I have a long history of hiring people on freelance sites but I just recently signed up as a freelancer myself. I can tell you that I am very disappointed in how Upwork handles their abuse cases. I will not recommend Upwork for either hiring or freelancing.
I recently had a customer say they were short on cash this week, so they needed me to delete my hours then add them back next week. There were no complaints about my work at the time.
I contacted Upwork and explained the situation. I already knew they wouldn't guarantee the hours if I manually put them in. I just wanted to be able to give the client Upwork's suggestion. Upwork, of course, told me not to delete the hours if I had actually worked them. Which obviously I had, this was not in question.
I explained to the client that I could not delete the hours. He then tried to be aggressive saying that I would suffer miserable result if I did not delete my hours. I told him that I could not do that. He then began to complain about my work. So I asked for input on what could change. He could not give any opinion on what to improve.
A few hours later he tries to be nice again. He promises me to pay the hours and a bonus if I just delete my time now. I tell him that I can not do this and that I would like him to end the contract.
At this time I've also contacted the security department who is supposed to be looking into it. The agent I spoke with actually stated that cash flow was likely the cause of their attitude and not my work. However, the client isn't removed from the system even though they are clearly violating the ToS while abusing freelancers.
The threats are clear in the chats and Upwork should have removed the user along with all his associated jobs. If I didn't have multiple sources of revenue besides Upwork I would have been at this user's mercy. Upwork should be ashamed of the way they are allowing freelancers to be treated. However, Upwork is more concerned with profits than quality which will ultimately lead to people using the other freelance options available.
This is what TopRated status is for: it helps to get safe from 10% worst clients. Really, very, very few are like that.
Another idea of how to protect yourself: do fixed price work.
Since the only ultimate assurance of a freelancer getting paid on fixed price jobs is for them to spend $291 on arbitration, I don't think fixed price jobs provide as much assurance as booked hours on hourly jobs in dealing with clients who unjustificably try to avoid paying freelancers money they've earned.
For freelancers who do low value jobs, arbitration isn't really even a reasonable option - they in particular are at the mercy of unscrupulous clients.
We have seen a lot of posts on this board showing how easy it is for a client to be abusive toward freelancers, and I don't know how much abuse is allowed by Upwork.
I can tell you that I had a client back in 2017 who threatened me with physical violence if I didn't refund to him money on work I did and hours I properly booked using TimeTracker. I just checked and that client is no longer active on Upwork, though I can't say why he's disappeared. I'd like to think I know. I've had a couple of other crackpot clients, at least one of whom unjustifiably got some money back from me after Upwork got involved.
Upwork reported a $20 million loss to its shareholders last year, nearly double the previous year's loss despite revenue increasing 25%. I don't think we should expect management will soon decide to spend more money to make better policing of abusive clients a priority.
However, the whole JSS rating system could probably be improved without making Upwork employees more involved in resolving this problem. But maybe that's also too expensive for management to consider at this time, when spending more money on more advertising to bring in more clients is the top priority.
I agree that there are many scammers who know how to use threats to get freelancers to do what they want and I would love to see Upwork have a more uniform system for dealing with such behavior. I don't think the current system works. But, on the other hand, a lot of freelancers don't use the protections that are already available.
Did you use the time tracker so that you could avail yourself of payment protection? That would be one way in which Upwork helps protect freelancers from being abused by clients. Has the client followed through on the threats?
How much time has passed since you reported the client? The CS person you communicated with probably doesn't have the authority to make that decision. Additionally, Upwork doesn't report back to the complaining freelancer about whatever action they take against a client. So there's no way for any of us to know what the current status of the investigation is.
If I'm understanding him properly, it was an hourly job and the client is some broke joker who said he doesn't have the money for the charge to go through. So he wants the freelancer to delete the hours and he'll pay by bonus. The freelancer should just let him rage and let the charge go through. It'll probably fail so hopefully he used the tracker and followed the payment protection rules. The client can rant all day and it'll get him nowhere. If the charge fails, the client will be suspended so the bad feedback won't even affect him, so he should just grab his popcorn and laugh.
A key here, from the OP's post, is that the threats were made in writing in UW's messaging center. If this is true, then there is no excuse for UW not engaging. I understand if it's a "he said, she said" and the words were made off-platform, but that does not sound like the case. UW has a direct responsibility in this case. It does sound like they are looking into it from what the OP said, so patience should be exercised. It may be clear and obvious, but there is also probably some internal processes that needs to be followed.
The hours were tracked in the time tracker so I did get paid for the work but I also now have a 3-star review. It's very discouraging to the point I've stopped looking for jobs on Upwork. Luckily, I have enough work to last me for a while so that this doesn't hurt me or my employees. For some people, this could have been devastating.
I understand the need for feedback but when a user so clearly violates the ToS they shouldn't be allowed to participate. Their jobs should be closed and they shouldn't be allowed to take advantage of another freelancer. I have paid out more on my client account than the offending user and received more on my freelancer account. So it's really their loss for continuing to deal with that user. There are plenty of other sources for talent.