop-ups and check boxes in the world won't help unless there is a consequence to ignoring them -- barred access to the platform. 


That's true, but, as I said, it's hard to find out who's violating ToS in this way because there's usually no way of detecting off-platform contact with clients. The test that I recommend would make it clear to people that they're only lured off Upwork in order to be ripped off. As a result, they would avoid it out of self interest rather than fear of being caught.


What I mean is, passing the test would be required before a new profile is allowed to submit proposals or be visible in client search. People who are not willing to read the rules on their own would be forced to, if they want to use the platform. 

Popups are too easily ignored.

 

A randomly-generated test is a better way to go.

 

By "randomly-generated," I mean that the test is created in such a way that a freelancer can't simply go to a simply cheat sheet and use it to answer the questions. At least not easily. Because the question order, questions used, answer order, answers used, etc. are randomized.

A lot of the work I do involves creation of online surveys, tests, quizzes, etc. I could create this myself in a way that a freelancer would get caught if they were cheating, or find it easier to simply take the test honestly rather than trying to use an online cheat sheet.


Julie J wrote:

We don't even need a test, simply putting a pop-up when you submit a proposal saying,

 

"Remember it's against the TOS of Upwork to communicate with a client off Upwork before you have been hired.  Please keep all communication on Upwork until that time."

This can easily be done after seeing the billions of pop-ups about the Russia situation.


It's simply not enough. First, it would have to be more specific: Please keep all communication on Upwork until that time. -> Please only communicate with a potential client on upwork messenger or zoom. But even that is not enough. Maybe it's lack of English, maybe it's:

 

 I'm asking you this: Why don't they tell the client: Hey John, I'm happy to assist with buying crypto stuff, but it seems you are misinformed that you can't do it from your country (with your credit card, ....). The good news is, you can! I just researched it for you and you do YXZ. It should not take more than an hour to explain this in detail to you, please send an hourly offer and we can go ahead!

Why don't they do that? 


Julie J wrote:

We don't even need a test, simply putting a pop-up when you submit a proposal saying,

 

"Remember it's against the TOS of Upwork to communicate with a client off Upwork before you have been hired.  Please keep all communication on Upwork until that time."

This can easily be done after seeing the billions of pop-ups about the Russia situation.


Yes - not only have I seen a million pop-ups about Russia, but also received an email about it. I don't necessarily want to see constant pop-ups about scams (and they would have to be constant, because new freelancers join every day), but Wes's excellent post about spotting red flags should be sent as an email to all new freelancers, maybe with WARNING: IMPORTANT INFORMATION as the subject.

I would suggest to apply such pop-up for clients as well - in my experience, many genuine clients believe that contact out of the platform is okay, and I often feel like the first one giving the news

martina_plaschka
Community Member

A test would solve a lot of issues. I have no explanation why they don't do that, instead of the laughably easy readiness test. I disagree to have it for everyone - I can still spot a scam from miles away. But yes, the amount of scamming that is currently going on feels like an insect infestation. I get constant invitations from scammers. It feels so intrusive, ugly. 

It must be really hard and confusing for newbies to get an understanding of upwork, since most of the jobs are scams. Before they are allowed to send proposals or accept invitations, they should be required to take tests, maybe three in succession, until they have a basic knowledge. And if they don't pass them, never get approved or allowed to send proposals. 


Martina P wrote:

A test would solve a lot of issues. I have no explanation why they don't do that, instead of the laughably easy readiness test. I disagree to have it for everyone - I can still spot a scam from miles away. But yes, the amount of scamming that is currently going on feels like an insect infestation. I get constant invitations from scammers. It feels so intrusive, ugly. 

An insect infestation is exactly the metaphor that comes to mind when I wade through the morass of "type document in Word - $100 per hour" scam jobs. Sometimes I just can't be bothered flagging them - it would be like swatting mosquitoes when there's a swarm of them coming at you. 

 

I'm only suggesting the test should be for people relatively new to Upwork, maybe with less than $1000 in earnings or some comparable threshold, along with those wishing to sign up. 

moonraker
Community Member

Some of us have been banging on about something similar for months, nay, years.

Pop-ups won't help - people just ignore them.

There needs to be a mandatory and interactive process that makes people actually answer questions so they register mentally. If they're unwilling and/or unable to take what would be a very simple exam then they have no place on this platform. And I would be happy to take such a test if it was applied to all freelancers.

With fewer people getting scammed, there'd be fewer scammers. It's no wonder there's so many about at present - it's like shooting fish in a barrel for them.

I'm sure some freelancers would still cheat such a test or still ignore what it taught them, but those people would only have themselves to blame and cou;d be easilly dismissed shou'd they come whining.

nyonomega0
Community Member

A Good Cure

 

Take a (tough) readiness test before approving one's profile, not after. Since the test would require some wit, mindless people who come to Upwork just to get scammed will no longer exist (I'm sure there are many people who are only able to get one job, and in which, they get scammed). This will help greatly in more than one way (IMO). Let me know why Upwork shouldn't/wouldn't do this...   Thank You!


Sushant B wrote:

A Good Cure

 

Take a (tough) readiness test before approving one's profile, not after.


But the trouble is there are thousands of people already on the site who have never been tested and will fall for the first scam that comes their way. They need to either learn the rules that will stop them from being scammed, or else be blocked from the site. Probably most of these people contribute nothing financially to Upwork, because they don't get any real jobs. The only effect of their presence here is to keep the scammers coming back for more, because they're such an easy target.

Neither popups nor tests need to be displayed to freelancers with an established track record.

There was one time (after I started on Upwork) when new freelancers were required to take a readiness test. Has that been discontinued?

I think there is such a test, but it's not fit for purpose.

The readiness test is still there, except that it's not mandatory. I took the (fairly easy) readiness test after I completed a few gigs because it has benefits such as a one-time bonus of 40 connects and eligibility for attaining the Rising Talent Badge.

 

I think that Upwork is not using the so-called *Readiness Test* in the way it should be. As I pointed out, it should be taken BEFORE approving a freelancer's profile, not after and at any time.


Nicole H wrote:

There was one time (after I started on Upwork) when new freelancers were required to take a readiness test. Has that been discontinued?


No it's still there, but it's laughably easy. 

It seems to me that the current readiness test is "Have you a pulse?"

sarahholmwood
Community Member

I think by making them verify the payment source would suffice.

 

Or making them pay a fee per job announcement. 

 

Edit: Maybe asking for a deposit and once they've worked with the freelancer in upwork for the contract // first 500 USD release it.

And deliberately add friction for potential new genuine clients?

It's a no from me.

Maybe asking for a deposit and once they've worked with the freelancer in upwork for the contract // first 500 USD release it. I don't think that would create friction! I just got another spam job sigh.

Yes from me.

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